I'm very interested in this idea. I think finding not only the roots of empathy as it naturely develops, but the key to developing empathy in individuals who have already entered their adulthood (often unfortunately interpretted as the mental wasteland years, the territory where no man returns to the state of 'viable pupil' for whatever reason and is therefore abandoned for lost) would be immensely valuable to societies around the world (even if they don't get why at first
It seems to me that empathy has several aspects that can be nurtured. One is the physiological aspect - the tools at hand in the brain and body that predispose an individual towards correctly reading and digesting subtle bodily cues and can foster positive, emotionally healthy states of mind. Another appears to be a sense of security - I believe many people are more comfortable and willing to submit to, and allow to flourish, their sense of empathy if they are not personally putting themselves at risk or in immediate danger, mentally or physically. Once this instinct for empathy has developed, I think the need for a sense of security will be less critical, as an empathetic individual feels a moral imperative to continue this behaviour, knowing full well the risk not only for him or herself, but also for the other
guy. I also think greater awareness and education on the factual connections and similarities between individuals uses the evolutionary traits to build that sense of empathy further in a way that will simply feel natural to the person - suddenly you aren't just empathizing with a stranger, you're telling someone you see as just like you
, almost a friend even, "Hey, pal, yeah, I feel ya." A sense of community, even a long distance one, significantly increases a tendency towards empathy in my experiences. Finally, I think a balance between the functions of the right and left hemispheres of the brain will provide a broader range of emotional and logical mobility, creating the capacity to both feel deeply, think creatively, and match patterns and logical sequences, all very useful in fully-developed empathy.
I just wonder how we can achieve these things (or whatever else the magic formula will turn out to be) on a personal, local, and global level. Any ideas on what you and I can directly do today to begin or act on this?