Empathy Is Not Specific To Humans

Do yourself a favor and read this article from the New York Times Magazine. It describes how orphaned parrots are helping war veterans move beyond Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Apparently, parrots are highly social animals who are compelled to bond with their flock in the wild, and when domesticated, suffer intense distress until they bond with their new human roommates.  Their mimicry is apparently a bonding mechanism.  Anyway, when their owners abandon them (through death, or other means), the parrots are once again traumatized and take a long time to resocialize if introduced to other parrots.  Somehow, these amazing birds recognize and empathize with the trauma of a PTSD veteran, and vice-versa.  The veterans find caring for the birds therapeutic, and say that the caring presence of a nonjudgmental bird is far better than learned psychotherapy or psychotherapeutic drugs.

It appears that empathy belongs to many living creatures, and that creatures in need of it recognize it when they see it.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, the key skill is nonjudgmental listening and presence, which allows the sufferer to rewrite her own story in a way that leads to healing.

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