Whenever disaster strikes, there is the rush to aid. Someone dies, and remaining loved ones are showered with attention from friends and family. An auto accident produces offers of assistance in the form of casseroles, rides to the doctor’s office, errands run. Natural disasters like the recent earthquake in Haiti create a huge flurry of activity in the form on international aid and reconstruction.
Until, that is, people reach a kind of empathy overload. It’s a natural part of the human psychology to harden a little bit, to have their empathy less and less stimulated by the triggering event. This is the same mechanism that makes pornography so dangerous and even, some would say, our ability to turn away from cruel horsemanship practices like LDR and soring. In these cases, it’s obviously not empathy that gets overloaded, but the appetite for stimulus that gets satisfied in the same way. There is the mental need to move on to increasing foci.
I have experienced this phenomenon so many times I can’t count. I know it intimately. We as a family have had more than our share, more than the share of several families, of sudden disaster. Early on, there were a great outpouring of kindness and offers of assistance. In fact, I don’t know if I could have made it through my daughter’s first grade year without the assistance of the entire lower school of the Princeton Day School. But as the tragedies continued, I found folks to become more and more inured. Whether it was a case of “there before the grace of you go I,” or whether we as a family revealed to them the truth that you can’t really protect your child, I don’t know. All I do know is it became easier and easier for them to make an initial offer and then to turn away. To protect themselves.
This brings me (finally!) to the point of this post.
Elisha Goldstien, PhD iis offering downloads of his ebook, A Mindful Dialogue: A Path Toward Working With Stress, Pain and Difficult Emotions for $9.99, with 100% of the proceeds going to the organization Hope for Haiti Now, which donates to The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, Oxfam America, Partners in Health, Red Cross, UNICEF, United Nations World Food Programme, and Yele Haiti Foundation. Whether this will still mean hope for Haiti in ten years, time will tell, but even as you read this, empathetic minds are wandering, and pocketbooks are dwindling.
The reason I have chosen to donate through Elisha Goldstein is that learning mindful coping mechanisms can only increase and sustain my source of empathy for others (horses included). I develop myself as a being while coming to the aid of others.
Here’s a description of the ebook:
A Mindful Dialogue was written to be a companion through life when dealing with stress, pain and difficult emotions. Through 24 interviews with leaders in the field such as Jack Kornfield, Dan Siegel, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jeff Brantley, Zindel Segal and Others and 23 short explorations of simple quotes from leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, the Dalai Lama, Rumi, Hafiz, Pema Chodron and others, you’ll uncover a mindful path toward working with the stress, pain and difficult emotions in daily life.
That’s quite a list of contributors. I’ll be please to throw my little hat in with their very big ones and add to the continuing aid for Haitians, who have so little right now.
May the quest for compassion by one individual inform the greater empathy of all.