man with many expressions or personality traits

Know yourself better to improve your ability to understand others

Empathy is what keeps our relationships together. The ability to understand another person’s experiences and emotions is a crucial social skill both for our personal lives and to sustain in a globalised world.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Science and Julius Maximilians University Würzburg in Germany, suggest that the ability to understand other people’s mental state known as the Theory of Mind (ToM) can be enhanced through targeted training in healthy adults.

The more the participants improved in their understanding of themselves – which was reflected through the number of inner parts they could identify – the more they were able to understand the mental state of others.

By guiding people to understand their own mental states, they develop certain awareness and thus a better understanding of the mental states of others.

In a large scale longitudinal study, 161 participants, aged between 22 and 55 years, were divided into 2 groups.

During the three months each group received contemplative training using various methods which focussed on perspective training and was inspired by the Family Systems model, which views the self as a being composed of a complex system of inner personality aspects or sub-personalities.

The participants were taught to identify and classify their own inner personality parts. They explored how being identified with different inner parts relating to caring, managing or pleasure parts, affected their daily existence.

According to the results, the participants were more able to identify archetypal inner parts such as “inner manager” or “inner child” in their own personalities, as a result of the training.

The more the participants improved in their understanding of themselves – which was reflected through the number of inner parts they could identify – the more they were able to understand the mental state of others.

This was particularly true in the case of identifying negative inner parts – the more they were identified, the better they were at being aware of other people’s frame of mind. And this was due to the 2 hour weekly training they received.

This study makes us realise that when we can identify our own negative aspects, the better we are at understanding others – which holds important implications for social connections and global understanding.

As the world becomes more complex and interconnected, taking the view of others especially of those from other cultures and religions becomes necessary but can be difficult.

But with the right training, we can train ourselves and develop empathy for others.

Source: Journal of Cognitive Enhancement

Meena Azzollini

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!

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