When I think about empathy, I think about what it means to me: that I cultivate the capacity to really understand what another person is feeling and experiencing at the same time.
But here is the tricky part: I might feel and/or experience something quite different myself.
It’s not identification. It’s not agreement. It’s being able to understand what is going on with someone, perhaps very different from me, and not necessarily agreeing, yet really seeing that other person and “getting” what they are feeling.
What do I mean when I say that empathy is good for our grandchildren?
Well, it turns out from studies in attachment theory as well as neurobiology that if we are empathic we have a better chance of having a really healthy attachment relationship with our children. So, if we teach empathy to our children, they will, in turn have better attachment relationships with their children, and consequently, more secure and well adjusted children. Therefore, we will have more secure and well adjusted grandchildren.
Can you see how this can spread? It’s really like a kind of spawning.
As we teach empathy to anyone who will listen, gaining that capacity will give future generations the secure starts to life that will further encourage more empathy and on and on. It’s exponential, actually. Empathy begets healthy attachment, healthy attachment begets secure behavior, and secure behavior begets empathy.
Photo courtesy of Bruce Tuten