More From Alder's Ledge

September 12, 2013

E=MC2 (empathy = me connecting to...)

I won't claim to be an expert in the sociological, anthropological or psychological fields.  But the idea of empathy and how it touches in all of them have been fascinating to research.  I could spend days upon days researching text and health journals on the emotional and social interaction associated between empathy and ethnocentrism.  I am going to share how empathy is the antidote to ethnocentrism.

Now ethnocentrism in it's purest definition is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own.
It's not necessarily the view of one's own better superior or better as I originally thought, but never the less just as detrimental.  It honestly can't be helped initially- trying to understand something one does not understand with one's own limited experience is natural.  However to apply one's own experience to someone else's situation or circumstance robs the individual of their own perspective.  When trying to truly understand in any relationship it requires one to recognize and empathize with the other.  

Seeking empathy is not the same as agreeing with the individual.  Trying to understand and identify someone's motives and emotions, is the best way to getting to know the individual, community, and their actions.  The perspective given in this TED talks video was eye-opening to me.

I think we must encourage more empathy.  Some purport that empathy is an evolutionary trait espoused from birth.  There may be truth to it, but the societal environments have an affect on enhancing or hindering empathy.  Each generation bemoans the following one of it's faults, but some studies show their not far off the mark in today's world.  The Interpersonal Reactivity Index reports a steady decline in self answered surveys of students feeling less empathic than previous years.  Some blame technology for the realism of carnage being pumped out of Hollywood into living rooms, others tend to take the "social isolationism" occurring with Facebook allowing less physical contact as the scapegoat.  I'm not sure if my generation or the next are all jaded narcissists or not.

I do know that to combat this real risk at falling contributions to charities and volunteerism we must espouse the emphasis on empathy.  Start in yourself, in your home, in your neighborhood, in your community.  Otherwise there will be continued ethnocentrism, misunderstanding and hate. 

Sources (note not all are listed) TED talks Sam Richards

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