Whenever I see grown people do bad things, especially to another human, I wonder what life experiences conditioned the heart and mind of this person to disengage empathy. How do they shut off the part of them that values the life of another to such a degree that they can harm another, violate them, or even take a human life?
In most cases, the complete disengagement from empathy takes years to create. There are many causes, primarily developmental and intergenerational trauma. This level of disengagement that is far too prevalent in our society is hard-core conditioning. The cycle can only be broken when we choose to heal.
Empathy is Key
The expectations surrounding masculinity contribute to the deficit of empathy. A recent Washington Post article discussed the struggles that men have to share emotion. The author shares the following:
“For many men, that contempt begins as boys. In a study published in the journal Child Development, middle school boys said that talking about their problems is weird, uncomfortable and a waste of time. Meanwhile, an Irish study found that emotionally distressed young men “desperately wanted closer social connections and support from family members and friends,” but “feared being judged as emotionally vulnerable, weak and un-masculine.” Our emotional suppression could even be killing us. When you don’t talk about your feelings, your risk of death from any cause increases by 35 percent, and from cancer by 70 percent, according to a study in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research.”
Sadly, when we block emotional expressions, we also block empathy. We cannot feel for another what we cannot feel for ourselves.
Be a Part of the Solution
We must all do our part to break the systemic shutdown of empathy and bring it front and center. If we aren’t mindful of our own limitations and struggles and working to overcome them, we can unintentionally parent empathy and emotion out of our boys. It is reinforced through societal expectations of masculinity. Military and law enforcement cultures take it to an extreme.
I plead with mothers and fathers of boys, and men everywhere, to let empathy take the lead as you interact with young minds and hearts. This happens to girls as well, but not to the degree that it happens to boys. Girls are taught to be nice. Boys are taught to fight and win.
The article states “…raising emotionally expressive boys…is creating emotionally expressive men, and unlike [many of today’s men] they’ll share their feelings with friends.”
How do you teach empathy? You be it. You live it. If it’s hard for you, you invest time and energy in learning it. Only then can you pass it on.
If you are craving intimacy and want to see the other side of emotional disengagement, you are not alone. Yes, the men around you are reluctant to be vulnerable and the idea can make them squirm. Nonetheless, they crave it as much as you do.
You can make a difference. You can break the cycle. Begin today. Awaken your own empathy. As you do so you will pass it on.
Begin to Have An Impact Today
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