Monday, October 12, 2009

Increasing Global Empathy by Understanding the Essence of Humanity

For the past three decades, I've been envisioning ways to foster the realization of positive human potential and wellbeing. Toward that end, I've long imagined a world where people from all nations, societies, ethnicities and faiths have a deep comprehension of the thoughts and feelings common throughout all humankind (i.e., the "essence of humanity").

This knowledge would reveal how much alike we all are by showing how we share many similar core beliefs, perceptions, desires and emotions. It would also clarify the ways in which psychosocial (including economic, political, cultural and religious) and natural environments influences and differentiate people's mental states. And it could lead to a profound understanding of it means to be human, as well as dramatically increase the empathy we have toward each other by enabling each of us to "put ourselves in others' shoes." And empathy can breed compassion, which together are essential ingredients for the wellbeing communities.

Collecting information about people's core thoughts and feelings, and the influences of their psychosocial and natural environments, can be done through use of anonymous questionnaires. The questionnaires would have to have adequate details, be written in many different languages, and take into account the customs of different cultures. Developing the questionnaires would be an international collaborative project that could very well promote wellbeing among the participants as they focus on mutual understanding. For people with computers and Internet access, the information can be input into web forms or send via e-mail. For others, field workers would be used (similar to the census).

Analysis of the resulting information would be reveal common human thoughts and feelings about oneself, family, community and obligation to others; about people's perceptions of the past, present and future; about our wishes, virtues (what's good/right) and values (what's important), degrees of optimism and pessimism, sense of empowerment and helplessness & hopelessness; about our physical and emotional health, our pains and pleasures, our hopes and fears, our angers and frustrations, and feelings of shame, guilt, jealousy and envy; about our beliefs concerning life meaning and purpose; etc. The analysis would also delineate differences in our thoughts and feelings based on our demographics and the psychosocial and natural environments in which we were raised and now live.

By disseminating the results throughout the world, by understanding how much alike all humans are in their core ways of thinking and feeling, and by encouraging ongoing global discussion about them, I contend that empathy will increase throughout the world as ethno-cultural barriers are breached to give rise to a greater sense of oneness/unity. This would foster greater wellbeing the worldwide community!

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