Aditi Subramaniam, Ph.D.: Cultivating Empathy for Well-being & Social Connections | Doing Well #29

In this episode, host Lu Ngo is joined by Aditi Subramaniam, Ph.D., who is a neuroscience specialist from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, India

Amidst modern life’s challenges, individuals may struggle to appreciate empathy’s multifaceted nature and its implications for personal and collective well-being. Understanding this emotional intelligence trait can positively influence mental health and contribute to a harmonious, interconnected world.

Meet Aditi Subramaniam, Ph.D.

Aditi Subramaniam has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, India, where she worked on eye movements and their clinical and neurobiological correlates in patients with schizophrenia. She then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where she volunteered at Emory University, with one of the nine centers comprising the North American Prodrome Longitudinal Studies (NAPLS). 

She recently co-authored a review paper on the effect of psychotropic drugs on cortisol levels. Aditi is passionate about writing and especially about communicating science to a general audience. She currently lives in Redmond, Washington, with her husband and their three-year-old daughter.

About the episode

Emotional empathy transcends mere understanding. Aditi says it involves resonating with someone on a profound emotional level. This empathetic resonance forms the foundation of meaningful human connections, bridging the gaps between individuals and fostering a shared emotional experience.

Conversely, cognitive empathy introduces a thoughtful dimension to the empathetic journey. Rather than a passive observer, one practicing cognitive empathy becomes a potential ally in helping others navigate their emotions.

Empathy development emerges as a powerful tool for enhancing social connectedness and overall well-being. By honing this skill, individuals pave the way for more genuine and fulfilling relationships, creating a tapestry of understanding that binds communities together.

Empathy is not a black-and-white concept. The type of empathy and the characteristics of the person matter. Aditi shared that empathy is often romanticized in popular culture but has disturbing angles. Having empathy is good for well-being, but the type of empathy and the person’s personality are important.

According to Aditi, empathy is demonstrated by offering a choice: asking individuals whether they seek a listening ear or desire advice. This mindful approach to interaction showcases empathy and empowers individuals to direct the nature of the support they receive, fostering a sense of agency and understanding.

Before ending the podcast, Aditi discussed how cultivating empathy can improve well-being and social connections. According to her, belonging to different groups helps people understand and empathize with others. She also shared that being a parent makes one acutely conscious of their own biases and compels modeling of the right behavior to their children.

In conclusion

Empathy is a multifaceted concept within personality, type, and societal context. It is not just a trait that people are born with. It is also a skill that can be developed. People go on a journey of self-discovery and connection-building that makes their personal lives and human connections better.

Having both emotional and cognitive empathy can help people deal with the complicated feelings of others. This can impact the individual’s well-being and within communities that are linked to each other.

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