Someone remarked astutely that of all the aspects of our environment the one that remains most difficult to manage and yet most omnipresent everywhere, is other people. One solution is the privatization of intimacy in a biological act of sex, about as intimate as it is possible to get to another person and dynamically efficacious on the spectrum of trust and safety in the best of circumstances. When it is "cold," it can be demonic. Playing on the sense of danger, risk, and possibility is enormously alive in these circumstances.
But also, group life introduces issues of conformity, status domination, group emotional melding, and the ways of doing things that we call culture. Again, if it is cold, it is a cult, a hanging mob, a terrorist organization.
"Following trauma, an individual may shift from being optimistic, socially engaged, and emotionally resilient to being withdrawn, lacking purpose, and having difficulties feeling safe in the presence of others. These changes in behavior and psychological well-being reflect a disruption in how the brain regulates bodily functions through the autonomic nervous system. When the autonomic nervous system shifts into a state of defense, individuals experience hypervigilence for danger, intrusive sensations, body numbness, digestion problems (including irritable bowel), changes in appetite, disrupted sleep, sexual difficulties, fibromyalgia, and problems establishing and maintaining relationships."
Stephen Porges speaks of a neural platform for social interaction. I think he is talking about a "worldview" that has been learned from one's experience and closest others, creating systems in the brain, circuits of thought and feeling that guide one through life. Executive and physiological platforms that aren't working will prevent access to the thought processes one needs right then.
A "religious conviction," or belonging to a group that sustains a world view of like-minded people, is a way of coping with the need for safety that will keep one's "platform" or "worldview" working. As one person put it, belonging to a community means you can risk venturing into fearful places because even if you are put under enough stress to shatter your "worldview," the community will remember who you are and remind you. For some people, books can become a community of sorts. Sometimes they are combined with live people or correspondence. Care is necessary, because a community can present too many and too confusing ideas as well as becoming invested in control.
Porges' theorizing has focused on listening in terms of sound processing as language, but his ideas included a "window of communication" to coin a term for our presentation to each other of the "third" myelinated autonomic nerve connection directly from the brain to the face, controlling the speaking organs, breathing, heartbeat and gut -- which demonstrate the expression of emotion or feeling. These communications carry listening and speaking, and their print derivations which are reading and writing. But Porges did not develop systems for thinking about the experience of empathy which are somehow related.
Empathy as a concept is constantly corrupted by a 19th century system of thought based on pathos or compassion, which is being aware of the life and emotions of other beings, but not participating in them. I mean, we do not feel sorry for the man living in a doorway and therefore join him -- rather we begin economic reforms that will make that necessity end. It is a strong motivator of progressive laws and actions, which are characteristic of that century. Going along with the pathos is the rational understanding that if we make life more fair and equitable for the least of us, it will improve the lives of everyone. (This insight seems to have escaped many of us.)
When this philosophy of sentiment began to be indulgent and a venue of control, the reaction against it diminished it to pity and a source of superiority. The entire mood of the polity turned to cold, hard, "brain" views of the world. This was defended as "real" and effective, a source of the amazing technology that made us so greedy for more wealth. It justified the murder of thousands and thousands of competitors as "efficiency," a euthanasia, "good death," though not for those who died.
Empathy is the ability to "become" the other person. The most objective evidence is that of the person who sits on a couch and watches someone do something physically arduous: athletics, dancing, climbing. Sensitive technical awareness operated by others will register that the muscles of the person doing nothing faintly echo what the active person is doing. In fact, that's part of the pleasure of watching something like fencing, acrobatics, dance, games. The phenomenon can be powerful enough that watching "tennis" can cause the watcher afterwards to have increased skill almost as much as practice. So what is the result of constantly watching depictions of violence, esp. war? Is it different from depictions of sex? If the latter is porn, what is the former? Which is worse, denial and elimination of such things. or struggling to understand?
For children, who are exposed to trauma or other things they have no neural platform to process, such social interaction will pull that intensity into their worldview, distorting it, and therefore stunting their ability to trust either sentiment or empathy, both of them classical and deeply human ways of handling catastrophe. If there is an intimate and somehow trusted person, they may be able to rebuild but only with resistance.
What Porges brings up, but then leaves, is the conviction that when people share their worlds in conversation of one kind or another, we become able to understand far more, our neural platform is broader and more adaptable. We can work together, eventually building amazing inventions. He feels this is the jump that was made when humans first became able to talk and listen with understanding and to progress together.