Lack of Empathy: Should It Be Our Concern?

Published On: July 18, 2022 06:50 AM NPT By: Roshan Pudasaini

Roshan Pudasaini

Roshan Pudasaini

The author is a Physiotherapist at Sushma Koirala Memorial Hospital, Kathmandu.

Let’s try to put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to feel how they are feeling.

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people are feeling, to see things through their eyes, and to put yourself in their shoes. Essentially, it is putting yourself in the shoes of another person and experiencing what they must be experiencing. Whereas sympathy involves understanding from your own perspective. In general, 'sympathy' is when you share the feelings of another; 'empathy' is when you understand the feelings of another.

There is growing concern about the apparent decline in empathy in today's society. What might be the reason? Are we being less empathetic? Empathy in humans is believed to have both hereditary and environmental influences. The hormone oxytocin is believed to be responsible for empathy. However, socialization factors have great influences on determining empathy. It is believed that social factors like friends, family, environment, culture, etc. play a significant role in developing empathy. The socio-ecological system plays a vital role in building empathy in children. The arts like paintings, fictional stories, movies, novels, and so on also foster empathy. The portrayals of empathetic acts on such forms of art leave a remarkable mark on human beings.

So, the concern is ‘why empathy is lacking in today's world’? The lack of empathy in individuals could be from genetic disorders and some psychological disorders like narcissistic personality disorder, antisocial personality disorders and so on. Some people might feel less empathy due to certain diseases or trauma. But the lack of empathy in socially, mentally and physically well being is a subject of concern.

The reason for the lack of empathetic feelings in today’s world might be due to various reasons. The social isolation due to COVID-19 and social distancing is one of the major causes. Similarly, the hectic work-life schedule has made us think about ourselves and self-centered. The most profound reason is the influence of social media. Empathy has become virtual nowadays. Just to be recognized or show that we concern we act so much empathetic in social sites but the contrary is huge in real life. For example, we tend to give funds to someone who has suffered from a morbid illness by watching their videos but when someone comes to us and asks for some funds for any sort of illness or disease we tend to ignore and blame them to be fraud. The difference of altruistic behavior of an individual on social sites and real-life situations is very huge. One of the reasons for that is huge mass or crowd following a trend. Just to look cool or fit in a group we tend to follow them especially on social sites.

The declining state of empathetic feelings in humans is an alarming issue. Are we being so self-centered that now we care about only us? Are we still feeling what others have been through and keeping ourselves in their shoes?  Will it hamper our social wellbeing? These things need attention and strategies should be formed to nourish empathetic feelings in human beings. The most effective strategy is to make a base strong or build a solid foundation that is teaching kids about empathy in early childhood. The nourishment of empathy can be through story-telling, fantasies, cartoons and movies. The proper education from social institutions also flourishes empathy. Similarly, schools can play a vital role in empathy development in children. Teaching moral studies, performing different empathetic acts like social dramas, and so on can influence school going children. However, knowledge about deception and emotional weakness also needs to be taught to act according to situations. So that we can be smart enough to show empathy where needed and judge an empathetic situation.

When people are troubled, hurt, or dealing with serious problems, they want to know that others understand and care about what they are going through. Let’s try to put ourselves in others’ shoes and try to feel how they are feeling.


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