Answering Questions About Empathy for ASGs, ESGs, and Life

by Bud Nye

The heart has its reasons, of which reason knows nothing.

—Blaise Pascal

All our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary upon an unknown text, one that is perhaps unknowable but still felt.

—Friedrich Nietzsche

The human body is the best picture of the soul.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein


Please read the opening quotes several times, slowly. Especially taken together, they express some profound truths about human thinking, feeling, consciousness, and our fundamental, biological nature as animals. Assuming the very large degree of validity of the ideas expressed in these quotes, and having accepted the extremely high probability of near term human extinction (NTHE), how might we best focus the little time we have left as individuals and as a species whether we have five years, 20 years, or 50 years to live? In the Introduction to my long essay “Facilitating Emotional Change In ESGs” (available here, I wrote “In my opinion, the section on empathy serves as the most important and most practical section of this essay for extinction support group (ESG) participants both in and outside of their meetings.” Soon after finishing that essay I realized that I wanted to focus more intensely on learning about and using empathy, perhaps in that process helping others to do the same. Why? Because empathy plays a critical role in all of our relationships from birth to death at an old age, and, based on attachment theory, our relationships serve as the most important organizing processes in our lives as humans. (Also, clinical psychotherapy research consistently demonstrates the importance of empathy across all treatment models.) If, as Guy suggests, “Only love remains” this suggests to me that “Only our relationships with each other (including other species) remain”—and empathy plays a fundamental, critical role in those relationships and in our loving each other. (Based on these ideas, a group of us in Tacoma have recently started a support group that we call an Attachment Support Group For Singles and Couples (ASG). One can see our MeetUp page here: .)

This essay reflects that focus on empathy. Even in the extremely unlikely case that industrial civilization could remain viable for another 100 years, to me it would seem entirely appropriate for us to emphasize empathy with each other for whatever amount of time we might have left as individuals and as a species. I have based this essay largely on five books, in alphabetic order: Emotion-Focused Therapy by Leslie Greenberg (2011), Empathy Reconsidered, New Directions in Psychotherapy, edited by Bohart and Greenberg (1997), Counseling & Therapy Skills, 3rd. Ed., by David Martin (2011), Love Sense, The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, by Dr. Sue Johnson (2013), and The Transforming Power of Affect, A Model For Accelerated Change, by Diana Fosha (2000).

I know very well that as a fairly long essay and with its basis in natural science—largely psychology and neuroscience as applied to understanding human thinking, emotion, and behavior—many people who read and comment at Nature Bats Last will find this essay completely unacceptable and not worth reading. This probably includes those with their personally convenient, defensive, human supremacist views of natural science to the effect of “We can study anything with natural science, including any other species, but not humans because our species is special; we are exceptional. We are not animals like all others that someone can study using science. We are the culmination of a very long-term perfecting process in the universe and we possess an immaterial consciousness or soul, which places us outside of the realm of natural science.” According to this reasoning, very much like that in the 17th and 18th centuries regarding natural science, and based on fundamentally spiritual and/or religious beliefs, we humans presumably possess supernatural, God-like characteristics that place us “above” or “outside of” the realm of valid scientific study, certainly when that study includes our brain functions and consciousness. Or so that ever-so-popular, Cartesian duality tale goes with its alleged magical, non-physical forces, entities, and processes, which supposedly permeate and run the universe. Happily, many psychological and neurological researchers have not shared these old, dualistic, Cartesian values and as a result of the work of people like John Bowlby, John Gottman, Susan Johnson, Les Greenberg, and colleagues, we now have a deep understanding of human attachment, emotion, and love relationships, including some highly effective treatments (which depend largely on empathy).

The Scott Johnson crew at Fractal Planet allows as valid only opinions based on a naïve, narrow, linear, deterministic, excluded middle, Cartesian interpretation of natural science with respect to Earth’s biosphere and its energy flows. Many of them seriously believe that we can extract terawatts of “renewable” energy from Earth’s biosphere without further killing it in the process. They read “the science” (meaning their particular, linearly deterministic interpretations of science), as suggesting that this makes good sense. They conveniently exclude complexity theory, nonlinear thermodynamic, probabilistic scientific views through their bullying. (See my essay “McPherson’s Wrong About Global Warming!?” found here and “What “Purpose” Do I Have?” here Meanwhile, a group here at Nature Bats Last similarly imposes its own narrow views and interpretations of natural science, but here more focused on humans than on Earth’s biosphere. Much like Johnson’s group, they often impose their views through bullying to disparage, insult, and otherwise discourage anyone who disagrees with them, especially any psychological and neuroscience evidence-based disagreement in comparison with their spiritual views—because, according to them, we presumably cannot validly use natural scientific processes to study humans.

Each of these groups has constructed its own, narrow sectarian frame regarding how we supposedly best use natural scientific evidence and reasoning. I find these strongly intellectualized, self-justifying, emotionally reactive and defensive group processes both extremely fascinating and highly unfortunate. Unfortunate or not, they serve as excellent examples of how our powerful, non-conscious, primary emotions drive our reasoning, not the other way around (see the Pascal opening quote), leading us inevitably, over tens of thousands of years, to create our irreversible, ecocidal self-annihilation trap.

On the other hand many other readers, who for the most part for many good reasons do not comment here very often, if at all, do consider the scientific study of humans extremely relevant, important, and valuable. Many also have no trouble at all reading 14 condensed pages concerning something as important for healthy human development and functioning as empathy. Either way, whether one considers the essay acceptable or unacceptable, the question and response format that I use here should help readers focus their time only on the issues that they have an interest in.

Does “talking with someone” help us?

Many people believe that “talking to others” serves as one of the most effective ways for people to feel better, at least temporarily, when they feel down. I would like to make two points regarding this. First, whether talking will help depends entirely on the situation and the talking processes used. Talking with others works as a two-edged sword that can cut powerfully in either positive or negative directions. “Talking” can cause great harm as well as help greatly depending on the words used and how said. (Tone of voice, facial expression, body language, and so on account for about 70% of the meaning of a verbal message.) Second, I think we need to attend much more to the nature of our listening and our responses, than to our “talking”. Related to these points, much research shows that empathic listening within a trusting relationship works, by a fairly wide margin, as the most importantly helpful variable across all psychological methods for helping others, including behavioral, psychodynamic (Freudian), cognitive, and so on.

The idea that having others deeply, empathically hear us when we express our thoughts and emotions concerning the high probability of NTHE largely motivated our interest in starting our Tacoma ESG two and one-half years ago. It continues to motivate my more recent, crystal clear emphasis on emotion focused ESGs. It has motivated my excitement regarding attachment theory and its application to ESGs and my most recent emphasis on empathy.

What does “empathy” refer to?

To support others people commonly see two options. Some see themselves giving a kind of warm, supportive reflection of what another person says. Others think that they need to gather evidence and give advice, reassurance, suggestions, and clever interpretations. Actually, neither of these common approaches work very well, but the people around us for the most part model these for us. Meanwhile, we have a third, much more effective alternative: empathy.

Empathy, as I define and use the term here, involves communicating a deep understanding of another person’s intended message, especially the experiential-emotional part. It also involves responding in an emotionally supportive way such that the speaker recognizes the emotional resonance of the listener. Every word counts in this description. With empathy we do not just intellectually understand what a person said; we must hear what they meant to say, their intended message. And we must not just understand, even deeply; we must communicate that understanding somehow so that the other person recognizes that we understand deeply. It proves absolutely essential that the other person feels understood—that they perceive our understanding—including the experiential, emotional part of their message, which plays a critical role. Support involves both intellectual and emotional processes; meanwhile people usually have the most trouble dealing with their feelings. For this reason we listen to hear what the other person tries to say, and we do this to hear the feelings implicit in their message. Meanwhile, providing support often involves some pretty painful stuff, especially in an ESG(!), and people usually find it much easier to talk among themselves in abstract, cognitive, intellectual terms rather than in emotional terms. For this reason, in ESGs we need to make a special effort to tune in to, focus on, and heighten the emotions that accompany otherwise often highly intellectual expressions.

Where does empathy come from? (What allows it to happen?)

We find ourselves much more a social animals than our bizarrely individualistic society recognizes. How so? Evolution biologically wired us for deep connection to one another. In the 1990s the team of Giacomo Rizzolatti at the University of Parma, Italy accidentally stumbled onto the solution to a mystery that philosophers had struggled with over ages: How can we know what happens in others’ minds? They discovered mirror neurons. Mirror neurons make us feel what others feel. They explain why we shrink back in fear when Freddy Krueger attacks the hero in A Nightmare on Elm Street, and why we feel joy when the young bicyclists lift into the sky in E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. This ability to enter into another’s experience has special relevance in our relationships with others, especially our love relationships in which responding to a partner’s needs in a sensitive way plays a critical role. This great sensitivity begins when we reach about two years of age, when we can recognize ourselves in a mirror. “Knowing me” and “knowing you” have a linkage, like two sides of the same coin.

How can we know what another person feels? It actually involves no effort. If we stay calm and attentive to another person’s gestures, tone of voice, and facial expressions, we can feel what they feel even when they cannot give it a name. We can see fear and the intention to turn away before they even say “I don’t want to talk about this.”

What qualifies as “empathy”, and what does not?

Empathic understanding does not work only as a process for setting up good rapport or engaging in a friendly listening process, though it does do these things. Many approaches accomplish these things and then get mislabeled as “empathic”. Instead, in listening with empathy, as Laura Rice describes it, a listener actually tries to get a feeling of what the other person says, to take it in, and “taste” what the other person experiences in that moment. The listener then tentatively communicates this understanding and asks the other person to check it against their experience. As needed, the speaker then corrects and extends the listener’s perceptions, then the cycle starts again with the listener continuing to try to get the feel of what the other person says, selectively attending to that which seems most alive and poignant in the speaker’s expression.

Perhaps the most difficult barrier for most people in listening with empathy involves not trying to solve any problems, not offering suggestions, not giving advice, and not making clever interpretations of what the other person said that suggest things the speaker may not realize. Most of us find it difficult not to do these things because we do them so often out of automatic habit, and because we so often see this kind of advice-giving “support” modeled by others around us. With our unconscious habits, we often have no awareness of doing these things. Most people will need practice with feedback from others in order to stop doing these things, instead replacing them with empathic listening processes. Empathy involves focusing on listening to what the other person says, including, critically, noticing the feelings they express, and then frequently communicating to the other person, almost on a moment-by-moment basis through body language and words, that we have heard and understood them.

Throughout the empathizing process, the listener neither agrees nor disagrees with the other person’s view. Instead we simply try to sense it and accurately demonstrate that we have heard and understand it. We attend to the intended message that the other person attempts to communicate, listening for what they say with their words, including their tone of voice, facial expressions, and other body language. We do not listen for what another person does not say, nor for some conclusion or picture that we can draw about the other person from what they say. The intention involves understanding, not offering the other person insight or interpretation into something of which they have no awareness. Neither does it involve offering some kind of advice. The listener thus engages in an active effort to understand the other person’s experience in an active listening way.

Can we always use empathy when communicating with others?

It does not make much sense to expect that we can, or should, always try to communicate in an empathic way with others. Why not? Because we communicate with others for many different reasons in many different contexts and situations, and with needs that vary widely. For example, if someone asks us for the time or for directions to get somewhere, it will probably make best sense simply to provide the requested information. If a person directly requests advice, feedback, or an opinion, we would generally best respond directly to the request. Also, the difficulty in communicating empathically varies greatly in different situations and contexts, with different time constraints, distractions, interruptions, and so on. Then, of course, communication also includes two roles: a speaker and a listener; we cannot all, always listen.

Different situations call for different responses. For example, in therapy it often helps to promote awareness, arousal, and expression of traumatic fear or unexpressed resentment to a significant other while in day-to-day life it might make much better sense to use coping behaviors and regulation of emotions. So we need to use good judgment regarding the appropriateness of using empathy in a particular situation. Even so, it probably remains safe to say that, in general, it will help all of us greatly to listen deeply with empathic feedback as much and as often as possible while also recognizing and accepting that even under the best circumstances empathic listening will not work as some kind of magical cure-all. This certainly holds true in support groups. In some distracting or time-limited situations it might make best sense to schedule another time and place to talk so that you can do some quality empathic listening.

Do we have different kinds of empathy?

Yes. We can use empathy in a number of different ways. I will describe two main ways: empathic understanding, or attunement, and empathic exploration, or what Laura Rice calls evocative empathy in the form of conjecture. With empathic understanding we communicate with another person that we fully grasp their emotional and non-emotional meaning. With empathic exploration we push to further explore emotional issues. Empathic understanding serves as the most important way for ESGs to create an emotionally safe, accepting climate. It communicates to participants that others value them, it validates others’ feelings, helping us fully to experience and accept ourselves. In the presence of validating empathic understanding by others, we tend strongly to accept our own feelings, trust our experience, and feel confirmed in our own existence.

Empathic exploration (or “evocative empathy”, or “empathic conjecture”), on the other hand, helps us engage in productive exploration within ourselves. It stimulates deeper experiencing and understanding, and it helps us symbolize new aspects of our experience not previously in awareness. This guides us to focus on unclear edges of our experience and helps separate our experience into greater clarity as well as integrating new levels of meanings.

With empathic exploration (evocative empathy), participants enter into a process of attending to and symbolizing their own and other’s previously unknown experiences. In many situations (not all) this process has automatically helpful effects. (If a person expresses intense vulnerability, we should not try to have them explore these feelings to get clarity, nor focus on the interaction. Instead, we should empathically affirm, understand, and validate these feelings. Empathic affirmation, rather than exploring, involves conveying a sense of understanding and validation of what this really means for the person. We invite tears during this time of great vulnerability.) Out of this internally focused, evocative process, signs of emotional difficulties will arise that will give us more opportunities for empathic intervention.

Do women have the ability to communicate more empathically than men?

We have a social, stereotypical expectation that women can communicate with more empathy than men. Studies show that in situations free of this stereotypical expectation, men communicate with as much empathy as women.

How does empathy relate to attachment theory?

In two earlier essays I introduced the idea of emphasizing attachment theory in ESGs: “A Proposed Model For Near Term Human Extinction Support Group (ESG) Functioning” (12/2014) found here, and “Integrating Attachment Theory With ESGs” (2/2015) found here . Empathy plays a fundamental role in attachment theory. Whether we realize it or not, from birth until death at an old age, empathy plays a critical role in our lives. Because of mirror neurons in our brains we have an innate tendency to feel with and for others, and we have survived by caring about and cooperating with others. Biologist Fans de Waal emphasizes that “We would not be here today had our ancestors been socially aloof.” Indeed, it would make good sense us to have the scientific name Homo vinculum, “one who bonds”. Psychologist Ed Tronick of the University of Massachusetts says, “the maintenance of [emotional balance] is a dyadic collaborative process.” In other words, we find ourselves designed to deal with emotions along with another person, not by ourselves. Emotion works in contagious ways. We literally “catch” each other’s sentiments and feel what other people feel. This forms the basis of empathy.

In what ways can empathy benefit ESG participants?

To effectively use empathy, a participant listens to another person and enters their internal frame of reference. They experience empathic understanding and communicate this to the other person. In this process, one continually attempts to understand and respond to another person’s perception of inner and outer reality at that moment, and without imposing some external view of reality—least of all the listener’s own views! Importantly, this works as a continuing process of actively responding in an ongoing manner, as opposed to listening for long periods of time and then providing a single summary type of understanding. This ongoing responsiveness creates and conveys deep involvement and moment-by-moment support for further exploration of hidden emotions.

One person’s communicated empathic responses strengthen another person’s ability to “make sense” of their experience. The relaxed feelings of safety created also free up the speaker’s energy to focus on processing instead of on anxious defense. Together, ESG participants explore and “discover” each other’s individual and shared experiences. Ideally, each participant immerses themselves in another’s world and uses this experience as a reference point. Doing this further increases our ability to attune to and resonate with other’s experiences. We naturally signal our shared experience through facial expression, words, tone of voice, body language, and so on.

What importance does empathy have in emotion focused ESGs, ASGs and life?

In EF ESGs and ASGs, as in child rearing, participant’s empathy and other’s experience of it provide the foundations on which the entire supportive enterprise rests. In emotion focused extinction support groups and in attachment support groups, as in our everyday lives, effectively using empathy promotes engagement in the following six ways. It:

  • reaffirms and clarifies other people’s experiences,
  • models acceptance of another person’s experiences,
  • slows down often too fast exchanges, enabling people to process their experience,
  • organizes different aspects of a person’s experience into a whole,
  • comforts a person in response to a difficult emotional experience, and it
  • helps a person explore the meaning of important and often powerful experiences.

Dealing with emotional issues often involves some extremely painful memories as well as, in ESGs, painful images of a likely horrific future. Herein lies a critical weakness in how evolution wired our brains to process information and live our lives: we find that it instantly feels good not to think about or feel those painful memories, thoughts, and images. Learning theorists have a technical name for this kind of learning. They call it “negative reinforcement”, a complex term for the everyday experience of relief from discomfort or pain. (Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe that negative reinforcement means punishment, but it does not. Reinforcement, both positive and negative, always increases the frequency of a behavior. Punishment, both positive and negative punishment, always reduces the frequency of a behavior.) Because of this powerful reinforcement for avoiding painful feelings, most people find it much easier, and seductive, to talk in unemotional, cognitive terms, if they talk about or deal with painful emotions at all. Just like using crack cocaine, anxiety reduction works as an extremely powerful and immediate reinforcer. When we avoid or deny a painful thought or emotion, within our nervous system we immediately get powerfully reinforced for doing so. (For much more on these avoidance and denial processes, see my essay titled “Primary Emotions, Reactive Emotions, And Defenses” here Most people require the empathic help of another person in order to face and process their painful primary emotions.

How do most therapists perform using empathy?

Carkhuff and Berenson in 1997 reported a disconcerting study that should motivate all of us to work at developing our empathy-related skills. They assessed the most common level of functioning in interpersonal skills among general and professional populations. On a five-point scale, with three “minimally facilitative” for helping people feel deeply understood, and five maximum facilitating, they found: The general public and college freshmen scored 1.5; nurses and teachers 1.7; guidance counselors 1.9; graduate students in psychology 2.1; trained subprofessional and subdoctoral helpers 2.7; and functioning professionals with advanced training in the skills 4.0. So most people, including most therapists, do not meet even “minimally facilitative” standards of empathic responding.

Why do we usually have such trouble interacting in empathic ways with others?

At least five possibilities exist for why we sometimes have trouble relating with others in empathic ways to others despite our mirror neuron wiring. First, a person might have underdeveloped or poorly functioning mirror neurons, as happens in autism. Second, stress or depression may have exhausted a person’s mental resources so that they have become more or less emotionally numb. For example, abuse early in life tends to shrink the hippocampus, the area of the brain that deals with ordering experience into coherent emotional memories. Susan Johnson: “As a result, the brain becomes more sensitive to emotional stressors, such as separation anxiety, but has a less developed neural network for containing such anxiety.” Third, our extremely narcissistic culture with its powerful television, radio, and other advertising and entertainment media, strongly teaches us not to interact with others in empathic ways. Fourth, we may simply get distracted. Our own overwhelming fear might block our ability to focus on the other’s anguish. We find it hard to concentrate on another person when we spend much or all of our brainpower trying to calm ourselves. How well we can deal with our own emotions will greatly affect our ability to tune in to and feel empathy for others, and this relates to the fifth possibility: Finally, responding with empathy means often allowing oneself to experience another person’s pain in a significant way. People usually want to avoid such pain, not enter and experience it. This strong tendency we have to avoid fear, grief, shame, and so on, makes empathizing with others difficult.

In addition to this, I paraphrase here the last paragraph on page 73 in Les Greenberg’s 2002 book Emotion-Focused Therapy, Coaching Clients to Work Through Their Feelings: “Presence involves remaining fully in the moment and contacting others’ emotional experience congruently and in a non-power-oriented manner. Having the ability to remain fully present to the other in an open manner, rather than there for the self, works as a highly developed skill that requires letting go of preconceptions and giving full attention in the moment. Coaches must not bring extraneous personal baggage, personal needs, or even agendas for coaching into the encounter. They need instead to remain fully present with and for the other person. To do this, a coach needs to have developed a high level of emotional maturity, or at least have the ability to attain it while in session.” Clearly, many reasons exist for our experiencing difficulty in relating to others in empathically effective ways.

Should we consider humans inherently selfish?

The quality of our relationships with others serves as the bedrock on which we build our existence. As Susan Johnson says, “Our closest love relationships shape who we are and, more than perhaps any other single factor, shape our life story.” Indeed, the ways we tune in to and engage with others sculpt the very society we live in, and a civil society depends on connection with and trust in others. Primatologist Frans de Waal refers to the “invisible hand” that reaches out to others. Susan Johnson: “De Waal argues that we should abandon the idea that humans are inherently selfish and only help other after tallying up costs and benefits. The calculation has been made for us. We naturally favor empathy unless we are consumed by fear or rage.

What tends to suppress our natural tendency empathically to care for others?

Securely attached people live in what they perceive as a safe world, they exhibit less self-absorption, and less preoccupation with threats than anxiously or avoidantly attached people do. This allows them to focus on, empathize with, and have tolerance for others. John Bowlby believed that when given loving care as children, human beings naturally develop in empathic and altruistic ways. On the other hand, he also believed that insecure attachment tends strongly to suppress or override our natural tendency to care for others. Unfortunately, a large percentage of us grew up insecurely attached.

Where, geographically, do we find the greatest reported sense of well-being and happiness?

The greatest sense of well-being and happiness does not occur in the wealthiest nations, but in those with the highest trust among citizens and the most bonding-friendly social policies. Indeed, wealth comes with a high price tag. Many studies show that becoming preoccupied with materialistic concerns occurs with a loss of empathy for and loss of trust in others. A preoccupation with acquiring more possessions or reaching for ever greater highs from alcohol, other drugs, or sex does not work as an effective substitute for empathic connection with others. Our need for emotional connection exists so intrinsically within us that no substitute exists.

Does a support group that emphasizes learning about and using empathy require a professional therapist?

Perhaps I have too much naïveté, but I think that support groups do not require the assistance of professional therapists. In my opinion, insisting that they do amounts to commodifying relationships based on industrial capitalist reasoning. Humans have related quite well to each other in highly empathic ways from our beginnings as a species, thank you—and without the assistance of professional therapists—because evolution wired our brains with mirror neurons. Will some ESG groups sometimes behave in unhelpful ways for some people without the presence of a therapist? Certainly. Meanwhile, as fallible human beings therapists sometimes cause trouble. So, even though the presence of a professional therapist would most likely increase the probability of success of support groups, their presence would produce no guarantee. Meanwhile, many obvious practical constraints and growing needs act to make their presence an irrelevant, academic concern. In my opinion the benefits that will accrue from people simply meeting and supporting each other, just as humans have for tens of thousands of years, far outweigh the risks.

Let’s also consider an alleged need for professionals from a practical point of view: the needs for support already far outstrip the affordable accessibility of therapists, and those needs far more likely than not will grow exponentially. Already, a huge percentage of people do not have the luxury of expensive therapists, and this trend will surely continue to grow over time. Various groups of people, including the homeless, those with PTSD, ESGs, and many others need to, and can, do a “good enough” job of taking care of their own mutual support needs without the assistance of professional therapists as our social support systems collapse.

What about self-empathy?

We sometimes find it easier to have empathy for others than for ourselves. Meanwhile, a capacity for self-empathy plays a crucial role to psychic healing and we must nurture it as a powerful antidote to corrosive self-blame and self-loathing. Developing self-empathy and self-compassion go hand-in-hand with developing empathy and compassion toward others, who in the process become more real and three-dimensional. One way to jump-start self-empathic tendencies involves asking them how they would feel toward someone else in the same predicament; ask them, especially, how they would feel toward their child (actual or imagined) if that child had to deal with what they have to deal with.

How do we empathically deal with another person’s defenses?

Whether another person responds to in-the-moment expressive interventions emotionally or with increased anxiety and defensiveness, we explore their reactions in an empathic, supportive, and direct way. We reframe defenses with appreciation for their protecting the person. Rather than challenging the person’s defenses, as some methods suggest, we meet them with explicit empathy and validate them as absolutely necessary in the circumstances in which the defenses arose. Rather than pressure the person to change and abandon defensive efforts, we acknowledge them for the good work already done, and encourage them to remove the pressure they put on themselves to do more. As with a person wearing a cast for a broken bone, we do this based on the assumption that when they no longer need their defenses, they will no longer rely on them.

How do we best see empathy as helping others to adapt in more healthy ways?

In emotion-facilitating environments, the individual feels safe, helped, and deeply understood. We find pathology rooted in an individual’s adaptive efforts to cope with overwhelming emotion through the institution of defenses. As helpers, we seek to undo the effects of emotion-related failures through a stance of emotional affirmation and engagement. No longer alone, the person can then begin to process formerly feared as unbearable emotion. By fostering a climate of emotional openness and sharing, the other person and helper evolve a relationship in which mutual emotional coordination can occur without defensive exclusion of vital aspects of the self. Feeling supported and understood, the person can access primary emotions, reap the rewards, and thereby reach an increasingly authentic sense of self.

What do we wish to accomplish emotionally with empathy?

Les Greenberg: “From the EFT perspective, change occurs by helping people make sense of their emotions through awareness, expression, regulation, reflection, transformation, and corrective experience of emotion in the context of an empathically attuned relationship.”

Awareness. The most fundamental overall goal EFT involves increasing awareness of emotion. Why? Because when people know what they really feel, they reconnect to their needs and have motivation to meet them. Developing an awareness of and symbolizing core emotional experience in words give people access to the adaptive information and the action tendency inherent in emotion. Importantly, this awareness does not involve thinking about feeling; it involves feeling the emotion in awareness. We cannot change what has become disowned or split off. When we feel that which we have disclaimed, it changes. Only when we have felt emotion does expressing it with language become important in awareness. The goal involves acceptance of our emotion. We find self-awareness and self-acceptance interconnected, and to truly know something about oneself, one must feel it and accept it. Four important stages of problematic emotion awareness occur: (1) awareness after an event, when reflecting on what one felt in the past; (2) reduction in the length of time it takes to develop an awareness of one’s primary emotions; (3) recognizing the emotion as it arises and having the ability to stop it before it arises, transforming it before it emerges fully, if it makes best sense to do that in the situation; and, finally, (4) the situation does not trigger the problematic emotion at all.

Expression. Helpful emotion expression does not involve venting secondary, reactive emotion but rather overcoming avoidance of emotional experience and having the ability to express previously constricted primary emotions. Because of the strong human tendency to avoid experiencing and expressing painful emotions, in our support group meetings we must encourage each other to overcome our avoidance and approach painful emotion by attending to our bodily experience, often in small steps. Meanwhile, optimum emotional processing includes integrating both cognition and emotion, and transformation of emotion, not just tolerating it. After achieving contact with primary maladaptive emotional experience, such as core shame, basic insecurity, or loneliness, and expressing the emotion, participants must also cognitively orient to that experience as useful information, symbolize it in awareness, and explore, reflect on, and make sense of it, finally transforming it.

Regulation. In some situations, regulation of emotion proves important. Secondary reactive emotions, such as despair and hopelessness, or anxiety about anxiety, or primary maladaptive emotions, such as shame regarding worthlessness, anxiety related to basic insecurity, and panic, generally require down-regulation. Providing a safe, calming, validating, and empathic environment serves as the first step in helping emotion regulation. We follow this with teaching emotion regulation and stress tolerance skills involving things like identifying triggers, avoiding triggers, identifying and labeling emotions, allowing and tolerating emotions, self-soothing, breathing, and seeking distraction. Meditative practice and self-acceptance often help greatly in achieving a working distance from overwhelming core emotions. Regulating breathing, observing one’s emotions, and letting them come and go help greatly in regulating emotional distress. Promoting people’s abilities to receive and have compassion for their emerging painful emotional experience serves as an important step toward tolerating emotion and in self-soothing.

Reflection. Promoting reflection on emotional experience helps people make narrative sense of their experience and promotes its assimilation into their ongoing self-narratives. Writing about emotional experience has positive effects on autonomic nervous system activity, immune functioning, and physical and emotional health. Through language, people can organize, structure, and ultimately assimilate both their emotional experience and the events that may have provoked the emotions. Writing a story provides a cognitive organizing process, a kind of time gestalt in which a particular plot or theme determines the meaning of life events and actions. The story transforms the person’s experiences and memories into a meaningful coherent story, orders our experience, and provides a sense of identity. Les Greenberg: “Human beings long to experience their own sense of personal meaning and need to create meaning to overcome an existential vacuum.”

Transformation. Perhaps the most important way to deal with maladaptive emotion involves not just exposure to the emotion, nor regulating it, but transforming it with other emotions. This holds true especially for transforming primary maladaptive emotions, such as fear and shame, and sadness related to lonely abandonment using other adaptive emotions. In EFT we want to arrive at maladaptive emotion not for its good information and motivation but to make it accessible for transformation. We have an important paradox regarding the path to emotional change: it needs to start not with trying to change the emotion, but with fully accepting the painful emotion. We must fully feel and hear their messages before they will become open to change by other emotions. So we have a major premise that guides intervention in EFT: if you do not accept yourself as you exist, you cannot make yourself available for transformation. One cannot leave a place until after one has arrived there. For emotion one has to feel it in order to heal it. One must first accept, even embrace, those aspects of oneself that one most wants to change. Self-acceptance thus always precedes self-transformation. The process of changing emotion with emotion goes beyond ideas of catharsis, completion and letting go, exposure, extinction, or habituation in that we do not purge it, nor does it simply attenuate. Instead, we use another feeling to transform or undo it. Enduring emotional change of maladaptive emotional responses occurs by generating a new emotional response, not through a process of insight or understanding, but by generating new responses to old situations and incorporating these into memory. We can in fact change the past—at least the memories of it!

Corrective emotional experience. New lived experiences with another person have special importance in providing a corrective emotional experience. Having one’s emotions accepted by others rather than rejected leads to new ways of living. Now people can express emotions, including vulnerability or anger, without getting punished and they can assert without censorship. The undeniable reality of this new experience allows one to experience that they no longer remain powerless children facing powerful adults.

How might we learn to use empathy as individuals outside of a training course, emotion-focused ESG, or ASG meetings?

We can:

  • Learn about empathy by reading and watching training videos
  • Actively look for opportunities at work, among family, and among friends to listen empathically and then practice doing that
  • Write reminders on our calendar
  • Practice by using written dialogs found in books like The Transforming Power of Affect and in Counseling and Therapy Skills. We can read the dialog using paper to cover the next material and think of how we might respond to the things a person has said, then uncover the next lines to see how the therapist responded. (In doing this we need to remember that no one, right, best response exists. Many possible responses exist at each moment.)
  • While watching a movie or reading a novel, think of how we might respond empathically in various situations.
  • Forcefully and persistently practice until we have developed new habits and skills—a long-term process.
  • Have patience with ourselves as we learn this complex, subtle skill.

How might we learn to use empathy within EF ESG and ASG meetings?

I see no reason why any group of people that wishes to do so, such as an emotion-focused ESG or an attachment support group, cannot learn about empathy and practice using empathic skills with each other. This idea largely motivated my writing this essay: so that I and others might learn about and practice these critical attachment and relationships skills.

What serves as perhaps the single most important principle for listening with empathy?

To listen effectively with empathy, we most importantly focus on the present emotional experience of the speaker, not on events and ideas. We then reflect back what we feel with our words, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

What specific skills that support listening with empathy should I learn and practice?

Practice using RISSSC skills: Repeat key words and phrases; use Images or word pictures that evoke emotions; use Simple, concise phrases; Slow the process and pace of speech, both yours and the speaker’s; use a Soft and soothing tone of voice; use the “Client’s” words and phrases in a supporting and validating way.

What general processes can we use to increase the effectiveness of empathic listening?

Mirroring (or reflecting). We can mirror the other’s emotions and validate their experience. We do this by reflecting back the emotions, sometimes enhancing them, always validating, and letting the other person hear and see in our voice, eyes, face, and words the depth and meaning of their own experience.

Anticipatory mirroring. We can respond emotionally to the other person as if they expressed their feelings as we think they may experience them and express them if they could. In doing this, we project what the person might feel if they could allow themselves to experience these emotional responses. This can facilitate their getting in touch with their feelings.

Amplifying. When the person gives only a hint of an emotional experience, we can acknowledge the feeling and amplify it by introducing our own emotional reaction to it. For someone who has experienced the painful isolation of having their feelings ignored or ridiculed, this can arouse greater emotional experiencing.

Upping the ante. If a person speaks in terms of “irritation” we can reflect it back as anger. Similarly, we reflect sadness as grief, and an “upsetting” incident as a nightmare. In upping the ante, we do not want to overshoot: we do not aim to artificially heighten affect but instead to capture the precise nuance of their most undefended emotional experience. The other person’s visceral experience serves as the ultimate judge of the proper fine-tuning.

Naming and acknowledging. When a person has an emotional experience it helps greatly for us to acknowledge and name it. People commonly have tears in their eyes, their hand in a fist, or a tender look on their face without knowing or acknowledging that they feel sad, angry, or loving. A simple question like “What words describe how you feel?” or a suggestion, such as “Put these feelings into words” can make a huge difference. For many people feeling emotional means weakness or lack of control; naming and acknowledging emotions allows working through these associations, lessening shame, anxiety, and fear of affect. Undoing reliance on defenses against emotional experience rarely happens with only one trial. We have to make these interventions repeatedly. We must not underestimate the tenacity of defenses. Naming and acknowledging emotions works even more powerfully when combined with mirroring emotional responses.

Specificity and detail. Specificity works as the enemy of generalization, vagueness, and denial, as well as other intellectualized defenses. By simply asking “Can you give me a specific example?” we immediately engage with another in an emotionally significant way. Specific detail provides a window into how the person perceives, constructs, and operates in their emotional world as the person spontaneously selects the given scenario. We can better understand every issue or problem a person brings up when described concretely, in specific detail. If a person can include the sights, sounds, and smells of a situation they describe, they will come closer to reliving the experience and its related emotions. We can help by asking specific questions early on, and by trying to picture the scene, people, activity, and drama as it unfolded. If a man says he hates his wife, we can ask him to select one such instance with detail about where, when, how they sat, who said what, and so forth. We root all emotional-experiential work in the specific example. Diana Fosha: “The high level of clarification and detail lays the groundwork for further affective-experiential exploration. The more detailed an account, the more difficult it becomes for defensive distortion to undo gains. A focus on specificity and detail does not only combat defense; it also helps the unfolding of experience in the presence of another.

Body-rooted experience. People often have little awareness of the extent to which their physical sensations associate with their emotional reactions. Shifting the focus of attention from what a person thinks to how they feel—specifically their physical sensations and visceral experiences—serves as another way to circumvent defenses without confronting them head on.

Do we use empathy to comfort others?

Yes and no. (But probably more no than yes.) Most people usually do feel comforted when they experience empathic understanding. On the other hand, experiencing evocative empathy can feel quite uncomfortable, even painful at times during the process. This can happen because it provides an avenue for, and encourages a person to experience, sometimes painful or upsetting sensations or emotions. Remember: we cannot leave a place until after we have arrived there, and that arrival can sometimes feel distinctly uncomfortable. On the other hand, experiencing previously unexperienced primary emotions usually leaves a person with positive feelings of significant relief, resolution, accomplishment, reduced tension, and/or calm, and they find this noticeable emotional “shift” deeply comforting, although uncomfortable at the time they experienced it.

How does empathy relate to knowledge?

Many people somewhat naively believe that persuading and motivating others to act largely involves “a matter of bringing empirical and irrefutable proof in front of them before they will acknowledge anything.” After eight years of teaching high school physics and chemistry, including getting heavily into the new field of Physics Education Research (PER) and developing some friendships with some of the researchers, as well as more recently getting heavily into to the new field of emotion-focused therapy, I would say that we find the situation, actually, much, much worse than this. How so? For this reason:

Contrary to ever-so-popular belief, bringing empirical and irrefutable proof in front of people far more often than not has little if any influence on them. Many, many science teachers waste huge amounts of time based on this popular belief/assumption (one that I shared for about 50 years). The idea that providing “empirical and irrefutable proof” will change people in significant ways grows out of a false assumption that humans exist as rational animals, but we do not. We find ourselves first and foremost emotional animals, and we actively construct all of our knowledge, largely prompted by our emotions in doing this construction. Others cannot and do not in any sense “pour knowledge into our heads”.

For sure, we can find language—others telling us something, books, or hearing a lecture—helpful, but only if this occurs within our proactive, knowledge construction process. Otherwise, all of the telling and lecturing works like water off a duck’s back. So our telling others things, including providing all kinds of bomb-proof evidence, will have little or no effect until, unless we somehow first “capture” their primary emotions regarding the subject. Thus the crucial importance not just of what we write and say, but how we write and say it. Most people, most of the time do pretty continuously work at constructing their knowledge, but we do that construction based mainly on unconscious emotional processes active within us, not based on conscious, rational reasoning. I know: this clashes severely with what our human supremacist culture has taught us deeply to believe about human rationality.

If I really believe this, why would I go to the trouble of writing any of the essays that I have written and Guy has published? Because I believe that some percentage of readers do proactively work at constructing their knowledge regarding the things I write about. These readers may find some of the things I write about, which for the most part comes from authors I have read, helpful in their knowledge construction processes just as I find it extremely helpful to read others’ work in constructing my knowledge.

How does empathy relate to sexuality?

A few quotes from the often recommended book on sexuality titled Enduring Desire, Your Guide to Lifelong Intimacy by Michael Mertz and Barry McCarthy (2011): “Cultivate mutual empathy, the “emotional embrace” that constitutes the vital glue of your relationship.” “When there is conflict, empathy is the default mode you need. Without empathy as the foundation for decisions about action, your problem-solving choices—however smart—might fail because they are not molded to the concept of ensuring each partner feels accepted—the foundation of an intimate team.” “Your relationship is the environment for quality couple sex, and empathy is the premier emotional ‘glue’ for your sex life.

How does empathy relate to people thinking about near term human extinction (NTHE)?

A secondary, primary-emotion-avoiding, reactive process may very well serve as the single most important, human process (aside from the more fundamental thermodynamic processes) that accounts for most of the self- and other-destructive behaviors of humans throughout our history as a species—with its highly probable tragic climax of near term human and other species’ extinction. This secondary, primary-emotion-avoiding, reactive process probably also accounts for our obsession with magic and religion. For just one of many possible concrete examples, resenting another person’s good relationship (an example, from the movie “Seven Years In Tibet”) serves as a secondary, reactive emotional response that “protects” the resenting person from a more painful primary emotion, probably great sadness related to not having such a rewarding relationship.

Reactive primary emotion-avoiding effects like this serve a person in the short term by “helping” them to avoid and distract themselves from their still more painful primary emotions. (This can have survival value in some situations in the short term.) Thus, our reactive emotions work in powerful, immediate gratification, negatively reinforcing ways, much as consuming crack cocaine, alcohol, and many other mood altering drugs does, but it occurs immediately, internally, and thus much more powerfully. (“Negative reinforcement” refers to relief from discomfort and pain, not to punishment as many people believe.) In summary: we find ourselves emotionally wired to avoid painful but helpful emotions by replacing them with less painful and unhelpful emotions, and we do this with ultimately fatal consequences for us as a species in the form of global heating-, ecological collapse-, nuclear power plant collapse-related NTHE.

Given the adaptive value and automatic, spontaneously changing nature of our primary emotions (anger, fear, joy, disgust, surprise, and sadness), while our secondary reactive emotions do not have much adaptive value and do not readily change, it would probably serve us all well frequently to ask ourselves, “What do I do here that keeps me out of touch with my primary emotions?” and then commit to working at not doing those things. What a nice idea. But notice the Catch-22 here: a person will pursue this internal questioning and responding process only if they have a strong willingness to face and go through significant emotional pain—the very process that we so strongly work at avoiding. Most people normally will do this kind of painful emotional work only with much empathic support of another person; thus the importance of empathy in ESGs in helping those processing the high probability of NTHE.

Meanwhile, far more often than not people react with strong, secondary, reactive anger when others challenge their favorite beliefs, which they use to avoid their more painful primary emotions, perhaps most often and most strongly, fear and shame—just as many people may as they read this. This accounts for much of the bullying, verbally violent writing that occurs at Nature Bata Last and in many other places. It also emphasizes the importance of slowly, gradually helping people to explore these powerful emotional issues, as they can, using empathy. We will have little success in helping people by challenging and pushing them; we will do much better to create safe emotional environments that allow spontaneous, unconscious, emotional processing to occur. (For much more on primary versus secondary, reactive emotions, see my essay titled “Primary Emotions, Reactive Emotions, And Defenses” here

Will you give a couple of concrete examples of empathic responses?

  1. Regarding abrupt climate change, ecological collapse and NTHE, a person might say something like “It’s not fair that my children will have to experience the coming horrors!” On one level, one can see this as an accurate statement of fact about simple justice. But this remains fundamentally a feeling message. Our job, as sensitive listeners, involves bringing the related feelings to life in a way that leaves the speaker with a sense that we understand on an emotional level what they meant. We might say something like “Help me if I have this wrong, but I sense that you feel not just angry, but sad, and maybe even afraid, about their likely suffering—and your own.” In doing this, we have to do two things. First we have to understand what they meant based on the subtle cues; second, we need to find words facial expression, tone of voice and so on to let them know that we understood. The purpose of empathy involves helping another person fully face their experience, to face what they feel and think in that moment but cannot quite see clearly. Meanwhile, people with an external focus may find it difficult to focus internally, and this might include both the speaker and the listener.
  2. While describing a situation during a meeting, a participant breathes deeply. In response, another participant uses evocative empathy saying “It’s like ‘if I show him the real me, I don’t think he’ll actually accept me and love me.’”


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Comments 69

  • Sorry, waaaaaaaaaaaaay too long. We don’t have the time AND I just need an MD.

  • Bud, your third paragraph from the top glaringly exposes your abject confusions & misdirection.

    You openly claim to be a practicing scientist – doing science – using natural science to elucidate the human condition.

    You further claim that those who have the audacity to oppose your deep “psychological” science have “personally convenient, defensive, human supremacist views of natural science…”

    Quite a strong judgmental accusation from an avowed non-judgmental & non-defensive therapist filled with healing empathy.

    Unempathetically, you go on & accuse other innocent pilgrims of being enthralled by spiritual & religious woo from the 17th & 18th centuries – enraptured with Cartesian dualism with its “magical non-physical forces.”

    You have been milking the passe Cartesian dualism titty ever since you first typed on these pages.

    You openly endorse four severely muddleheaded psychologists/therapists, who wouldn’t know natural science from Freudian foo foo or Jungian dung.

    These completely unscientific clinical psychologists/therapists are selling preposterous linguistic shuck & jive as healing therapy.

    You vividly demonstrate the endless swamp of UN-scientific mentalism & unfalsifiable new age “feelings” & mysterious all powerful “empathy.”

    Bud, if you are doing science, Jesus or Freud will be here tomorrow with a pat on your muddled head.

    May I suggest that you & your revered psychological gurus-of-woo are the very antithesis of natural science.

  • riff raff…seriously though…did you see the name of that river!!!the ANIMAS…too weird for words…too effing weird!!!if you don’t believe in coincidence…then it has to be a sign from Dog!!!

  • “words”…one of my favorites…neil at his finest, from ‘journey through the past’…with the ‘gators… my

  • Polluting the Animas Ribba with pestilence (down, not up, a lazy ribba?) is a foul Jungian/commie/prevert plot to corrupt the tender minds of innocent pilgrims with mystifying Jungian woo.

    Here come the well schooled followers of Karlos, the mystifying Prince of dark shadows & psychological woo, with their all explanatory animas & animuses.

    It’s all completely coherent & intellectually satisfying for Jungian psychologists-on-a-roll.

    Yabut, you have to swallow Karlos’s phantasmagorical personal premise of animas & animuses.

    Although the mystical animas & animuses cause all the trouble, they are also the source of our understanding & grasp of the proverbial psychological “essences” inherent in mundane human meat & its all explanatory gender.

    Many otherwise sane people spend their entire lives filling in the blanks of human existence with mysterious coincidences & Jungian animas & animuses.

    Many well schooled feminists/therapists can’t speak a sentence w/o invoking the mysterious Jungian shadows of animas & animuses.

    “It all makes good sense, & it’s lots of fun, too”

    It really works for me,” Shirley says.

    “Besides – the river is really named, Animas.”

    Through some dark coincidental Jungian glass – very darkly.

  • @Bud
    Yes, people don’t want you to fix their problems.
    They usually just want to know they’ve been heard.
    Every good listener knows that misery loves empathy.
    Thanks for your interesting essay Bud.


    Hang in there buddy. I starved myself once decades ago. It takes too long. Your mind goes first, and then you’ll probably change your mind before the job is done anyway. It will feel like a spiritual enlightenment, and you’ll choose to start eating again. Then you’ll only have just damaged your body. Sort of like jumping off the roof to end it all and just permanently crippling your leg, and now you get to be bummed about that.

    So, why not just stick it out and watch the show with us, like a peaceful warrior living with the full awareness that your death is always right there stalking you, and always has been?

    Anyway, thinking of you today martin. I have heard you, and sorry for breaking the rules and trying to offer an alternative. So much for ‘not trying to fix you’, like Buds essay addressed.


    Thought I’d post this; my fav song about dying, by my fav artist.
    Obviously nobody liked my ‘walked into a bar’ joke yesterday.

    So … here’s Peter Gabriel’s ‘Indigo’.

    This time I’m goin’ away …

    It’s too late, this model’s out of date.
    Got every spare part, but there ain’t much heart inside here.
    Not like the start, I was good at the art of survival;
    I’ve always tried to keep my feelings deep inside
    Where I can hide them, now I’m open wide.

    When it ends, again I’ll see my friends,
    They’ll give me a lift, I’ve been running adrift, so easy…
    Shifting the gear, I’ve got nothing to fear from a showdown,
    I’ll go down quiet.
    And the kids downstairs making a hell of a din,
    I’m all alone, getting a quote for the wages of sin.

    Beyond the indigo, indigo,
    Where the chilly winds, winds will blow,
    My time is running low.
    Going to cross the dark, dark river,
    Going to see my good life-giver,
    Better cover my yellow liver.

    All right, I’m giving up the fight,
    I didn’t know when I’d be a stranger again in my own land.
    The days are okay, but oh, how I hate these long nights.
    You understand?
    Darling, please just hold my hand.
    You feel so warm, in the eye of the storm.

    I’m going away, I’m going away, I’m going away.
    See you again someday…
    Darling, I’m going away.
    Feel like I’m going away.
    This time I’m going away.

  • Shep-
    If you have a close friend who is a veterinarian that might be better than a futile search for some MD online. Best wishes and respect for whatever path you choose. Please keep us in the loop about where your head is ‘at’ on this.

    I’ve had 2 close friends who choose to go on their own terms recently.
    One was by hanging, the other by od on insulin.
    Hard to talk or write about still.
    I loved them both, miss them terribly, but totally respect their choices.

  • Wren,

    Just planning ahead…the vet thing is a good idea tho. I have been laying the groundwork if anyone needs it with a local fellow. He trusts me to administer Nembutal to animals. I can easily tell him we need to put down an animal or two and he will let me bring home the goods to do the deed. I mentioned the MD hoping one of the NBL’ers would volunteer to help with dosing for any interested parties. It is going to get real rough real soon and out of the blue; is my opinion.

  • Not to worry folks. My brother-in-law told me the other day, “Even if your silly global Warming shit is true, “they” will come up with some shit and fix it all.”
    (brother-in-law works in a major-brand paint factory)

  • ‘to me it would seem entirely appropriate for us to emphasize empathy with each other for whatever amount of time we might have left as individuals and as a species.’

    Unfortunately that is not the way the vast majority of humans operate. Never have. Never will.

    In the classic experiment, subjects, ordinary people, were told to administer electric shocks to a person in another room if the person in the other room gave incorrect responses to questions. The subjects were told to raise the level of the shocks ‘to encourage correct responses’, but were also advised that raising the level would cause extreme pain and possible death.

    Although the person in the other room was not actually receiving electric shocks, he behaved as though he was.

    In the vast majority of cases, questioners, under the instructions of an authority figure, proceeded to administer higher and higher levels of punishment despite hearing cries of agony, and in one well-documented case, when the person in the other room went silent asked the researcher: Have I killed him?

    Back in the 1970s Dawkins pointed out that humans evolved to strongly empathise with those who are closely genetically related, and vigorously compete with those who are not, as has happened throughout all of human tribal history.

    Right now, with the global ‘cake’ getting smaller and the number of people on the planet still increasing, individuals and groups are working on strategies to ensure they get more than their fair share of ‘the cake’ and others get less. It is the strategy that got the human species to where it is today, and is not going to change.

  • Guy get your hair cut MULLETT

  • Absolutely spot on Kevin!

  • That’s what always got me about religion and ethics – yeah the rules are there, but nobody plays by ’em! Who was it that responded (when the Lord instructed the Apostles to “turn the other cheek” and to “love thine enemies”) Jesus Christ are you out of your fuckin’ mind?! I forget who it was now, but people have been saying that ever since. We’re naturally cheats, liars, brutes, stealers, rapists and killers (at least the men) and it takes real work to tame all that and become a better human – like Guy. Most fail miserably starting with the teen years and never really “growing up.”

    Anyway, that was a good essay there Bud.

    Hothouse Mass Casualties Strike Egypt, Heatwave Continues to Hospitalize Thousands in Japan

    [This doesn’t mean we won’t also be in for brutal winters.]


    or in late July a seasonal flow of hot, humid air from India, Pakistan and the Persian Gulf began to settle over Egypt. The hot air issued from regions where deaths from 2015 heatwaves numbered in the hundreds and thousands, where hospitalizations numbered in the tens of thousands. As the heat dome extended its oppressive tendrils over Egypt, both temperatures and humidity spiked — pushing wet bulb readings into ranges that made it difficult for humans to maintain body temperatures. Official air temperature readings ranged from 35 to 47 degrees Celsius (95 to 116 degrees Fahrenheit) and the added moisture reduced the ability of evaporation to cool the skin.


    For Japan, which has been experiencing heatwave related deaths and hospitalizations since July, the harm due to excess heat spiked to new extremes this week. There, over the past seven days alone, nearly 12,000 people were hospitalized due to heat stroke. That’s the highest number of heatwave related casualties since tracking of these new events began in 2008. And of the thousands hospitalized, an additional 32 souls were lost.


    Overall, Japan’s oppressive heat dome hasn’t budged. And it will likely remain in place until extremely hot sea surface temperatures surrounding Japan begin to abate. As of today, there was little sign of such relief as the hot waters remained in the range of 2-4 degrees Celsius above average. And so the hot waters continued to pump both heat and moisture into the air around and over Japan, spiking wet bulb readings and creating a dangerous situation for residents not at all used to these abnormal conditions.


    It’s the scenario Guy spelled out in some of his early presentations.
    People in the audience thought he was talking about something their grandchildren might have to face. Well, here it is.

    As shep says, it looks like things are gonna get real tough in a hurry. All I’m adding is that it’s gonna keep gettin’ worse after that!

  • Bud, you can write faster than I can read, and who knows how much time is left for that. l did not read your Whole Entire Article, but I tried.

    My thoughts on Empathy…
    Maybe you can cultivate it to some extent, but for the most part humans are hard wired by genetics with either nice thick healthy personal boundaries, or, like me, thin and porous ones…
    Thin to the extent that I find it very easy to lose my own ‘self’ because I can so identify, get caught up in, and almost ‘become’ the ‘other’. Sometimes that other is a human, sometimes an animal or insect or plant.
    It’s actually part of the definition of an introvert… someone who so identifies and loses him/her self that it is much easier (less costly) to just be alone. The personal emotional price becomes too high. Being with others is fun, stimulating, but totally exhausting.
    After a lifetime of this, I have learned to self protect by isolation.

    Thin boundaries are also associated with migraines.
    While most people’s brains can filter out whatever is not pertinent to their immediate wellbeing, those like me take in way more stimuli than they can process and then the synapses go haywire = pain.

    To be honest, my take is that empathy is not a good blueprint for personal survival, but good in a tribal or ecosystem setting.
    And good for these times we find ourselves in now.
    Thanks for your essay!

  • little white ass , I liked your joke, and it reminded me of a time when I actually did drunkenly lie down in a snow bank with extra alcohol and the intent to become comfortably numb till nothing…but it was such a beautiful crisp indigo night in those Appalachian mountains with stars popping across the heavens and a huge Jackie Gleeson moon rising…and I had such a righteous passionate indignant buzz on…and it felt so good! and I was so glad to be alive I finally got up and stumbled back to the fire. love made me want to freeze and stubbornness made me want to thaw.

  • Lawrence Fandel just added a post a few threads back saying …

    The most profound offerings of human artistic expression and intellectual ingenuity are less meaningful than a rock.

    Too true, maybe even three true. I mentioned before how I played in a shit hot bar band up until a few years ago. At least the artists tried to point the way and influence mankind for the better; I really respected that about (at least some) artists. But it was all for not. Nothing really ever changed much, did it.

    One of the (many) reasons I stopped playing was because having all that pleasure in the midst of such a ridiculous world started to feel wrong to me. This is how NTE can change your perceptions about life; all the glory of rockin’ out to a frenzied crowd, as blissful as it was, just started to feel so incredibly vain. Even playing sets of Pink Floyd started to just feel like participating in stupid, indulgent human crap. So I stopped.

    The most profound offerings of human artistic expression and intellectual ingenuity are less meaningful than a rock.

    I so agree.

    (Any way the wind blows?)

    Mama, just killed the planet,
    Put a methane clathrate gun against her head,
    Pulled the trigger, now she’s dead.
    Mama, man had just begun,
    But now he’s gone and thrown it all away.

    Mama, ooh …

    Thanks for liking my (not so much of a) joke. :)

    Mama, ooh …

  • Little White Ass- I also liked your joke. I thought it was clever, I just didn’t have the chance to comment until now. Also, I’ve noticed a monumental shift in the comments lately toward things that I have no interest in (i.e Zionist conspiracy theories, the ever so popular “here’s why everyone else is a horrible person but I’m awesome” comments, chemtrails, some video about how world governments are controlling their populations with flouridated water and- God forbid!- allowing women to work outside the home so they won’t have babies, etc.). So… I haven’t been reading the comments as thoroughly. That being said, you win the award for Best Joke of the Day. Here’s your prize!

  • p.s. For everyone on here that’s talking about suicide- I’m totally against this plan. Why not do something positive with your lives instead? Work to alleviate suffering somewhere. Don’t just give up on the power of your life. I’m especially peeved by the strategy of getting drugs from your veterinarian, who apparently trusts you. Why would you break that trust and send that person to prison by using the drugs on yourself? Make no mistake- that is what will happen if the drugs are traced back to him/her. Frankly, that’s a pretty selfish thing to do. Stick around, guys, if you can manage it. We need you to help us pump more carbon into the atmosphere, throw more trash into the oceans and speed up this whole extinction thing so the rest of the species can have a chance.

  • Gerald Spezio,

    August 11th, 2015 at 10:04 am you wrote “You openly endorse four severely muddleheaded psychologists/therapists, who wouldn’t know natural science from Freudian foo foo or Jungian dung. These completely unscientific clinical psychologists/therapists are selling preposterous linguistic shuck & jive as healing therapy.”

    You have read a significant amount of these psychologist’s work and compared it with others? Would you care to provide some kind of reliable evidence to back up your ad hominem attack on these leading psychologists, highly respected world-wide within their field, and who have with their colleagues using meticulous scientific methods, revolutionized couple therapy now getting 70 to 80% success rates with low relapse? Would you care to tell us about any religious, philosophical, spiritual, or other approaches you know of that empirically demonstrate similar effectiveness? Or would you prefer to leave your attack alone where it lies: a baseless, mean-spirited, empty character attack that appears somehow to help you to feel good in the moment as you arrogantly disparage other’s work? Gerald, your comments here simply don’t make any sense to me. Much more importantly, they clash dramatically with much compelling evidence.

  • Spezzy – I feel ya with those Cartesian tits.

    One post-apocalyptic cannibal to another: “I’m liken’n those roasted nuts!”

    The other answers: “I feel ya bro.”

    Super-Exponential Surreality:

    Black balls protect water from animal contamination.

    Rock’n Roll Cares:

    C8 was used to make raincoats:

    Gasoline Does Not Put Out Fire


    Collapse Data Cheat Sheet from collapse

  • Babajingo-

    You are absolutely correct and that is why I have not asked him to do anything. He is a real nice person. My goal is to convince him to help others when the drain begins to swirl in earnest and the system has collapsed into lawlessness. What you do, of course, is your business.

    I think I’ll go next week to chat again.

  • The time is drawing near.

  • babajingo,

    Please do not take this the wrong way. “To each his own”

    Here is a reason for euthanasia (BTW, Kervorkian is a hero) by some, especially when the 40 ton train is coming down the track and you are on it. PEACE.


    I heard about these kids
    walkin’ on a train track
    Forty tons of steel bearin’ down on them
    and they just turned their backs
    Channel 5 asked the one who survived,
    “Son, why’d u do such a thing”
    No reply but his eyes cried…

    Peace, I just need some peace,
    if I have to I’ll do anything
    Don’t need your love or your sympathy
    But I cannot go on livin’ without peace.

  • ooops!

    wrong song


  • The evidenced scientific facts are clear & predictive.

    The probability of anyone eluding methane heat death diminishes by the minute.

    We are approaching the point where survival under any conditions is impossible.

    As the worst of the deadly horrors become more observable & undeniable – no matter what psychology or religion you embrace; suicide, as an “intelligent” escape, becomes more of a necessity for those who are paying attention to the hard won scientific predictive facts.

    Confronting the upcoming probability of suicide in the near future is not too difficult for me.

    What is completely beyond my coping skills is what to do about innocent still smiling children?

    Accepting the concept of responsibility for innocent children, I do not know what to advise my daughter, who has two children ages 4 & 6.

    Nembutal or cyanide appears to be the easiest & most effective, but that is the easy part.

    I haven’t figured out the hard part.

  • Gerald Spezio,

    August 11th, 2015 at 10:04 am you wrote “You openly endorse four severely muddleheaded psychologists/therapists, who wouldn’t know natural science from Freudian foo foo or Jungian dung. These completely unscientific clinical psychologists/therapists are selling preposterous linguistic shuck & jive as healing therapy.”

    You have read a significant amount of these psychologists’ work and compared it with others? Would you care to provide some kind of reliable evidence to back up your ad hominem attack on these leading psychologists, highly respected world-wide within their field, and who have with their colleagues using meticulous scientific methods, revolutionized couple therapy now getting 70 to 80% success rates with low relapse? Would you care to tell us about any religious, philosophical, spiritual, or other approaches you know of that empirically demonstrate similar effectiveness? Or would you prefer to leave your attack alone where it lies: a baseless, mean-spirited, empty character attack that appears somehow to help you to feel good in the moment as you arrogantly disparage other’s work? Gerald, your comments here simply don’t make any sense to me. Much more importantly, they clash dramatically with much compelling evidence.

  • Gerald: thank you!

  • Daniel,

    I respect you greatly, and I found your advise for Martin interesting and informative. Truly. But I have a feeling he’s not serious. I suspect he’s English, and he’s having a laugh – maybe a bit of English facetiousness? If you lived here on the island you’d spot that immediately. English people are much less serious than Americans, and their sense of the absurd (for some) makes all kinds of teasing “serious” people fun. Mind you, I’ve lived here for so long that I’m often tempted myself. :) It really is a different world in spite of a shared language.
    Americans, be warned.

    Poor Bud wouldn’t stand a chance over here.:)

  • Bud, that essay on empathy was quite inspirational.

    Even more inspirational was watching you put those ideas into action reaching out to Martin – whether he’s actually serious about starving himself or not.

    Your empathic intervention was a sight to behold. I’m deeply moved…deep in my bowels, as the Bible would put it…and now must respond accordingly.

  • @Gerald Spezio: What is completely beyond my coping skills is what to do about innocent still smiling children?

    Accepting the concept of responsibility for innocent children, I do not know what to advise my daughter, who has two children ages 4 & 6.

    Nembutal or cyanide appears to be the easiest & most effective, but that is the easy part.

    I haven’t figured out the hard part.


    Hi Gerald. If you live in Florida, you might be in an area where there are a lot of Jews. Maybe you should speak to a Rabbi. I understand that these people have a lot of fairly recent experience with this sort of existential conundrum.

  • Bud, you passionately preach pure tolerance & client centered empathetic wisdom;

    “Perhaps the most difficult barrier for most people in listening with empathy involves not trying to solve any problems, not offering suggestions, not giving advice, and not making clever interpretations of what the other person said that suggest things the speaker may not realize.”

    Then you do glaring Freudian free association & “clever interpretations” about me & my motives.

    “Or would you prefer to leave your attack alone where it lies: a baseless, mean-spirited, empty character attack that appears somehow to help you to feel good in the moment as you arrogantly disparage other’s work?”

    You are the grand theoretician/analyst/therapist preaching healing buzzwords about unbridled empathetic tolerance – not me.

    I think that you are egregiously wrong-headed, but it doesn’t make you mean spirited or a bad fellow.

    Here is one ageless conundrum that you never mention. What form of empathy do I use, when confronted with an outright manipulative liar?

    The “weapons of mass destruction” scam/syndrome?

    I do not have any respect for Freudianism, psychoanalysis, buzzwording psychologies, know-nothing-relativism, chem trails, or space aliens in the cellar.

    Maybe you could advance a new psychological field of “scientific” study – typing interpretation, as in handwriting analysis?

  • kevin moore,

    I find myself wondering what point or points you tried to make with your August 11th, 2015 at 2:25 pm comment. First, you made a blatantly false claim that “Unfortunately that is not the way the vast majority of humans operate. Never have. Never will.” The vast majority of humans do operate that way. As I point out in this and my prior essays regarding attachment theory here, and here , massive evidence suggests that our species has survived with its profoundly cooperative social nature because of the empathy that occurs between an infant and its caregivers, and childhood and adult attachment bonds. Evolutionary processes gave us our mirror neurons for very good reasons related to our survival as social animals.

    I have good familiarity with the classic Stanley Milgram experiments that you describe, which serve to emphasize the degree to which a significant percentage of people will, in certain situations, obey authority. These, and subsequent related experiments, serve to emphasize how authority can interfere with our otherwise natural tendencies to empathize and cooperate with others. They do not by any means suggest that we should make the huge leap to the completely unwarranted conclusion that “Unfortunately that [empathy] is not the way the vast majority of humans operate. Never have. Never will.”

    Especially with your last paragraph, your comment seems to suggest that no one should attempt behave in any but the worst possible ways that humans have the capability of behaving—murdering, raping, pillaging, and plundering each other, other species, and Earth more generally, because, supposedly, “that is just the way the vast majority of humans operate”. In other words, all of the ancient wisdom to the contrary, and Guy’s suggestion that we pursue lives of excellence and that “only love remains” as we die, all amount to a bunch of meaningless, useless, wishful thinking, hot air. As I have experienced in my own personal life to date—and I expect many other readers here as well—I think that you have this not only backwards and wrong, but dramatically so. Though you may prefer to live what remains of your life in the Lord of the Flies ways that you appear to advocate, I and many others do not, your arguments supporting your apparently preferred life-style during collapse notwithstanding. In living in those other ways, maximizing the quantity and quality of our loving relationships with others, some of us wish to have and use the best, most reliable tools available for doing so, and empathy serves as one of those tools, which has particular importance.

  • ** Would you care to tell us about any religious, philosophical, spiritual, or other approaches you know of that empirically demonstrate similar effectiveness?**

    Enron bookkeeping?

    It’s easy to claim success when methods are purely subjective and dependent on non-definable words. In other words – it’s all smoke and mirrors by a bunch of woo wordsmiths!

  • The good book of head massage history is interesting (100 Yrs Of Psycho Therapy – Take Cover).

    But, the group that is killing us all (Oil-Qaeda) needs the shrinkology, however, noone bothered to provide them with the head thingy:

    If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities. [p. 39]

    (MOMCOM’s Mass Suicide & Murder Pact – 5, quoting Sigmund Freud).

    It might be a good time to stop majoring in the minors, yes, to stop groping and do the group.

  • Gerald Spezio,

    I notice that you provide no evidence to support your claims, nor any proposals supposedly superior to the methods of those whom you so freely disparage. I wrote nothing that in any way does “glaring Freudian free association & ‘clever interpretations’” about you and your motives, as you claim. Your August 12th, 2015 at 9:36 am comment makes it crystal clear that you have absolutely no knowledge of either the processes or contents of the work of the psychologists whom you so freely, inappropriately, and, to me, disgustingly disparage. I find your arrogant ad hominem attacks breathtaking in the ignorance they display. While I do wonder what motivates you to behave in this way, I do NOT presume to know what motivates you, nor would the psychologists to whom I have pointed.

  • Sabine

    I suspect you’re correct; I’ve come to see Martin as just another fool who hasn’t anything better to do with his time than make fun of what he can’t fathom, but thought I would take the opportunity to express a few thoughts on the value of fasting in light of starving to death… doesn’t tend to be a subject one can easily slip into polite conversation.

    Believe me, I have a very dark sense of humor, I just don’t see NBL as an appropriate stage to express it, tends to smell an awful lot like juvenile emotional avoidance, something I believe you Limeys have refined as well over the years.

    And given that much of humor is about intent, it’s very difficult to convey such subtleties through a series of 1’s and 0’s to a bunch of strangers scattered around the world who haven’t a clue where you’re coming from, especially when taken completely out of context. Guess the jokes on us, you silly chinless wonders, always good for a laugh at others expense eh?

    Maybe I should update my ‘smiley emoticons’, do you Brits have one that personifies being sarcastic about mass starvation, or how best to kill your children? Because that would be some seriously funny ass shit man!

    I’ve often thought to myself, you know what’s wrong with humanity? We just need to fucking lighten up, stop taking the extinction of life on earth so damn seriously, and start telling more dick jokes.

  • Gerald…most of the evidence that I use in my arguments, are obtained through the use of several tools in my head…my eyes…as in, ” I saw it with my own two…” or my mouth, “that tasted like shit”…or my brain, “the jews I have known, have been the most loyal, steadfast friends that a man could ask for”…”except where I failed”….in spite of my failure . science is here to help us discern the truth…to add rigid fact too critical thinking…yes? have not jung, etc. tried to do that in the study of “what makes people tick”, why empathy? why hate? is that not also worthy of measure? even though harder to read than a thermometer? isn’t the question “what makes a human behave like a human” fascinating to you? if YOU thought that was THE MOST important question, wouldn’t you be trying to figure that one out too?

  • Babajingo – I really liked you request for more Gallows Humor the other day. I’m writing a private e-mail next to Dr. McPherson about a choice of 3 confirmed available dates this Nov to speak at our most prestigious climate science center in Washington….now for the crazy part, they would like me to also arrange a McPherson presentation in the KOCH BROTHERS sponsored hall of evolution at the Smithsonian Natural History museum. Extinction in the oil funded hall of evolution. Following on a schedule after a talk about 5th century Chinese ceramics? No difference between the dire facts of NTE – vs – ancient pottery in the capitol of empire where paradox reigns blind as a bat to nature.

    Looking forward to meeting Lidia and any other NBL concerned folks in Rochester VT. I will arrive with 2 other contractors involved in the alternate route transport of nuclear waste. (Of course other materials are also involved in stages of decommissioning the Vermont Yankee plant.) Meetings also at New Hampshire capitol annex & Massachussets D.O.T. which will also be impacted if there is a need for emergency routes. Road closures & security teams to deal with threats & other potential hazardous conditions. Everything get’s delayed & prolonged for jobs and many other economic reasons. Others profit at every point as we move along. If gvt really cared to get it done they would find a better way to get it done.

    I can barely imagine what roads, trains & air transport measures will be safe a decade from now. Impacts of future floods? Forest fires? Super blizzards? Trying to map all sorts of possibilities & disaster containment measures. I take the job seriously – but then again I’m about to retire at the end of the year — with the end of IC looming soon after, looks like a lot of radioactive material will remain in the ruins.

  • Kilgore trout says: Daniel, we approve of your message…but we hope you will note that no one laughs at our masturbation jokes.

  • digixplor@ “ten years ago, I didn’t believe in ANY conspiracies. now I believe in every one that I have ever heard.”

    Well this must certainly get the record for being one of the very oldest of them all!

  • @Daniel: And given that much of humor is about intent, it’s very difficult to convey such subtleties through a series of 1’s and 0’s to a bunch of strangers scattered around the world who haven’t a clue where you’re coming from, especially when taken completely out of context. Guess the jokes on us, you silly chinless wonders, always good for a laugh at others expense eh?


    I’m a big fan of a lot of classic Brit bands…you know, Beatles, Stones, Zep…too many to name, really. And my observation is that mostly, they seem to have chins pretty much like the rest of us.

    Maybe you’ve been hanging out with the upper class. Lots of inbreeding there, which always leads to some fun mutations of recessive genes.


    @Daniel: Maybe I should update my ‘smiley emoticons’, do you Brits have one that personifies being sarcastic about mass starvation, or how best to kill your children? Because that would be some seriously funny ass shit man!

    I’ve often thought to myself, you know what’s wrong with humanity? We just need to fucking lighten up, stop taking the extinction of life on earth so damn seriously, and start telling more dick jokes.


    Just because you can’t “fucking lighten up”, doesn’t mean it’s not a good and useful idea. Here’s some bedtime reading for you (Gerald Spezio will appreciate it, too):

    The bottom line: Some of us are going to get our rocks off being Debbie Downers 24/7/365 – and some of us will get our rocks off in other ways, while we still can – like Ms Ladybug and Mr Honeybee.

  • “..authority can interfere with our otherwise natural tendencies to empathize and cooperate with others.”

    Following an authority figure, then, is UN-natural? There are no expressions of dominance in the animal kingdom, or (if you admit there are) humans are somehow exempt from those mechanisms and displays?

  • @ Daniel Says:
    August 12th, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    “I’ve often thought to myself, you know what’s wrong with humanity? We just need to fucking lighten up, stop taking the extinction of life on earth so damn seriously, and start telling more dick jokes.”

    Why not jokes regarding the dick’s complement? For example..

    The excited baker at the patisserie, offering a plate of freshly made cookies to a customer, says, “I’ve just invented cookies that taste like pussy!

    The customer takes a cookie, tries a bite and immediately spits it out saying, “Yuck, that tastes like shit!

    The baker tells him, “Well then, turn it over!


    A man and a woman, unknown to each other, get on an elevator to destinations several dozen floors away. After a few floors pass by, the man asks the woman, “Pardon me, but can I smell your pussy?

    The woman reels back in shock and exclaims, “NO! No you can NOT smell my pussy! What’s wrong with you?

    The man aloofly replies, “Hmph, then it must be your feet I smell.


    Maniacal mirth and merriment is all that remains (of any use)!

    @ ed Says:
    August 12th, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    … Some of us are going to get our rocks off being Debbie Downers 24/7/365…

    Did you know that 24/7/365 actually amounts to 7 years! Do we have that much time? ;)

  • “I can barely imagine what roads, trains & air transport measures will be safe a decade from now. Impacts of future floods? Forest fires? Super blizzards? Trying to map all sorts of possibilities & disaster containment measures.”

    You can only do so much. If you do a spectacular job now (with little to no support) it will be the best gift you can offer to the future. It will be an example for the future. IF there is some sort of future, the importance of nuclear safety (and its need for massive support) will be much clearer to all by then.

  • Little White Ass Says:

    Hang in there buddy. I starved myself once decades ago. It takes too long

    thanks mate, just a bit of bad housekeeping on my part, on the mend now, wont comment again till i have something sensible to say

  • @Colin: Did you know that 24/7/365 actually amounts to 7 years!

    No, it actually amounts to “all the time”, or “all day, every day”.

    @Colin: Do we have that much time?

    Who knows, for sure?

    Certainly there are some unhappy, misanthropic campers here who hope we don’t. They think the sooner we’re gone, the better it will be for all the other species.

    I don’t see that, myself. Whether it’s 7 years, or 100, the final toxicity of the situation is going to be pretty much the same. The death of our species will not bode well for the survival of most others. Cockroaches will rule the land, and jellyfish the sea – and that will be the story for a good long while.

    Should you wish for that sooner rather than later? Only if you’re sick of living, it seems to me. But then, if you are, then wish it for thee, and not for me. I’ll make my own wishes, in my own good time, thank you very much.

    Nature Bats Last – where common sense comes to die, and only bugs remain.

  • Bud.

    ‘kevin moore,

    I find myself wondering what point or points you tried to make’

    The point I was trying to make is that your abstract theories do not match reality, and as a corollary, your essay is facile nonsense.

    You attempt to ‘prove’ what I wrote as being incorrect, but in attempting to do so, you shoot yourself in the foot and reiterate the very po9nt I made, with your statement: ‘massive evidence suggests that our species has survived with its profoundly cooperative social nature because of the empathy that occurs between an infant and its caregivers, and childhood and adult attachment bonds. Evolutionary processes gave us our mirror neurons for very good reasons related to our survival as social animals.’

    I get the distinct impression from your various writings that you have never actually lived in the real world, but have lived a life of privilege in a fossil-fuel powered aberrant society in which most basic human behaviours have been masked, repressed, or distorted by the presence of easily obtainable food and hierarchical power structures. Try living in a remote district of Nigeria for a few years, and come back tell us of your experiences. I have spoken at length with people who have.

    I live in New Zealand, and prior to the British taking most of the land from its former ‘owners’ via deceit, bribery, warfare and genocide, Maori tribes were in near-constant conflict.

    Maori did not have the notion of land ownership as such, but were very much concerned with occupation of it, and having acquired possession of it, keeping others off it. Every district in the North Island has vast evidence of more-or-less continuous conflict between tribes, and almost every hilltop in the populated regions has evidence of defensive earthworks. Indeed, it is said that the Maori taught the British the art of trench warfare.

    Having carried out a campaign of genocide, about a century ago, the conquerors determined that the Maori would die out as a race, being inferior. Such was their ’empathy’.

    I remind you of previous references to the establishment of concentration camps by the British in acquisition of land in South Africa: in that case women and children were herded into enclosures and starved to death. What empathy there?

    How about the death marches endured by British and American servicemen captured by the Japanese in the early phase of WW2 and the camps in which servicemen were worked to death. What empathy there? And of course, the rape of Nanking, in which or the order of 250,000 civilians were raped and butchered by Japanese conquerors. What empathy there?

    Or in the fire-bombing of German and Japanese cities, in which the prime targets were women, children and pensioners? What empathy there? The wave of Russian (Mongoloid) soldiers unleashed on Eastern Germany, in which rape, murder, crucifixion of naked women who had been raped became commonplace. What empathy there? Or the driving out of Germans from Poland after the war, in which hundreds of thousands of Germans were forced out of their homes and forced to trudge westwards through blizzards, and usually without food. Few completed the journey, and when they got to the newly assigned German territory, were subjected to further abuse by the British, French and Americans in the form of starvation and witch-hunts. What empathy there?

    A nice example comes from the invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Having won the actual battle on the coast, the Normans proceeded to rape and pillage, burning several settlements as an example of what happens if you oppose us. I understand that approximately 40,000 Normans were able to subjugate a population of around 1 million through acts of terror. And having conquered the English, the Normans proceeded subjugate the Welsh and Irish by the same tactics.

    Speaking of Ireland, you are presumably familiar with the potato famine, in which several million Irish were deliberately starved to death by the English, who insisted that Irish grain continue to be exported, even as the populace began to ‘drop like flies’. Similar instances have occurred elsewhere in the world, of course, most notably in Ukraine, under Stalin’s instructions. Again millions starved to death, and the policies enforced by local officials. What empathy there?

    How about the great Chinese famine of the late 1950s to early 1960s, in which so many Chinese were starved to death nobody is sure of the figure. 30 to 60 million in all probability. Although the policy was conceived by Mao, it was enforced by local party officials, who, ensuring they were well fed, insisted that the grain necessary to keep the local populace alive was exported. What empathy there?

    I’m sorry Bud, your narrative is a load of bollocks which is a product of living a life of luxury in an aberrant nation.

    When the fossil fuels that have allowed Americans and others to have 100 fossil fuel slaves working for them night and day (and have facilitated gross population overshoot) become so severely depleted present arrangements cannot be sustained, when climate chaos disrupts globalised food systems, or when the Ponzi financial system finally implodes, those still alive will witness a kind of return to normality, but on a fucked up planet. Conditions will necessarily be far worse than occurred during the lead up to the French Revolution, when starvation was a significant factor in toppling the corrupt and selfish French aristocracy.

  • @ Colin

    God dayum! Cookies!


    I ain’t leaving til the last joke’s been told.

  • Ed says: Whether it’s 7 years, or 100, the final toxicity of the situation is going to be pretty much the same. The death of our species will not bode well for the survival of most others.

    Typical human self-aggrandizement. Everything but pets will do just fine, sooner as opposed to later. The oceans and atmosphere (and anyone who depends on those) would do much better, the earlier the human exit.

  • @ Ed

    You state: “Just because you can’t “fucking lighten up”, doesn’t mean it’s not a good and useful idea.”

    Do you honestly think we live in a culture that takes things “too seriously”?

    Are you serious?

    Virtually everyone I know, when confronted with something disturbing seeks to make light of what they consider to be “too depressing”, which is practically anything beyond their pocket book.

    The rare souls I meet who have either the faculty or mindfulness to be present with the inherent sadness of being aware are few and far between. What I wouldn’t give for a lifetimes worth of “Debbie Downers”.

    The American happy-happy-joy-joy culture is inundated with blind optimism, facetious ploy, comical avoidance and the self-destructive light-heartedness of hopium addicts who don’t know how else to behave other than ridicule with self-indulgent sarcasm what they haven’t the emotional capacity to contemplate out fear of recognizing their own fraudulent existence.

    Nope, better to just crack a joke about the end of world than have to take it “seriously”.

    I don’t know what part of the country you’re living in Ed, but if you think this life is somehow lacking in comedic escapism, you need to get out more and smell the utter inanity.

    And with that said, here’s a joke I wrote:

    A dentist, a mechanic, a stock broker and climatologist all walk into a bar.

    The bartender says, I’ve got this horrible pain the in the back of my mouth. The other three look at the dentist and ask: “well…what do think?”

    Then someone comes in from outside and says their car won’t start. The other three look at the mechanic and ask: “well…what do think?”

    Then someone at the end of the bar asks, if anyone know the fourth quarter earnings of the Dow Jones. The other three look at the stock broker and ask; “well….what do think?”

    Then a man sitting right behind them asks if anyone knows why the weather has been so fucked up lately. The dentist, mechanic and stock broker all turn around, and while admitting they know nothing of climate science, assure the man that there’s absolutely nothing to be worry about.

  • weighing in on the empathy debate:

    ‘In the classic experiment, subjects, ordinary people’

    that should be, ordinary SHeeple. ordinary DOMESTICATED humans.

    the process of domestication warps human nature, i would argue. exactly how this manifests is debatable. the imperative to trust/obey ‘authority’ that’s instilled in most sheeple overwhelms natural empathy in most sheeple, as the experiment kevin brought up strongly suggests.

    having little experience with ‘wild’ human behavior, i can only hope that ‘primitive’ people exhibit much more empathy within their tribes, than civilized sheeple do under the baleful influence of ‘authorities’.

    i wrote the above before reading well into bud nye’s comment in response to kevin this morning. i see that we largely agree with one another. i agree with bud that doomers should try to be more empathic, at least with each other. i find it difficult to empathize with the clueless, crazy, and callously cruel (at least those who imo are markedly much more so than myself). i feel rather bereft of empathy towards and as a member of lamestream society, but i like to fantasize being part of a ‘wild’ intentional ‘doomer’ community in which much latent and repressed empathy might flower and bloom. (sigh) life without sufficient empathy is unfulfilling, pointless.

    ‘Following an authority figure, then, is UN-natural?’ -lidia

    obviously not. but it matters tremendously, does it not, the nature of the ‘authority’ one follows. it matters how much coercion and violence are used to support the ‘authority’. it’s one thing to follow one out of admiration and respect, quite another to do so under duress, as most ‘ordinary sheeple’ are required to do.

    colin, thanks for the pussy jokes, made me laugh hard!

  • Part 2

    ‘Though you may that you appear to advocate, I and many others do not, your arguments supporting your apparently preferred life-style prefer to live what remains of your life in the Lord of the Flies ways during collapse notwithstanding. In living in those other ways, maximizing the quantity and quality of our loving relationships with others, some of us wish to have and use the best, most reliable tools available for doing so, and empathy serves as one of those tools, which has particular importance.’

    I grew up in England in the 1950s, and experienced both strong family empathy and the strong social cohesion that had developed as a consequence of WW2.

    Recognising the gross population overshoot that had already occurred, I migrated to NZ in 1974. As an outsider, I soon discovered the lack of empathy that occurs when one does not have familial connections, and he near-complete lack of empathy courts and other institution have. Following an unhappy marriage, my children were put into a situation of abuse by the Family Court and there was nothing I could do about it. The abuse my daughter was subjected to more-or-less ruined her life, and my son is ‘lost’, possibly forever. That is yet to be seen.

    I have been subjected to abuse by police and have witnessed police officers lie in court in order to uphold trumped-up charges.

    I have suffered abuse at the hands of the local council (NPDC) for daring to point out that the senior staff are grossly incompetent and that the policies pursued are unsustainable, destructive and self-defeating.

    I now recognise that I live in a corrupt police state, and that the vast majority of politicians not only grossly incompetent but also are professional liars. Their determination to make everything that matters worse is beyond depressing. As I pointed out to NPDC, it was not until I came up against NPDC that I really knew what evil was. NPDC response was, predictably, to delete my comment from the public record and impose a trespass order on me. Such is the level of sickness society in NZ. And I see the sickness every time I go to town, with something like 70% of the populace overweigh or severely overweight, dressed in black and living corporatized lives of mediocrity or less.

    No, I do not ‘prefer to live what remains of your [my] life in the Lord of the Flies ways’. That is the very antithesis of what I prefer. However, having spend more than 15 years attempting to wake people up to reality and having failed miserable, I am realistic enough to see that a Lord of the Flies ending to industrial civilisation is now inevitable. Even as the local economy suffers severe contraction, NPDC continues to squander resources as quickly as possible and continues to promote increased fossil fuel dependency and increased greenhouse gas emissions, increased urbanisation, more concrete and asphalt and more population growth.

    When you are living ‘At the End of Empire on the Planet of the Maniacs’, it is best see the world as it is and not as one would like it to be. The world is run by money-lenders and heads of corporation, by speculators, by the selfish and greedy, by religious fanatics and secret societies, and they will continue to subject the majority to policies that advance the short-term interests of money-lenders and heads of corporation, speculators, the selfish and greedy, religious fanatics and secret societies, until they can’t. They will continue to lie to the general populace and exploit them until they can’t. They will continue to destroy what little remains of sustainability until they can’t.

    I live, by choice, in one of the lesser ruined countries of the world, and in one of the lesser ruined districts of that country but have no illusions about what in on the horizon and approaching fast. The dairy pay-out has dropped again and at $3.85 is well below last year’s pay-out of $8.30. With Brent oil selling at below $50 a barrel, interest in drilling holes has more-or-less vanished, and hundreds of people have well-paid lost employment. The engineering sector, largely dependent on the dairy and oil sectors, is about to fall over, and with it retail.

    My current state of illness -incapacitated arm- prevents me from doing many of the things I would like to do; nevertheless, I have managed to cycle most days recently and have resumed dancing. Bridge once or twice a week, art and music in the wings.

    Although an exercise in futility, I will, at some stage, complete the complaints to the Ombudsman and Audit NZ I have commenced, with respect to the outlandish and destructive behaviour of NPDC.

    Meanwhile, the worst of winter should be over and the garden is coming to life, with the first blossoms (almond) now burst.

  • Daniel, SAID:

    “The American happy-happy-joy-joy culture is inundated with blind optimism, facetious ploy, comical avoidance and the self-destructive light-heartedness of hopium addicts who don’t know how else to behave other than ridicule with self-indulgent sarcasm what they haven’t the emotional capacity to contemplate out fear of recognizing their own fraudulent existence.”

    Bravo! I think that you have just hit it right out of the park!

  • rift raft says…a bottle of wine. a joint. a blanket. my girlfriend. the golf course. the perseids. that is all that exists…..

  • My apologies for the third post …

    Good to hear it was just a supply and demand issue.
    Glad we’ll be hearing from you again.

    I liked your bar joke. It makes a good point.
    That couldn’t happen in a bar in my country though.
    They chased all the climatologists out long ago.

    A human, clever? Was that more gallows humor?
    Thanks all the same, though. :D

  • the virgin terry: the diffenence between modern Homo sapiens and the ones who exited Africa 50,000 years ago is like the difference between wolves and dogs, except that in the case of humans, our equivalent of wolves is extinct.

    kevin moore: thank you. For better or for worse, the milieu does have a formative influence.

    All our so-called consciousness is a more or less fantastic commentary upon an unknown text, one that is perhaps unknowable but still felt.

    3.8.11 It is never heard, but is the Hearer; It is never thought, but is the Thinker; It is never known, but is the Knower. There is no other witness but This, no other hearer but This, no other thinker but This, no other knower but This.

  • – It actually amounts to “all the time”, or “all day, every day”.

    – Do we have that much time?

    — Who knows…?

    All we have is time. We don’t have anything other than time.

    @tvt, my point was that Bud, in his own way (others here in different ways) is committed to a fantasy of some utopian egalitarian past, present and/or future. Nahgonnahhappen. There are obviously degrees to which behaviors that made us more “fit” at some certain point can then become counter-productive, but that’s just how evolution rolls. Throw a lot of stuff at the wall and see what sticks. You can’t take any of this shit personally.

    I’m for stripping away all the saccharine BS about what special creatures we are. Bud’s screeds represent just further a obsession with control and further human self-regard. He might be well-meaning, but our whole problem stems (naturally) from the fact that we can’t get over ourselves, and his prescription seems to be to double down on obsessing with our individual well-being.

    I would write “argh” here, but frustration is pointless, really, because this is also part of how humans are by nature. They want to “fix” things, like Bud is going to fix everyone who is broken with his “TOOL” of “EMPATHY” that he is going to keep bludgeoning us with, wielding what seems like a 300-page manual about how to replace a spark plug written by the worst-bureaucrat-ever-turned-multi-level-marketer. He tells us that “it involves no effort”, but he is obviously deeply invested in making it turgid with effort. Effort spurts uncomfortably from every pore.

    Empathy is a natural perceptive function that is, in most contexts, conducive to survival. I’d posit that all creatures have some form of “empathetic” communication. Even bacteria can recognize and aid fellows, if I am not mistaken. But, under stress, populations can just as easily turn on themselves, again for survival purposes. Empathy is then no longer useful as a survival tactic; the survival of all risks the survival of none. Mothers and fathers will eat their young, animals will fight to the death when they otherwise would not, neighbors and friends and family will rat each other out.

    @Kevin, thanks for your poignant comments that describe how the world really works.

    @TVT, you wrote, “i like to fantasize being part of a ‘wild’ intentional ‘doomer’ community in which much latent and repressed empathy might flower and bloom.” Well alrighty then! The Beach of Doom segregates itself into the surfers, the ancient crone tanners whose skin looks like something from Louis Vuitton, the annoying Frisbee players whose heels direct fountains of sand onto your blanket, the passle-of-heedless-kids who look like they are gonna drown, the lone distance swimmers, the boombox-ers playing their god-awful crap tunes…

    This is so humorous to me, that people can’t even take Doom for what it is, they have to evince control over the flavor of it to which they are personally exposed. If that isn’t the ultimate in decadence, I don’t know what is. :-)

    [.. but since I don’t believe that ‘decadence’ is something we have ‘fallen’ into…]

  • @twimc

    Anyone think this fucked up world is an accident?

  • lidia, didn’t understand your exasperated response to me. is it ‘decadent’ to wish for a bit of happiness in the face of doom?

    if i recall correctly, some of the sheeple who jumped from the flaming world trade center on 9-11 to escape death from smoke/fire, jumped together, holding hands in their final moments. that’s kind of what i seek, a bit of solace, empathy, love, before it’s all over. what bud seeks, what everyone should seek?!

  • Lidia,

    Something about bacteria cooperating…in case you haven’t seen it before…

  • Try this shit on for size. The Year. 2005.

    In October 2005, the American Chemistry Council provided the Environmental Protection Agency with 2.1 million dollars to investigate how children – ranging in age from infancy to 3 years old – “ingest, inhale or absorb chemicals.” The program was ‘appropriately’ called: the CHEERS program.” The EPA paid poor Florida families to “spray or have pesticides sprayed inside your home routinely.” These families were asked to observe their children and to record any impacts of exposure to the chemicals. This experiment was paid for by the American Chemistry Council, which represents 135 companies including pesticide manufacturers. The Children’s Environmental Exposure Research Study was to monitor developmental changes in babies who were exposed to pesticides in their homes.

    The participants in the CHEERS experiment were given a camcorder (to record their babies’ reaction to the chemicals) bibs, t-shirts and other promotional items. Families were recruited from public clinics and hospitals and paid $970.00 for the 2-year investigation.

    The CHEERS experiment was terminated in 2005 as a result of massive public condemnation.

  • Daniel,

    I was only mentioning this because I respect you. And that you’re not without dark humour is quite obvious to me.

    I was also very interested to hear about your experience re starvation, and I’m glad you took the opportunity to post it here.

    I must mention though, that I’m not English. I’m just a native German married to a Brit, somebody who’s lived here on this island for more than 40 years. Is being born German worse? Just kidding.

    “…. tends to smell an awful lot like juvenile emotional avoidance, something I believe you Limeys have refined as well over the years.”

    Yep, that’s absolutely true according to my experience. Limeys (the English rather than the Celtic fringes)are world champions at emotional avoidance. You’re dead right.
    However, I was trying to avoid stereotypes (obviously not very successfully) because believe me, if anybody is used to being “judged stereotypically, it’s me. But being German, it’s totally unavoidable.

    However, something like Bud’s essay seems a good example for what I and other Europeans think of as typically American, the thing you called the “American happy happy joy joy culture” which is taking hold among the young on this side of the Atlantic too. Mike K was also a good example of this kind of American “happy, happy culture”.

    It’s this very annoying “I (or the ones I admire)found a way to solve all your problems. Just do as I say/do and you’ll be HAPPY.” It’s all so simplistic in my eyes. Those endless problem solving prescriptions which become a “mission” for the proponent no matter what. Bud’s a good example there, at least when looked at through a “European lens”.

    But to come to the point, from what I see and read, it makes many Americans more vulnerable to being emotionally exploited (maybe a bit strong), and that was the thing I wanted to point out. I often feel this when reading some of the comments here. But then many others are not fooled at all. You’re obviously one of them – somebody who’s practiced through building up his own strength over many years. This is why you can talk about things that many dare not mention. Once you’re there, at that point, you cannot go back. I know about that, I’m well practised too.

    Also, in retrospect, I should not have addressed my comment to you personally but should have posted it as a more general piece of mumbling. The problem is, I find that difficult. I seem to have a need to “talk” to a person (my personality), and I picked on you this time.

    Anyway, I do appreciate your posts. After all, it was one of your essays some years ago that got me interested in NBL in the first place.

  • I’ve posted an essay fresh off the keyboard of the virgin terry. It’s here.

  • no robin, your wilder brethren are not extinct…but he will soon be ignored to death…when I was about 5 I gave up on language, because I realized nobody was listening. nothing has changed in all these years.

  • @martin: thanks mate, just a bit of bad housekeeping on my part, on the mend now, wont comment again till i have something sensible to say

    Glad to hear it, Martin – and glad to hear you talking so sanely.

    A lot of people here seem to shy away from providing counsel or advice. I’m not one of them. I think it’s one of the essential functions of any tribe worth it’s salt.

    So here’s some advice, unsolicited as it might be: Stay away from the mind altering chemicals. For some they’re a help, but for many they’re a curse. If you’ve got a historic problem with drinking or drugging – then don’t.

    Speaking from personal experience here, as well as loss of my brother.

    Question: Why does the moron keep hitting himself on the thumb with a hammer?

    Answer: Because it feels SOOOO GGGOOODD when he stops.

    A guy who didn’t follow this advice – tragically – who many here know by reputation if not personally was Mike Ruppert. A passionate advocate for what he believed to be truth in a world of lies, he was also a MICA person – mentally ill and chemically addicted. People who knew him best talk about both problems as being part of his life burden.

    At the end of his life, after staying off the booze for years, he started drinking again. It just wasn’t something could afford to do, and it didn’t take long before he put a bullet in his head.

    Again, some can use chemicals for mood/mind alteration sanely and safely…but others, not so much. As the saying goes, “A man’s got to know his limitations”.

  • empathy? isn’t that the energy that sociopaths and parasites prey on?

  • @tvt,. I wasn’t exasperated at you in particular. I wasn’t even all that exasperated.. more like bemused.

    I’m not excluding myself, because I have a real aversion to the woo. Some of the more woo-full who’ve posted here have sought other venues.. that was in the back of my mind, as well.

    If I were empathetic, I wouldn’t call the folks who jumped from the towers “sheeple”. I wouldn’t call them that even if I weren’t empathetic. I’d call them desperate.

    I think the tower peoples’ brains just short-circuited because fire is hard-wired into us as a fear, but being 100 stories in the air (while scary) is a relatively new, or at least rarer, phenomenon. They picked the “lesser” evil, milliseconds before they were even aware of having made the choice.

    In a slow, irrevocable, ‘natural’ sort of dying, a great number of people do not want visitors rallying round. They don’t want to be gawked at in their reduced, incontinent state. Animals crawl off to die alone instinctively. Most people on hospice pass away when loved ones or caretakers have left the room, I have heard anecdotally. I don’t know if there are figures on that.

    How desperate do you feel about dying? I don’t feel desperation. My main thought isn’t “maybe I’ll pull through”, and I don’t need cheering up so I don’t see the point in involving other people in what I feel is a deeply personal and private process.

    No, I don’t want to hold hands with anyone when I’m dying. It would only make me feel worse. YMMV.

    @Artleads, thanks, I will take a look at that!