An Empathic Civilisation

- from homo sapiens to homo empathicus -

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

"EMPATHY is the art of stepping imaginatively into the shoes of another person, understanding their feelings

and perspectives, and using that understanding to guide your actions."

~ Roman Krznaric, Empathy: Why It Matters, & How to Get It

PLANETARY HUMAN promotes both awareness and practice of the human capacity for empathy. In these times of immense turning, empathy is an essential element that needs to be called forth from each individual's intrinsic nature. The most accurate understanding now emerging through the sciences is that empathy is a built-in feature of the human nervous system. Empathy is natural for human beings, and especially in these times of chaos and planetary transition, absolutely necessary. Individuals and groups of individuals thrive on empathy.

Social psychologist Daniel Batson, formerly of the University of Kansas, conducted some 25 studies in the area of empathy and altruism, as described in Lynne McTaggart's paradigm-shifting book, The Bond: The Power of Connection. Batson's research illuminated important distinctions in our understanding of just what empathy is and how it motivates us toward much needed altruistic responses.

Using fMRI to monitor the brain activity of subjects as they watched footage of people in excruciatingly painful circumstances, it became clear that if his subjects imagined themselves in that same horrible situation they experienced stressful reactions.

 

However, when they imagined empathically what it would feel like to be the other person in that painful situation, they experienced diminished stress reactions and were prompted from within to respond in altruistic ways.

Growing evidence from the neuroscience community confirms that human beings are wired for empathy. We now know about a specific type of mirror neurons in the brain that make up a significant part of an inbuilt system that inclines human beings more toward cooperation and compassion rather than the outdated and inaccurate belief in "survival of the fittest". The present day scientific disciplines of biology, psychology, social psychology and neuroscience have ever-expanding bodies of evidence that symbiosis, cooperation and altruism together form the deeper and abiding rule about how human beings are set up to function.

VIEDO: RSA Animate- The empathic civilisation

PLANETARY HUMAN teaches practical methods to rediscover one's innate capacity for 'feeling with the other.'  By developing this capacity we further restore our inclination for responding altruistically to the challenges and plights of our fellow human beings.

Video:  The Emotional World of Farm Animals

PLANETARY HUMAN suggests that empathy also extend to the non-human community comprising all the living beings that make up the planetary biosphere, including farm animals.

 

Empathy brings out the best in humanity. It powerfully and positively changes the lives of individuals, and enhances the dynamics within all kinds of groups to create and engender lasting, life-affirming transformations. Life within collectives of human beings works better with empathy.

A Process to feel empathy

Empathy is activated through one's conscious intention and imagination. It is a direct and simple imaginative process initiated easily enough through the use of a hypothetical question structured in a very specific format known as 'the implied directive'.
Here are the steps:

1. Become more deeply aware of the situation that the other is encountering; be it stressful, painful, or just different.
 
2. Knowing only what you truly know of that other person and holding that in mind, ask this question to yourself:
"If I were this person in that situation, how would it feel?" 

LINKS & RESOURCES

To continue expanding your understanding of the power and necessity of empathy within human civilization:

Books:

The Bond: The Power of Connection - by Lynne McTaggart 

Empathy: Why It Matters, and How To Get It - by Roman Krznaric 

 

The Art of Empathy: A Complete Guide to Life's Most Essential Skill - by Karla McLaren

 

The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined - by Stephen Pinker

 

Videos:

Empathy is a Verb with Michele Borba: TEDx Traverse City

The Power of Empathy with Anita Bowak: TEDx Montreal

The Power of Empathy with Helen Riess: TEDx Middlebury

 

© 2017 Richard Whitehurst

All photos of Earth from space are courtesy of NASA.

All quotes by astronauts courtesy of the books: (1) The Overview Effect by Frank White - and - (2) The Home Planet by Kevin W. Kelly.