Feeling Too Vividly

When test subjects watched a pair of virtual arms being injured, their galvanic skin responses increased (sympathetic activation, emotional arousal). When the subjects were imagining the arms they saw were theirs, then even stronger responses were seen.

fMRI studies in children show that when a child sees another person experiencing pain, their fMRI responses looks as if they were experiencing the pain themselves.

Not surprisingly, children with vivid imaginations and imagery struggle knowing what actually happened to them vs. other children - it's because their minds physically feel pain when they see another child getting hurt. Seemingly minor slights, injuries, and injustices experienced over a routine school day can weigh down these children emotionally and physically, so that they become exhausted and their parents don't understand why.

It doesn't help that emotions and the fight or flight reactions in children are often under good cognitive control at this stage of development, but that's why strong preventative strategies (avoiding conflict, reducing class sizes, choosing orderly classrooms) are so important especially before children have matured. For many children, too, oversensitivities can be helped by cognitive behavioral training approaches that encourage children to become more analysts of what they observe rather than first person experiencers of the suffering or conflicts of others.

Strong Responses with Imagining pdf
Empathy in children
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Emotional Hijack

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