For much of our history as a species – and perhaps particularly in modern society – we have often seen ourselves as isolated beings, solo actors on a small stage with a few select fellow thespians. Today we can actually track scientifically the neural dimensions of our narrow definition of self. When our resonance circuits are engaged, we can feel another’s feelings and create a cortical imprint that lets us understand what may be going on in the other’s mind – because it is like ours – and our mind and our brain turn on our mindsight mechanism. We uncap our inner lens and take a deep look into the face of the other to see the mind that rests beneath the visage. But if we cannot identify with someone else, those resonance circuits shut off. We see others as objects, as “them” rather than “us.” We literally do not activate the very circuits we need in order to see another person as having an internal mental life.– Daniel Siegel
Contrary to the popular notion, distance does not always make the heart grow fonder. Sometimes distance just makes it harder to relate. And the implications of that extend far beyond its relevance in romance. Distance has many meanings and contexts. It can be geographical, as in, physically ‘far away’, historical, as in, things that happened ‘long ago’, or circumstantial, as in, life experiences where ‘nothing like that has ever happened to me’.
Empathy is about being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and caringly feel what it is like to be there. These factors of ‘distance’ make empathy more difficult. Unless we really ‘get it’, and can ‘relate’, it is hard to care very much, or feel compassionate.
Have you heard about Camp Darfur? It is a traveling refugee camp exhibit made up of six life size refugee tents, one for each of the genocides commemorated in April. The tents include information and photographs about each genocide, and offer a highly experiential means to learning more about them. The result is to make something that many of us feel a great ‘distance’ from, better understood and more relatable.
We are pleased to announce that Camp Darfur will be joining us as part of, Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future. You will find it at three of the six commemorative film series events. The links below include the details:
For info on all six events, film trailers, speakers, and to RSVP, see: Remembering the Past toward Healing our Future.
The events are free, but space is limited, so please RSVP on the web site.
Barbara English, LMFT
Founder & Executive Director, Living Ubuntu
[Ubuntu] n. Every human being truly becomes a human by means of relationships with other human beings.