March 17, 2010

From Dawn Barber:

Re: Scientists say they have found brain basis of empathy (Jan. 25, 2005):I recently conducted a google search on feeling a strangers pain and your article appeared. An excellent article-- it provided me validation of my empathy toward others.

I am 36 yr old woman who has experienced empathy for family and others my entire life and it appears that this ability has gotten stronger in the recent years. For an example, approximately ten years ago I was shaking hands with a stranger at church and he winced and said ouch- disclaimer: I really did not shake hard at all. This gentleman explained after the service that he said ouch because he has an unusual medical condition that provides significant pain to him and for the first time ever he did not feel pain and he could enjoy the sermon because he was pain free-- unbeknowst to him then and now, that the stranger (me) who extended her hand felt significant pain during the sermon with unknown etiology until our dialogue.

These experiences have continued-- again, reaffirmation was so appreciated by your article in the Feb 2008 edition. I can fully believe and understand feeling loved ones and strangers pains, but recently this empathy skill is a bit extreme. Could you please advise me: yesterday for no reason I began to feel severe back pain and could barely move (I am normally active)- and today the pain extended to my left arm and left leg, left hip and to the respective left thigh, etc. with additional symptoms of naseau and headache-- I shared with my mother who stated that her friend/ neighbor evidently been having these problems recently. Note: I didnt know this problem with my mother’s friend and I have only seen this neighbor once in 3 yrs.

Could you please explain to me how I can feel this woman’s pain when I didnt know about them nor do I really know this woman. Additionally, is there any relief from this empathy “gift”?


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