01 January 2023

Trauma and Empathy

Trauma and Empathy : Awareness, Research and Resources

Trauma and Empathy : Awareness, Research and Resources

Beneath the surface of the protective parts of trauma survivors there exists an undamaged essence, a Self that is confident, curious, and calm, a Self that has been sheltered from destruction by the various protectors that have emerged in their efforts to ensure survival. Once those protectors trust that it is safe to separate, the Self will spontaneously emerge, and the parts can be enlisted in the healing process”― Bessel A. van der Kolk

Trauma and Empathy Research

"Trauma can have a profound impact on a person's ability to experience and express empathy. Empathy refers to the capacity to understand and share the feelings of others. It involves being able to connect with and recognize the emotions and experiences of another person.

Here are some ways in which trauma can influence empathy:

1. Emotional numbing: Individuals who have experienced trauma may develop emotional numbing as a coping mechanism. This can involve a diminished capacity to experience and express emotions, including empathy. The overwhelming nature of traumatic experiences can lead to a dissociation from emotions, making it difficult to connect with and understand the feelings of others.

2. Hypervigilance and self-preservation: Trauma survivors often develop a heightened sense of hypervigilance and a focus on self-preservation. This state of hyperarousal can make it challenging to be fully present with others and attuned to their emotions. Instead, the individual's attention is directed towards potential threats and self-protection, making it harder to empathize with others' experiences.

3. Empathy overload: Some trauma survivors may actually experience an overload of empathy. Due to their own experiences of pain and suffering, they may find it overwhelming to connect with the distress of others. This can lead to a defensive withdrawal and avoidance of situations that might trigger their own unresolved trauma.

4. Empathy gaps and retraumatization: Traumatic experiences can create empathy gaps, where individuals find it difficult to relate to the experiences of others who have not been through similar traumas. They may have difficulty understanding or appreciating the impact of different types of adversity. Additionally, exposure to situations that remind them of their own trauma can potentially retraumatize individuals, making it challenging to extend empathy towards others.

It's important to note that while trauma can impact empathy, it does not mean that individuals who have experienced trauma are incapable of empathy. The effects of trauma on empathy can vary widely depending on factors such as the nature of the trauma, individual resilience, and the presence of supportive relationships and therapeutic interventions.

Therapy can play a crucial role in helping trauma survivors navigate their experiences, heal, and restore their capacity for empathy. Trauma-focused therapies, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma-Focused Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), can be effective in addressing trauma-related challenges and supporting individuals in reconnecting with their emotions and empathy." (Source: ChatGPT 2023)

Discover How Empathy Helps Kids Who’ve Experienced Trauma Love and Logic

Effects of Childhood Trauma Mental Health and Motivation

Elevated Empathy in Adults following Childhood Trauma NIH

Empathy Fatigue: How Stress and Trauma Can Take a Toll on You Cleveland Clinic

Empathy and the Phantasmic in Ethnic American Trauma Narratives Rowman & Littlefield

Empathy In Children Who Have Experienced Trauma KITS

Empathy in the Treatment of Trauma and PTSD American Psychological Association

Has our Consumption of Trauma on Social Media made us more Empathetic or Desensitised us? Harpers Bazaar

“I'm Human After All”: Autism, Trauma, and Affective Empathy Mary Ann Liebert, Inc

Is Your Empathetic Nature a Trauma Response? Medium

People who Experience Traumatic Events as Children are more Empathetic as Adults PsyPost

Processing Trauma and Gaining Empathy through Journaling eScholarship

Promoting Empathy, Understanding Trauma Head Start

Research on the Relationship between Empathy, Belief in a Just World, and Childhood Trauma in Pre-Clinical Medical Students PDF Download MDPI

Surviving Childhood Adversity Builds Empathy in Adults Psychology Today

The Correlation Between Complex Childhood Trauma and Adult Empathy Outcomes PDF Download California State University, Stanislaus

The Neural Basis of Empathy and Empathic Behavior in the Context of Chronic Trauma Frontiers in Psychiatry

The Relation of Clinical Empathy to Secondary Traumatic Stress ScienceDirect

The Role of Empathy and Cognitive Trauma processing in the occurrence of Professional Posttraumatic growth among Women working with Victims of Violence International journal of Occupation Medicine and Environmental Health

The role of Empathy in the Relationship between Childhood Trauma and Borderline Personality tendencies in Male Offenders Taylor & Francis Online

Trauma Effects, Empathy, and Dance/Movement Therapy: A Literature Review Lesley University

Trauma, Empathy and Resilience: A phenomenological analysis informed by the Philosophy of Edith Stein Academia