Can you argue a narcissist out of narcissism?
Scientists now understand how empathy works. Can you talk someone out of narcissism? Does elusive childhood trauma cause a lack of empathy? Most probably, the answer is no. Narcissist. Will. Never. Change.
Empathy is a reaction of an individual to the observed experience of others. Empathy can be measured; it is called a multifaceted empathy test. With a maximum score of 84 and a minimum score of 28, the self-reported questionnaire underlines the full spectrum of human empathy. The opposite of empathy is schadenfreude. Schadenfreude is a complex emotion when one takes pleasure from observing someone’s suffering.
One of the ways empathy is embedded in human behavior is via the signaling of the hormone oxytocin. The oxytocin system is primarily defined by genetics, and one of the most studied genetic variants (rs53576) is related to empathy. Normal variations (GG, AA, AG) of rs53576 are widely different across the globe. The most empathetic GG variant has been linked to better social functioning and more balanced oxytocin functioning. An average of 40 % of the world’s population carries an empathetic GG variant with the highest prevalence in the African population (65%) and the lowest in the Chinese population(8–18%). The least empathetic AA variant represents approximately 17% of the world’s population, with the highest predominance in East Asia and the lowest in African Americans from Barbados (1%). Lack of empathy predisposes individuals to be less pro-social and even derive a sort of pleasure from the misfortune of others. AA people lack empathic concern or the ability to understand the perspective of others. According to research, they don’t seem to value or need social support as much as others; according to research, the cortisol level is lower in emotionally supported AGs and GGs but not in AA individuals. Due to their unique oxytocin signaling, AA (genetic polymorphism) individuals experience schadenfreude, a pleasure witnessing the downfall of others.
The Dictator game
Why do some people choose to get ahead instead of getting along?
Researchers found that the integrity of the brain’s white matter — the most prominent white matter structure in the human brain that connects the right and left hemispheres — appears to predict narcissism. GGs have more gray matter volume in the hypothalamus and greater hypothalamus volume, and more activation in the amygdala. A team of scientists from the Genes, Cognition, and Psychosis Program at the National Institutes of Health concluded there is likely a neurological basis of empathy and flexible cognition. Both, brain structure and neural signaling are probably altered depending on genetics, causing alterations in the oxytocinergic system and individual differences in emotional reactivity and pro-social choices.
Could neural signaling responsible for empathy be altered? Will that enhance experiences of emotional communion, oneness, relatedness, emotional openness — that is, empathy or sympathy? Would it alleviate narcissism and antisocial behavior?
Growing evidence emerges that certain chemicals may have a varying degree of entactogenic effects, invoking emotional openness. A class of psychoactive therapeutic drugs that differs from psychedelic and hallucinogenic substances may represent a promising avenue to medically treat inherited callousness or even undo harmful consequences of acute stress (PTSD) on sensitive people. More than twenty-five clinical trials are currently enrolling patients worldwide to explore the healing potential of empatogens. The goal is to potentially implement new drugs in psychotherapy clinics in the nearest future.
The intriguing new research is looking into a strictly biological basis of emotional empathy or its lack. A tricky question remains — could compassion and humanity be restored. Biotech research and development recently re-focused on psychoactive drugs and their promise to restore human empathy by altering the chemistry of underlying biological circuits.