DAY 365+129

when your heart aches for the world

This is one of the first books I read: The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. I read a children´s version first, and the original text a bit later when, coincidentally, I found it in my father´s library. Years after, a quote of that book headed the first chapter of my PHD Thesis which was about educational planning and social development and my mother gave it to me as a gift.

I don´t know if I am a social-oriented person because that book conditioned my vision when I was just a child or -what I think is most probably- I love that book because I am prone to be concerned for the welfare and rights of others.

Actually, I don´t know exactly the reason why I behave (and feel) that way, although I guess that my childhood experiences have to do with it, but along the years I have learnt that this characteristic is not only an important part of my personality, but also a common characteristic among my students who choose to work in education and among many other persons.

This is what is called prosocial behavior, a voluntary behavior intended to benefit others often motivated by empathy. We human beings tend to be prosocial, indeed, the lack of prosocial behavior is described as a personality disorder, but as the levels of empathy are extremely changeable (even in the same person according to personal circumstances) the levels of prosociality are varied.

Once again, the capacity to recognize the state of another (empathy) is an evolutionary attribute of our species but is also related to one´s capacities. And the ability to give a response to that state depends on personal character.

As an introverted and very analytical person, I find easier to develop a cognitive empathy which is based in the understanding of another´s perspective and mental state rather than responding in an emotional way. I am prone to look for alternatives and to design solutions but deep inside me I am experiencing emotions that match what the other person is feeling.

Along the years my empathic concern has defined my professional career, influenced on many of my vital decisions and also has made me suffer and experience anger. Poverty, violence, abuse and also everyday indifference and carelessness move me to act but often cause also empathic distress, the sense of injustice and even guilt.

Why some persons have to suffer is something that I can´t explain to myself, but I am learning to accept it. Don´t get me wrong, I am not accepting individual facts related to suffering, I am accepting that existence involves an obvious suffering associated to the living process itself and mainly, to the anxiety of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing. Therefore, I am trying to develop a realistic assessment of the human condition and embracing impermanence of all things. This is creating a sort of detachment that is softening my unease.

Is this being easy? No. Practice is endless.

Is this making me more passive and apathetic? No. I feel that compassion is perhaps increasing.

Is this making me justify social inequity and the pain of those who are vulnerable and invisible? No. This still makes me cry and shout.

Is this making me more serene? Absolutely, anger is decreasing.

I cannot explain you the truth of this feeling of peace, it has been a personal discovery, it´s simply my experience but now when I observe my past and observe me observing my past, sometimes I feel that this is the place I was destined to be. A place where I can reach a new perspective on life. A place where efforts make a new sense. A place where I can consider that regardless of the appearances, maybe we are - as a whole- in a paradoxical process of constant blooming.

Cross-posted at Vision and Verb on Friday. Many other women share their passion for creativity and words there, please visit us, it is a wonderful site 

There you will find also a Card Shoppe. For every greeting card sold, the profit will accrue in allotments of $25 each to be given as loans to men and women around the world who are starting their own businesses. We have chosen the non-profit organization KIVA as the conduit for our giving back 

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Optimistic Existentialist said...

I love what you say about how in observing your past you feel that this is the pace you're supposed to be. I have that feeling about my place in life now as well.

Aga Gasiniak said...

Dear Zena, I like when you wrote that practice in endless. How true and beautiful. Big, big hugs to you

Jeanne said...

Prosocial behavior... empathic concern... ahhhh, definitely traits of nurse practitioners too, and for me, traits that I feel guilt about if I am not "feeling enough" of it. Interesting.

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