Today was the first in a series, “Mindfulness and Medicine”, held at Salmon Creek Legacy Hosptial.  Every second Friday at noon, I will start the program, introducing the topic and reviewing the science and Geshi la Tashi will talk about the practice.  This hospital has taken to heart the need for mindfulness.  We are playing a role in addressing the need.  We had a great first meeting with various participants, from psychologist to nurse to chaplain, it was a marvelous mix.  Relief of suffering is the goal.


Photo by Dave Hutt, dmddigitalphoto.com


A University of Wisconsin study shows that camera angles play a large role in eliciting empathy of the viewer. It also appears to be gender related. 150 men and women participated.

Female Empathy

The study showed that women were more likely to empathize with a victim that was also female and was featured using close-up camera angles. 

Male Empathy

Males were more likely to empathize with a male victim portrayed in a medium-shot camera angle.  Tailoring the camera perspectives used to portray a person for each sex group would seem necessary if the goal is to elicit empathy, compassion, and support for victims.

How would you interpret this finding?

March 2013 issue of Mass Communication and Society

About 10 years ago my TV watching had dwindled to mostly one program, Star Trek.  It was then cancelled.  I liked the hopefulness, passion plays, and the futuristic technology.  My wife suggested that we just cancel the cable.  We had done that off and on over the last 30 years.  I agreed.  Why had we become so unattached to this ubiquitous entertainment?  

Two researchers at the University of California, Yalda Uhls and Patricia Greenfield hypothesize that TV is a medium that reflects our values back to us.  To show that, they sampled shows for the values they depicted starting in 1967 then every 10 years until 2007.  They looked at character traits such as benevolence, popularity, community feeling, financial success, tradition, and fame.  Community feeling, benevolence, and tradition were consistently displayed until 1997. After that, achievement, financial success, and fame rose to the top and community feeling, benevolence, and tradition had fallen to the bottom.  What was most remarkable was the drastic nature of the change.

Narcissism has been rising in our population.  12% of teens studied in the early 1950’s were shown to be narcissistic, by the 1980’s it was 80%.  From 1979 to 2006 scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory rose by 30% among college students to the point that as a group they had similar scores to typical celebrities.  (Jean Twenge, The Narcissism Epidemic:  Living in the Age of Entitlement)

Psychologist Sara Konrath showed that college students “empathetic concern” dropped 48% between 1979 and 2009.  “Perspective taking” dropped 34%.  In an age in which we are more connected than ever, we are losing our empathy for others?

There are many theories as to why.  Lack of discipline, the “self-esteem movement”, smaller families, shrinking community organizations, and the focus on self have all been suggested.  Regardless of the reason, TV is the mirror.  We didn’t recognize what we saw on the tube so we turned it off.  

Do you have a comment?


Background information derived from article by Frank Bures, The Rotarian, June 2013.

Judgment and Disrespect

Do physicians lack empathy with their obese patients?  How does that effect the outcome for the patient?  A small study at John Hopkins noted that physician behavior was significantly different when comparing interactions with normal weight versus obese patients. The patients in the study were being treated for hypertension, not obesity.

Empathetic Relationship

An empathetic relationship is necessary for medical recommendations and behavior-change counseling to work.  It is essential in helping overweight and obese patients overcome obesity and it’s comorbidities.  Other studies have shown physicians hold negative attitudes toward obese patients. They feel judgmental and disrespectful, that often coming across during patient encounters.

Same Time, Different Message

The study noted that there was no difference in time spent in patient encounters.  The difference was in the display of concern, reassurance and recognition of feelings.  Interactions with patients of normal weight were much more positive and reassuring.  That was clear in the words and phrases chosen.

Emotional Support is Needed

The study suggests that emotional support is very important and that doctors may unintentionally sabotage their patients efforts to get healthier by their lack of empathy.



Kimberly A. Gudzune, Mary Catherine Beach, Debra L. Roter, Lisa A. Cooper. Physicians build less rapport with obese patients. Obesity, 2013.

Photo by Dr. Brook Noland, www.nolanddental.com


Self Delusion

Are we willing to be objective regarding ourselves?  Can we be truly authentic?
Truth about one’s self can be derived by disinterested self observation through self reflection and meditation.  Knowing the truth allows better, more authentic interaction with the world.  The common inclination of humans is self delusion and judgement for the sake of expediency and decreased anxiety.  

1. We are wrong far more often than we believe.
    We can go to extremes to avoid internal inconsistencies. 
    Even embracing falsehood.

2. We are much less objective with evidence than we believe.  
    Few people escape bias and the strong tendency to rationalize
    dearly held  beliefs.

3. We deflect responsibility for being wrong.  
    We are highly motivated to protect our self image.

4. Our expectations are not objective and are unrealistic.  
    We suffer from optimism bias.

5. We are going to die.  
    It is the most certain and the least believed.

6. Conflicts with two people or groups are more often issues of values than arguments of what is absolute truth.

7. Our beliefs are determined by our wishes, not truth.  We believe in things that we want to be true even if there is evidence to the contrary or absence of evidence.

8. Our desire to resolve anxiety caused by uncertainty causes a leap to conclusions that are unsupported.  The need to avoid anxiety can exceed the consequence of a negative outcome.

9. Enormous energy is expended with the single goal of reducing anxiety.

Derived from the work of Alex Lickerman, MD.  
The Undefeated Mind:  On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self

Photo by Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphoto.com


Perfect Life

“Perfect? One hundred percent perfect is difficult,” said the Dalai Lama. “But I think I can say, among 7 billion human beings, everyone has the potential for good quality. This is the most precious thing. If you keep affection, a sense of concern for others’ well being, that’s the ultimate source of satisfaction. That brings peace of mind."

Be Happy

“There is a Tibetan saying: ‘When things are difficult, then let yourself be happy.’ Otherwise, if happiness is relying on others or the environment or your surroundings, it’s not possible. Like an ocean, the waves always go like that but underneath, it always remains calm. So we have the ability as well. On an intellectual level, we may see things as desperate, difficult. But underneath, at the emotional level, you can keep calm.”

Excerpt from ABC news interview

Photo by Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphoto.com


Recently I was with a dying patient and her family. 
Spiritual care is one of my roles.

The nurses told me that she was perhaps a few hours from death.  It is striking how much benefit there is in being a comforting, compassionate presence.  She was so gracious, thanking me for being there.  We all prayed and I gave everyone communion.  Then she asked, “Do you know what is coming for me?.”  I smiled and said, “No one really knows.”  She told me,”That’s alright.”  and she smiled back at me.  She went on to thank the family members who were there for being part of her life.  I went back to the office to arrange for a priest.  What really hit home is that at this most vulnerable stage of her life, she had empathy for everyone around her.  She was the comforting, compassionate presence.


Photo by Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphoto.com


I recently was reading some excerpts from Dr. Brene Brown’s work.  It reminds me of the Dalai Lama's words and what I have heard from my friend, Geshla Tashi.  These thoughts are condensed and as succinct as I can make them right now.

Barriers to Love
Everyone wants to be loved.  We make it complicated by putting barriers up for ourselves. The belief in unworthiness to be loved is shame and that creates a need for protection from vulnerability.  Dropping these shame barriers creates vulnerability by being authentic. Connections can be created as a result of vulnerability.   A willingness, a courage to acknowledge imperfection is needed by having compassion for self and others. Instead, oft times vulnerability is numbed.  By numbing possible bad feelings, all feelings can be numbed. (Consider that we are the most indebted, obese, and addicted generation in history) Joy, gratitude, and happiness are lost.  In both politics and religion, because mystery and faith is too vulnerable, certainty is embraced.  Ambiguity and compromise is vulnerable and is extinguished.  Instead, to breach the barrier, there must be a belief that you are good enough to be loved.  Decide to be self revelatory without guarantee, and to practice joy, gratitude, and happiness.  Don’t be tied to some imagined outcome but to the truth of your life.

The Courage to be Vulnerable
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”--Theodore Roosevelt, 1910 speech


Photo by Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphoto.com


Empathy of a Child
Humans have a drive to belong.  In is intimately wrapped with empathy.  From the time a 2 year old can look in the mirror and recognize themselves, they can then identify with others.  As a child becomes aware of suffering and mortality, their sense of empathy can be exercised through their mirror neurons.  

Empathy has Expanded

They can develop solidarity with others.  Being empathetic does not create utopia.  Empathy can result in action to relieve the suffering of others.  That is compassion and love.  In the last 10,000 years peoples empathy and solidarity has expanded.  In early times it extended to family groups and villages.  It was tribal.  As agriculture developed and trade between people developed, it expanded.  As religious groups expanded, people identified with a wider group.  As transportation and trade expanded, larger areas developed into nations and people have become more and more identified with national identity.  

Be a Role Model of Empathy
Can empathy extend to the whole human race and overcome narcissism, materialism, violence, and aggression?  Empathy can be repressed by our parenting, education, business practices, and government.  It starts with us as parents and in our choices of how we live our lives.  Our children will identify with their role models, us.


Please feel free to comment.

Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphot.com
The "prodigal son" is a study in empathy, compassion, and judgement.  With which character do you empathize?  The righteous son who dutifully stays and works with his father?  The same righteous son who objects when his brother’s return is celebrated? The father whose son asks for his inheritance and when his wish is granted, the son spends it on prostitutes and gambling?  The same father who welcomes his errant son back?  The errant son who spends his inheritance having a wonderful time then regrets it?  The same errant son who returns to his father and is forgiven?  I could judge each of them foolish.  I can also identify with each circumstance and that leads me to question my judgmental feelings.  With the compassion of the father as the key, I can empathize and forgive both brothers.  The unsettling part is that I don’t know what the righteous brother ultimately did.  And perhaps that is the point.  What would you do?


photo by Dave Hutt, www.dmddigitalphoto.com