Lacking Empathy’s Domino Effect
Are we losing the capacity to reach out to people? Is the age of electronics keeping us from listening and conversing face-to-face with others? Have we lost the capacity for human connection and involvement in community?
We live in a multi-cultural society and need to take heed of the universal needs of all humans. To do this we must possess the capacity for empathy no matter which field of endeavor we are in. Yet our world seems to experience diminishing empathy.
The desire to want our children to do better than their parents, if taken too far, may well change the values needed to be a decent human being. It is important to want children to succeed. But where it can take an ugly turn is teaching extreme competiveness. Pushing childhood sports over-the-top often comes with the price of depleting them of compassion. Competition for college admissions raises the stakes.
Intense pressure to inject ambition into children may make for an overly competitive young adult, unwilling to help anyone out of fear that person will supersede them in the climb up the ladder. This not uncommon among, for instance, medical students who fear someone may get ahead of them grade-wise. Teaching empathy seems to have become an unimportant aspect of how we raise children. The downside of that is that children lose a sense of compassion. The false myth that those children will be taken advantage of if they are too kind has created unsympathetic adults. They do worse in life than children who have empathy.
There is another aspect to why we are on the downslope of developing empathetic humans. Youngsters are deluged with electronic devices that preclude human interaction. When hi-tech games are the constant companion of children rather than games that rely on communication and collaboration, there is a ripple effect that bodes poorly for the future. Lack of reading stories because of reliance on electronic gizmos also creates human estrangement. That in turn impacts health and well-being.
The field of medicine is rapidly changing because so many doctors rely on medical machinery and devices to diagnose rather than listening and touching the patient. Before we had sophisticated technology, doctors relied more on their educated intuition, utilizing in-depth interviews and examinations of patients. Touching of patients is vital and is often avoided because of over- dependence on machinery doing the job.
A few years back I had the experience of taking my late husband to a doctor. He told me that my husband was “…within normal limits” according to a mechanical neurological test he’d taken. I tried to tell the doctor that my husband’s acting out was not within his so-called normal limits. He suffered from occasional fainting spells, temper outbursts, confusion and growing lack of understanding. The doctor refused to listen to me. I began to feel that perhaps I was overreacting and maybe whiny.
Within two month my husband was hospitalized with a massive stroke. As it turned out, prior to that devastating event, the fainting spells he was experiencing were mini-strokes and the behavioral issues were real. I wonder to this day what the results would have been had the doctor listened to me. Maybe the same – maybe not.
We need to retain the more intimate face-to-face communicative examinations along with technology. We need to relearn the art of listening. Total reliance on hi-tech devices has produced a wedge in human relationships. We need to utilize the old-fashioned option of communicating.
“Empathy in the Time of Technology: How Storytelling is the Key to Empathy
Chair, World Transhumanist Association Board of Directors
Journal of Evolution and Technology – Vol. 19 Issue 1 – September 2008 – pgs 51-61
“…As the world grows smaller and more connected, the role of empathy grows larger and more important than ever. Where no empathy exists, conflict breeds. However, as our technological connectedness has increased, there does not appear to be a proportionate increase in global empathy. Instead, we are living in a time of relatively decreasing empathy, compared to our connectedness to the greater world. Its lack can be found all around us, be it in our wars, crime, inequality, anti-social behavior and even the lack of social consensus within previously homogeneous cultures and the myopic behavior of the ‘me generation.’ ”
It is vital in all areas of life to have empathy. Let’s get back to it. Without it, the world is much worse off.
Put all the electronic gadgets aside for a moment. When was the last time you watched a sunset or dawn creeping up? Take a break and think about what it is that you most value. We need to make time to get back to basics as well as keep up with technology! Shut down your high-tech devices and commune with nature for a bit.