Monday, March 17, 2014

Empathic elders – a way of life

“Do not judge your neighbour until you walk 2 moons in his moccasins”  
Cheyenne Native American proverb.

In all my research over the years about creative ageing by authors or therapists discussing this chapter in our lives, I haven’t seen any mention about this topic of empathy, and its importance in our lives, and how much it is vitally needed at this time in contemporary society.  According to my research there seems to be a growing decline in the spreading of empathy. There is an empathy deficit. And this is playing out in our present political culture re asylum seekers and concern for those less fortunate. Roman Krznaric cites a study at one university in California showing that the richer one is, the less empathy is likely to be displayed.

In between numerous cups of tea over the last few weeks I have been deeply engrossed in learning more about empathy. As a therapist, I learned, and improved upon my natural ability, to be aware of the importance of empathic listening and to perceive a clients’ world. However, on revisiting a textbook for my studies some 12 years ago, it did not receive as much attention, as it could have. In light of my research of late, and for the benefit of our world at present, I believe that we elders could start an empathic revolution and change the status quo along the lines that Roman suggests in his Handbook for Revolution on Empathy.  

So what is stopping us?

Well . . I have decided to start this Empathy Revolution. So far I don’t have a clue on how to do this - to harness empathy as a collective force for good, and the energy, skills and experience of my peers, but I have taken the first step by setting up a Facebook page entitled Empathy Conversations.

I know that many, many of my contemporaries are environmental activists, cultural creatives, and are very committed to making a difference, but this challenge is more for other peers who spend a lot of their time travelling, and of course, a lot of their hard-earned money!  

I’d like to suggest that some thought be given to changing your getaway holiday to an empathic journey with a difference. For instance, instead of cruising around islands with like-hooved peers, following a tourist trail in Tasmania, or sailing down the Rhine sipping champagne, what if you volunteered in an orphanage, or even started up an Empathy Travel Agency, as Roman suggests!  

It is time now for “outrospection” as opposed to our years of self-absorption and of the Me generation.

I am now intent on being more of an empathic traveller, and the question “Who’s shoes can I walk in next? is on my list.