"There's a lot of talk in this country about the federal deficit. But I think we should talk more about our empathy deficit - the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us - the child who's hungry, the laid-off steelworker, the immigrant woman cleaning your dorm room.
As you go on in life, cultivating this quality of empathy will become harder, not easier. There's no community service requirement in the real world; no one forcing you to care. You'll be free to live in neighborhoods with people who are exactly like yourself, and send your kids to the same schools, and narrow your concerns to what's going in your own little circle.
Not only that - we live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.
They will tell you that the Americans who sleep in the streets and beg for food got there because they're all lazy or weak of spirit. That the inner-city children who are trapped in dilapidated schools can't learn and won't learn and so we should just give up on them entirely. That the innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes half a world away are somebody else's problem to take care of.
I hope you don't listen to this. I hope you choose to broaden, and not contract, your ambit of concern."
Barack Obama Quote About the Empathy Deficit
Maybe the answer can be found indirectly, or maybe in reverse. Maybe the "why" won't come on this side of the equation? Have you noticed, when you are in a moment of feeling emotionally handicapped, that certain behavioral responses/reactions affect where you emotions go from there? Are there certain ways you've responded that have made you less cold, or perhaps colder? If you've brought it up in the moment with your partner, how does it affect your empathy? Does it make it colder or slightly warmer?
Or have you had any experiences where you've particularly struggled to find empathy for someone outside your personal relationships?
I also think you highlight another important approach, that of genetics and biological factors.
Find out more: http://www.additudemag.com/q%26a/ask_the_add_medical_expert/7266.html
Have you heard this myth, ADHD friends? How do you respond?
- Shelly Bonoan PhotographyPhotojournalist, 2004 - present
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