Just came across an interesting blog post:
This whole idea of “mirror neurons” has interesting implications for dealing with depression and anxiety, and in particular makes me wonder about the effects of the way the psychiatric system works — do people, essentially get crazier when they’re locked up with other crazy people? Even peer support groups might have a bit of a mixed effect, though in that case it might be offset by knowing that you’re not alone in whatever you’re dealing with.
I think this could also explain a lot of the bitterness and burnout that one often finds in activist communities.
The down side, of course, of a theory like this is that it makes it easy for self-centred people to cut off compassion for others on the basis that being around anyone who’s having a difficult time for one reason or another is going to psychologically harmful to them.
Maybe the trick is figuring out how to balance having a conscience, and empathy for others, with a reasonable level of self-protection.