Home Finding Your Life PartnerLove is a Science The Brain in Lust and Love – Building Blocks of Empathy

The Brain in Lust and Love – Building Blocks of Empathy

Part One

written by Rick Hanson August 9, 2018
The Brain in Lust and Love - Building Blocks of Empathy

The Evolution of Empathy, Cooperation, and Caring – And Graceful Ways to Ride the Roller-Coaster of Romance.


The marvelous human capability of understanding one another, and feeling understood, was developed in the brain over millions of years. Learning about such capability can help you understand and work better with your own empathic capabilities.

Our empathic capabilities point to a hard-wired tendency in the human character – a kind of Dark Side of the Force – that must be managed, even transcended, for the full flowering of virtue, compassion, empathy, kindness, and love.

Building Blocks of Empathy

Evolution builds complex capabilities out of simpler ones. Organisms develop attributes through evolution because those characteristics function to increase offspring, or grandchildren. The following are the five major building blocks of empathy that increased the grandchildren (us) of our ancient, great-great-great primate, mammal, and reptile ancestor-parents:

1. Understanding the intentions of other animals, both of one’s own species, and others. For example, consider the basic distinction between “Do you want to mate with me? Or eat me? (Or both . . .? But hopefully, we’ve moved beyond the black widow spider level. . .)” Even quite primitive animals work to infer the true plans of other animals from the behavior of those other animals.

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