If I identify the main feature of my personal growth—a task well worth your effort too—it is a shift in orientation. Where once I was primarily interested in changing the world (in the sense of carving my own path, creating a unique path; not trying to change the entire world) and changing others, I am now primarily interested in understanding the experiences of others. Where once I was focused on developing tools of reason and logic to understand reality, I am now free to build upon (not abandon!) those tools to use empathy and compassion to understand others. Certainly, this remains an aspirational work-in-progress, but it is work, in progress, none the less.
But what if the primary way in which we are unique, and one of the ultimate causes of our remarkable rational and linguistic capabilities, turns out to be the unique way in which we are emotionally drawn to one another and the world? What if humans have become so rational and linguistic because of the very special kind of social way we interact and emote? How might it change our way of understanding ourselves, our relationships with and responsibilities to one another, our fellow animals and our planet if we came to see the foundation of human uniqueness not in our capacity for reason, but in our capacity for empathy? If we realised that we are the very special animal we are because of our very special ways of caring for and about one another – a care that we project into the nonhuman world?
~ Hayden Kee from, https://aeon.co/essays/emotional-synchrony-is-at-the-core-of-what-it-means-to-be-human
What if, indeed! I clearly see a trend in the sorts of things I read, the blogs I follow, the podcasts I listen to, the conversations I seek to create, and the movement opportunities I chase. How about you?
Previously I’ve mentioned David Gross who’s written a long series of articles on virtues. It’s worth discovering his Notes on Empathy.
The basis of empathy is being able to see things from someone else’s point of view. Empathy lets us ‘walk a mile in another man’s shoes’, look at the world through the eyes of another, or any number of other now-clichéd phrases. But while that perspective-taking seems intimately tied to the emotion of the thing – you walk in someone’s shoes to feel their pain, look through their eyes to understand their feelings – it need not be. As recent research suggests, there are times when becoming too emotionally involved actually stifles our empathetic capacity.
~ Maria Konnikova from, https://aeon.co/essays/empathy-depends-on-a-cool-head-as-much-as-a-warm-heart
I wonder the ordering of the following shifts in my experience, and how these shifts influenced each other: The decrease in the frequency, duration, and intensity of anger I feel? The realization that the anger I was feeling was not—certainly not as often as I believed it was—righteous indignation, nor even true indignation? The understanding of what petulance is and feels like? The increasingly frequent experience of empathy and the emotional experiences it enables? The shift to experiencing frustrations (in the noun-sense that a door is a frustration to movement) as opportunities for further exploration, rather than as blockades and existential crises?
Tolerance is becoming accustomed to injustice; love is becoming disturbed and activated by another’s adverse condition. Tolerance crosses the street; love confronts. Tolerance builds fences; love opens doors. Tolerance breeds indifference; love demands engagement. Tolerance couldn’t care less; love always cares more.
~ Cory Booker
When I’m having a recorded conversation for a podcast, “being loving” or “loving the other person”, aren’t the words I’d choose. Low-brow jokes aside, it just doesn’t feel like the right word choice. Booker’s phrasing is obviously rhetoric. But there’s a reason rhetoric is like that: It works.
When I read Booker’s rhetoric I was thinking how shifting one’s context to coming from being loving changes the way I’d approach those situations. …or at least, how I might approach those situations. Changing my mindset would enable me to see opportunities I’d otherwise miss. (While still allowing me to rationally choose when it might be wise to walk by, cross the street, build a fence, get on with life, etc..)
And my new mindset—coming from being loving—made me think of a conversation I had a little while ago with Andrew Foster.
Ruh-roh, there might just be something to this “love” thing.
PS: *gasp* I too have been misattributing “ruh-roh”, as in “ruh-roh rhaggy” to Scooby Doo. “ruh-roh” is Astro’s catch-phrase. Both dogs were voiced by the same actor though…
With emotional empathy, you actually experience a weaker degree of what somebody else feels. Researchers in recent years have been able to show that empathic responses of pain occur in the same area of the brain where real pain is experienced.
~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2017/12/against-empathy/
It seems obvious to me that being empathic is helpful since it suggests where to direct one’s compassion. However, is it necessary to be empathic in order to be compassionate?
Without compassion is empathy beneficial? Without compassion might empathy actually be harmful?
Why is my mission creating better conversations to spread understanding and compassion?
Lastly, these remarks are inclusive. They’re about “us.” Whatever ordeal is coming, the company will undergo it together. Leonidas’s and Dienekes’s quips draw the individual out of his private terror and yoke him to the group.
~ Steven Pressfield from, https://stevenpressfield.com/2011/04/the-warrior-sense-of-humor/
This also ties into what makes a good team. I don’t mean hyperbolic imagining of the team as some military unit. Rather, plainly stating what lies ahead, what will be challenging, and what are the goals for the team builds cohesion. The more the team members understand each other, the better they can empathize. Only when there’s empathy—my ability to use it and your awareness that I can and do use it to better help and understand you—can the barriers of fear be removed; fear prevents people from asking for help and from asking how they can help others.
Let the other person have the privilege of being the first one to be understood. The biggest distraction to understanding someone else is self-importance. Needing to say something means you have to be thinking about it, and thinking about it means you have very little mental capacity left for empathy. Free up yours, and it will free up theirs.
~ David Cain from, http://www.raptitude.com/2009/04/the-secret-to-connecting-with-people/
Empathy is the most useful ability I have ever developed. Sure, I first had to develop my abilities of self-awareness and self-assessment. But at that point, the need for empathy and compassion became plain as day.