Tag Archive | "higher emotions"

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Empathy, Compassion and Hope at Work

Posted on 15 November 2013 by Jerry

We are jaded about reports of scores of people hurt in this or that shooting rampage.  In cases where a bad situation is averted, we either never hear about it or we don’t get enough information to know what happened.  A viral 911 tape, see first link below, drew our attention to Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper who talked a man out of using his assault rifle and 500 rounds of ammo in a grammar school.  Her story and the tape are a perfect example of the power of empathy, compassion and hope.

She displayed great empathy when she established a one-to-one relationship with the potential shooter.  She displayed compassion when she described for him her own life and how she survived periods of personal darkness to come back into the light.  She demonstrated hope when she assured him there was a way out of this situation for him.  Not only was she capable of seeing the similarity of her past personal challenges and the situation the gunman was facing but she was also able to elicit her same feelings in the man she persuaded to give himself up.

That the rampage was avoided, that the bookkeeper talked her way out of a bad situation are not the lessons we should take from this incident.  Empathy, compassion and hope are all emotions that are informed by intellect.  Recognition of the shared circumstance of the lives of two living creatures is what creates these emotions.  They represent the possession of self-recognition and the projection of one’s own feelings onto another, putting oneself in the other’s shoes so to speak.

These higher emotions are a product of the evolution of self-aware life forms.  They are largely learned emotions however. Everyone feels the most basic animal emotions of fear, anger, aggression, etc.  The higher emotions like empathy, sympathy and compassion or predictive emotions about future outcomes such as hope or despair all are developed. Unfortunately too few of us practice feeling these emotions or teach our children and others to feel them.

When you listen to Antoinette Tuff what you hear is her movement from fear to compassion for another human being who is in pain and afraid he has taken the situation too far.  You can hear Antoinette’s dawning empathy as you listen to the tape.  Be patient with the long silences. Hers is not a feigned emotion but a real understanding of what the other person is feeling.   This is what makes the tape so exceptional.

If more of us were aware of our higher emotions and used them more frequently the world would be a better place.  Unfortunately we seek the exhilaration of our most base emotions when we watch movies, when we should be preselecting movies that will help us develop higher emotions such as empathy, compassion, sympathy, hope and optimism.  The same is true for what we should be teaching our children.

We also need to be more conscious of to what we expose ourselves and our children.  The news channels are always reporting the negative events in excruciating detail with far less attention to stories that promote the best in all of us.  We need to change our consumption patterns and be active consumers of all that is good in human kind.

Chapter 7, An Evolutionary Imperative in the book Beyond Animal, Ego and Time discusses the evolution of higher emotions and their dependency on self-awareness.  See pages 69 through 75.  Go to http://www.iamaguardian.com/date/2013/03/ .

Use the following links to obtain more information or access source documents for the article:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2013/08/22/antoinette_tuff_911_call_listen_to_the_full_tape_of_ga_school_clerks_call.html

http://www.salon.com/2013/08/22/the_story_the_right_hates_antoinette_tuffs_courage/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sean_meshorer/tragedy-stopped-by-uncond_b_3795865.html

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6152/1336.summary?sid=6dbc41b2-5bfb-4125-878c-7c7a8dc8f5d6

http://www.iamaguardian.com/date/2013/03/

 

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