Lacking Empathy Has a Domino Effect from Childhood to
It is important to examine the nature of empathy especially
as we seem to have leaped into an era where hatred of those considered different from the majority is leaching from misguided adults into the minds of children. Headlines abound about hatred of those of different faiths, race, gender or sexual preferences or any other way of life that differ from what traditionally was considered the so-called “norm.”
Are we losing the capacity to reach out and understand people?
Many issues seem to be at work. The age of electronics often keeps us from listening and conversing face-to-face with others? The other aspect comes from parents and grandparents who might tend to over utilize bragging rights. It emanates from a trend to instill intense competition into child-rearing process – be a winner they are told. That means encouraging the loss of human connection and involvement because their peers become adversaries rather than
playmates. And, most importantly, how does it impact our mental health issues? Clearly, it does.
Teaching empathy is an important aspect of child rearing.
The false myth that children will be taken advantage of if they are too kind, especially among boys, has created unsympathetic adults. Those lacking empathy usually do worse in life than children who have that capacity for caring and understanding others. For one thing, lacking empathy impacts personal relationships early and later in life due to being fraught with dissension because they don’t understand how the other person feels.
On Tuesday, December 25, 2007 in the Washington Post, Douglas LaBier, a PhD, business psychologist, and psychoanalytic psychotherapist had this to say:
“You may not realize it, but a great number of people suffer from EDD.
“No, you’re not reading a misprint of ADD or ED. The acronym stands for empathy deficit disorder.
“Based on my 35 years of experience as a psychotherapist, business psychologist and researcher, I have come to believe that EDD is a pervasive but overlooked condition with profound consequences for the mental health of individuals and of our society. People who suffer from EDD are unable to step outside themselves and tune in to what other people experience. That makes it a source of personal conflicts, of communication failure in intimate relationships, and of the adversarial attitudes – even hatred – among groups of people who
differ in their beliefs, traditions or ways of life.”
There is no question that there is a pervasive goal in society to accumulate wealth and material objects as symbols of achievement. That’s part of being a winner. When that value is introduced into a child, in the form of intense competition, it can produce young adults, unwilling to help anyone out of fear that person will supersede them in the climb up the ladder.
It’s natural to want our children to do better than their parents, but if taken too far it may well instill the opposite values needed to be a compassionate human being. Many parents push childhood sports to
over-the-top proportions. While still in utero many future children are
registered for the best private schools, particularly those schools known to get children admitted to the Ivy League colleges. Those attitudes set an atmosphere early in life that is the antithesis to instilling empathy.
We need to take heed of the different needs of all humans.
To do this we must possess the capacity for empathy no matter which field of endeavor we are in. We need to utilize the old-fashioned option of communicating face to face. Let’s go back to teaching children the Golden Rule! It was always written across the blackboards of my elementary school. Maybe it needs to be put back only now it will be shown in power point. DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU!