The Science Behind the Unique Capacity for Compassion You Inherited Growing Up with Domestic Violence

As I mention in my book INVINCIBLE, growing up facing adversity in childhood gives you an exceptional ability to perceive and empathize with what others are feeling. You have a remarkable intuition. And this is not just a blanket statement. It is scientific fact, evidenced in recent neuroimaging research.

Abuse and neglect produce long-lasting changes in the connections between the left and right brain – the amygdale – and the prefrontal cortex, according to developmental neurobiologist R. Douglas Fields, author of The Other Brain.

The brain is “trained” to constantly monitor the environment

One aspect of this change means that the brain is “trained” to constantly monitor the environment for danger. Of course, that’s not entirely a positive. This instinct takes over the conscious mind, resulting in lower thresholds for rage. The altered brain circuitry can also predispose women to mood and anxiety disorders.

But this heightened ability to detect a threat is real. The brain is a highly adaptive and plastic organ. Your amygdala detects threats in the environment, so that you can respond quickly. Your hippocampus maps out the environment, forms memories of events, and learns the context of when experiences, like threats and stresses, are likely to be experienced, says Fields.

quote-17Intuition can become a pathway toward compassion

You developed this skill at a very early age because you had to read body language and understand nonverbal communication to figure out what the night would bring. As it developed over the years, it caused you pain. But leveraged the right way, intuition can become a pathway to COMPASSION. How? By leveraging the skill of understanding how others are hurting, so you can help ease their pain.

Although many of us growing up in homes with domestic violence learn the LIE that we’re by nature RESENTFUL people, the science helps disprove this LIE and points to the exact opposite: our immense capacity for COMPASSION.

Thinking back through your life, when have you used your intuition and found yourself displaying great COMPASSION for another? Please share your experience in the comments below. Thank you.

A detailed overview of the RESENTFUL Lie can be found in CHAPTER 2 (“Resentful to Compassionate”) of INVINCIBLE: The 10 Lies You Learn Growing Up With Domestic Violence, and the Truths to Set You Free.

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