Years ago, I recall reading or hearing a response Brene Brown had about the "empathy crisis" we have in the US. In looking for the quote, I found another – more recent interview snippet:
Each time something happens where someone decides to take the lives of others – of strangers – I think about things Brene Brown has said about the issues we really have – at the core.
A crisis of disconnection.
Each time something horrible happens, people ask "what could have driven that person to take those lives?" We look for mental illness, we look to political affiliation, we look at personal biases against groups of people, we look at finances – we want to point our finger at something as "the cause" of it all. And in that looking, lines are drawn. If you are gun owner who is in just as much shock over the event, you immediately wait for the criticism. If you are on side of the right or left, you wait for the blame to shift to your political party. If you suffer a mental illness, you wait for the spotlight to hit that as people look at all people with mental illness as threats.
And in each of these acts, in each of these attempts to connect the event to something that can be blamed, we disconnect people from each other by dividing them into good and bad on some level.
Own a gun? Bad.
On the left or right politically? Bad.
Have a mental illness? Could go bad – we had better watch you closely.
White Male? Bad.
Black Male? Bad.
We see media going through the checklists. We see friends and family on social media going through the lists. We hear people everywhere going through the list to find a connection between the heinous act and something that can be pointed at as the cause.
So what does Brene propose that we do to get ourselves out of this crisis?
Connect with people.
Not online – but in person.
She points out that in-person is the only way real connection can be made – empathy can happen.
And the only way connections can truly happen is if people are allowed to be vulnerable, not feel shamed for how they feel or what they believe, but that people can also call bullshit when needed without feeling that their belonging is threatened. When people are safe, they will take chances – they will share ideas – they will innovate.
And to me we need to innovate – we need to share ideas — blame and shame and fear are not going to get us there – not going to get us to figure out the answer. Us vs Them Thinking is not going to get us to an answer. Language that divides is not going to get us to the answer. So far, it has not gotten us anywhere in the past. And as tragedies like this keep growing, I think it is time to consider a different path.
One that isn’t just shouting into the ether but involves talking….in person….and more importantly, listening for understanding, not just to respond.
Yes, it’s overly simple but sometimes making shit complicated results in the thinking going the wrong direction.
Plus, I’m just really sick of seeing people taking sides as people lash out post-tragedy – a tragedy any and all sides agree was horrific.
For those who have not read Brene Brown or have only heard snippets, she holds a PhD in Social Work and is a research professor at the University of Houston. Her research work in Social Work lead her to look for reasons or common themes in order to try to decipher why people, going through similar things in their lives, either rise or fall as a result of the event. What she started noticing was themes in their stories – themes that when explored truly gave way to her books and Ted talks and all. Fascinating stuff.