Category: Relationships

The New Science of Empathy and Empaths

Dear friends,

The Dalai Lama says, “Empathy is the most precious human quality.” During these stressful times, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I feel passionately that empathy is the medicine the world needs right now.

Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding. In my new book The Empath’s Survival Guide, I discuss the following intriguing scientific explanations of empathy and empaths. These will help us more deeply understand the power of empathy so we can utilize and honor it in our lives.

  1. The Mirror Neuron System

Researchers have discovered a specialized group of brain cells that are responsible for compassion. These cells enable everyone to mirror emotions—to share another person’s pain, fear, or joy. Because empaths are thought to have hyper-responsive mirror neurons, we deeply resonate with other people’s feelings.


  1. Electromagnetic Fields

The second finding is based on the fact that both the brain and the heart generate electromagnetic fields. According to the HeartMath Institute, these fields transmit information about people’s thoughts and emotions. Empaths may be particularly sensitive to this input and tend to become overwhelmed by it.


  1. Emotional Contagion

Research has shown that many people pick up the emotions of those around them. For instance, one crying infant will set off a wave of crying in a hospital ward. Or one person loudly expressing anxiety in the workplace can spread it to other workers. People commonly catch other people’s feelings in groups.


  1. Increased Dopamine Sensitivity

The fourth finding involves dopamine, a neurotransmitter that increases the activity of neurons and is associated with the pleasure response. Research has shown that introverted empaths tend to have a higher sensitivity to dopamine than extroverts. Basically, they need less dopamine to feel happy.


  1. Synesthesia

The fifth finding, which I find particularly compelling, is the extraordinary state called “mirror-touch synesthesia.” Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which two different senses are paired in the brain. For instance, you see colors when you hear a piece of music or you taste words. Famous synesthetics include Isaac Newton, Billy Joel, and violinist Itzhak Perlman. However, with mirror-touch synesthesia, people can actually feel the emotions and sensations of others in their own bodies as if these were their own.

Studies show that one out of every five people is highly sensitive. It is my heartfelt wish that you or someone you love will benefit from The Empath’s Survival Guide and gain the tools to cherish your precious sensitivities. Get your free chapter and download bonus gifts.

With gratitude,

Dr. Judith Orloff

Are You Enough?

By Mary O’Malley

Are you enough?  Take a moment and be honest with yourself.  Do you live with a sense that you are okay and life is okay exactly as it is? Probably not, because you, like most people, have been conditioned to think that you need to be better or different to be okay. This brings forth the belief that it is only when you get it all together (in the future) that you will be enough.

To get a glimpse into this constant seeking, ask yourself these questions:

Is your body enough because you have gotten rid of the weight, the wrinkles, the too big nose?

Is your mate enough, always relating to you in ways that you want them to?

Are your meditations enough, or are you always seeking for better states of mind?

Are your career, your finances, even your children ever enough in your mind?

If you look closely, you would have to say that, even though your life is how you want it to be for moments, your mind always takes over again in its endless search for lasting satisfaction. We are all like a hungry ghost searching, searching, searching. We seek and long and grasp at what our mind says will bring lasting satisfaction, only to get caught in the illusion that more, more, more will finally fill the empty hole inside of us:

You finally lose the weight and then think either you should lose five more pounds or you become afraid of gaining it back.

You find your perfect mate only to discover six months into the relationship that there are things about them that drive you crazy.

You finally get a raise at work only to find out that you’re living in the same financial stress because you can now buy fancier toys or more complex plastic surgeries, hoping that this will bring you lasting satisfaction.

Stephen Levine once told a story about a 93-year-old woman on her deathbed who said, “It can’t end now because it hasn’t started yet!” It is amazing that most of us don’t see this endless search for satisfaction and how unsatisfying it is in the long run.

If you look with great curiosity, you will see that this search for something out there – a skinnier body, a different mate, more money, deeper meditations, better sex, a happier mind, a fancier house, more, more, more – is a thirst that will never be quenched except for a moment here and a moment there. Read the studies on how much misery winning the lottery brings into people’s lives and you will see the truth of this.

What would happen if you discovered that there is a field of enoughness that is always with you? What would happen if you finally understood that the deep and lasting satisfaction you have been searching for your whole life is always here? To look for lasting satisfaction in the constantly changing flow of life is suffering. To relax the search for more, more, more and to discover an intimate connection with this living moment of your life is to finally come home.

I invite you for a moment to stop reading this blog and lift your eyes to receive your life. This is a unique moment in your life and it is the only moment that matters. See it as if you have never been on this planet before.  Even if you have been in this exact place a thousand times, still, it is brand new.

If your attention doesn’t yet know how to ground here, close your eyes and focus on all the sounds that are arising and passing. There are loud sounds like somebody talking in the next room and soft sounds, like the hum of your computer.  There are sounds far away like an airplane in the sky and there are sounds very close like your breath in your nostrils.

To truly listen to your life is to come home to the only moment that matters – right now. And in an intimate connection with Life the moment it appears out of mystery, you are no longer caught in the endless and unsatisfactory search for satisfaction.

Of course, when your mind sees this, it is very likely that its newest search will be to try to live in ‘the now’, for it believes that will bring it lasting satisfaction.  This doesn’t work! Why? For you are already in the now and any attempt to get there is just more searching.

But what you can do is remember that in all your searching you are already home. You don’t need to try to get here. Instead you can discover how to see and not get seduced into the endless search for satisfaction. Whenever you are caught in wanting things to be different than what they are, it can help to simply say to yourself, “This moment is enough, exactly as it is. I am enough, exactly as I am.”

In order to rest in your natural enoughness, it is important to recognize that nothing in this ever-changing world will bring lasting satisfaction. It can certainly bring temporary happiness and we can enjoy that happiness. But to require that Life, in its ever-changing flow, is where lasting satisfaction will be found is truly suffering.

You can also understand that life is putting you in the exact set of circumstances that will allow you to see how restless and busy your mind is in trying to get to the peace you long for.

You can also finally understand that it is truly a blessing to not get what you want. The pain of having your constant search blocked is the doorway out of the endless seeking and back into an intimate connection with Life. For, what is in the way IS the way!

If you are interested in exploring this further, I encourage you to visit my website and listen to my Radio Show. I am also offering a class on What’s in the Way IS the Way.


Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor and awakening mentor in Kirkland, Washington. In the early 1970’s, a powerful awakening led Mary to begin changing her relationship with her challenges, freeing her from a lifelong struggle with darkness. Mary’s latest book, What’s In the Way Is the Way, provides a revolutionary approach for healing your fears, anxieties, shame, and confusion, so you can live from a place of ease.


Diane Musho Hamilton: The Evolutionary Power of Mindfu...

Diane Musho Hamilton is a spiritual teacher, mediator, and group facilitator who has been studying mindfulness for more than 30 years. She is a featured presenter for A Year of Mindfulness, Sounds True’s yearlong online meditation program. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Diane discuss how her experience with mindfulness has helped her to become an effective group mediator. Diane speaks on how mindfulness skills transfer to interpersonal communication and skillful relationship—especially when it comes to being able to take on someone else’s perspective. Finally, Tami and Diane talk about the importance of relating to others with different views than us and how we can foster a better, more open engagement with the entirety of the world. (69 minutes)

Wendy Strgar: Sex That Works

Wendy Strgar is an award-winning entrepreneur, writer, and the founder of the renowned organic personal care product company Good Clean Love. With Sounds True, she has published Sex That Works: An Intimate Guide to Awakening Your Erotic Life. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon speaks with Wendy about Sex That Works—particularly the insights it draws from Wendy’s work as a sexual health educator and her own 30 years of marriage. They talk about the most common obstacles to achieving personal sexual harmony and what it takes to keep a long-term relationship sexually satisfying. Wendy describes her own journey to the creation of Good Clean Love and how she discovered her calling as a “loveologist.” Finally, Tami and Wendy discuss what is to have a healthy fantasy life and why true sexual freedom is taking responsibility for one’s own needs. (66 minutes)

Alexandra Katehakis: Grown-Up Sex

Alexandra Katehakis is the founder and clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex, specializing in therapy for sexual addiction and sexual issues within marriage. In addition to writing several books on the subject, Alexandra will be presenting on sexual dysregulation during Sounds True’s upcoming Neuroscience Training Summit 2017. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Alexandra discuss the roots of sexual dysfunction and how to approach it in adulthood. They speak on “grownup sex”—a sexuality based in honest communication of needs, preferences, and desires for novelty. Tami and Alexandra also explore topics such as asexuality, sexuality without intimacy, and why orgasms are overrated. (58 minutes)

Terry Real: Fierce Intimacy

Terry Real is a family therapist, author, and founder of the Relational Life Institute, which hosts workshops on family and relationships throughout the country. He has written several books, including The New Rules of Marriage: What You Need to Make Love Work. Terry will be a featured presenter during Sounds True’s upcoming online training summit Psychotherapy 2.0, which will take place September 7–13. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Terry talk about the inherent challenges of being in relationship and the many approaches to addressing those challenges in couples therapy. Terry discusses how men and women relate to one another in different ways, as well as the steps necessary when couples are badly out of sync. Finally, Terry and Tami speak on the Relational Life approach to therapy and the skills we need to develop in order to take our interpersonal relationships up to “full throttle.”
(67 minutes)