What the World Needs Now

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“What the world needs now is love …. Not just for some, but for everyone.”

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote that song in 1965, when the United States was involved in the Vietnam War.  Are we at war again now, 53 years later, not overseas, but at home? 

Well, we do have a war of words and actions directed at demolishing others.  Oh, “others”?  Even characterizing another person as “the other” creates division.  It becomes all too easy to become divided into camps of “us versus them”.  So, let’s try again…we have a war of words and actions that obscures our common humanity.

When our primary source of news switched from newspapers to social media, we entered a “post-truth world” in which people read, listen, and watch what they agree with, not what challenges their preconceptions.  Isolation from different points of view, different values, different customs all entrenches us in our preconceptions.

Most of our preconceptions are based on gaining or maintaining power over another group of people. For example, if we read on our social media sites that blue people who come to the United States are free-loaders we will probably not be exposed to news about the blue people who contribute to our society.  We then can maintain our previous prejudice and see “them” as not as good as “us”.  Furthermore, if we exclude blue people from our social groups, we can associate only with people with the same belief, thereby solidifying our belief.

What, then, might heal these divisions and antipathies? 

Love is what the world needs now.  But can we love someone who thinks differently, acts differently, and looks different?  There is a way to do this and it is called “empathy”. 

To have empathy for another person means setting aside our evaluations of that person.  Then we actively listen to the other person’s thoughts and feelings and acknowledge we heard them.1   This doesn’t mean we agree with the other person, just that we understand where that person is coming from and tell that person that we do.

When we are viewing another person with empathy, we have momentarily let go of our defenses.  And when we acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings it disarms him/her.  Defenses are not needed by either party, so better communication and cooperation can emerge.

A loving empathy has been used even to defuse conflict between groups of people.2 The surprising fact is that both parties do not have to show empathy initially.  It only takes one person or group to start the process of empathetic communication.  And then empathy begets empathy.3

Through empathy, then, we have the power to connect with others at a level that is deeper than attitudes and beliefs.  When we truly listen to the other person, we see the other person’s humanity beyond our previous preconceptions.  No longer is there a power struggle of us versus them.  There are just two human beings willing to listen to each other, heart to heart, without judgment. Then we can connect through acknowledging our common human needs, feelings, and fears. 

The empathetic approach to relationships is backed by evidence that it works—it works to neutralize power differences and tensions.4 Empathy is a viable alternative to our present way of seizing and using power.  It is a quiet revolution.5

References

(Notice how old the references below are and, yet, we still have not implemented them throughout our society.)

  1. Rogers, C. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology 21, 95-103.
  2. Rogers, C., and Sanford, R. (1987). Reflections on our South African experience. Counseling and Values (Special issue on Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach to peace) 32, 17-20.
  3. Feshbach, N.D. & Feshbach, S. (1982). Empathy training and the regulation of aggression: Potentialities and limitations. Academic Psychology Bulletin, 4, 399-413.
  4. Rogers, C. R., and Sanford, R. (1987). Inside the world of the Soviet professional. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 27, 277-304.
  5. Rogers, C. (1977). On personal power: Inner strength and its revolutionary impact. New York: Delacorte Press.    

 

Seeing Others as a Threat and How to Change It

#lovelifeprof.com

 

Our nation is increasingly becoming divided into opposing groups.  Yes, most of us have a tendency to feel most comfortable when we associate with people who look or think like ourselves.  People who look or think differently than we do, make us uncomfortable.  So, we stay away from them and isolate ourselves even further with our own kind.

Our isolation from others is intensified as we subscribe to popular media which confirms our point of view.  People outside our group may have a different point of view but we are not exposed to it.  Then we begin surmising what other people think.  People who dress like Muslims might think like or (gasp) be terrorists.  People who are trying to emigrate to the United States might think they can be freeloaders.  These stereotypes all come from seeing people outside our group as a threat, which popular media perpetuates.

It is the way we see people not like us that creates fear and hate—not the actual reality.  Yes, some people from our group as well as some people outside our group are terrorists and freeloaders, but most people are not.  Yet we continue to have a perception of people not like us as a threat.

To change our perception, we must be exposed to people not like us in positive contexts.  One way to develop positive images is through travel where we interact with others—this could be travel within or outside the United States.  Another way is to view positive images and stories about people from groups other than our own in popular media (social media, television, magazines, newspapers), schools, churches, even stores.

We need to reach out and speak to people other than those in our own group.  But, most of all, we need to listen to them.

 

How Romantic Are You?

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When two people are romantically in love they agree with many of the statements below. And even some of us who are not presently romantically attached would still like to feel this way. We all have at least a little bit of romance in our hearts.

To find out how romantic you are, check those statements you agree with.

Romanticism Scale *

Indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements by circling the “A” if you agree or the “D” if you disagree.

When you are really in love, you just aren’t interested in anyone else.  A D

Somewhere there is an ideal mate for most people. The problem is in just finding that one. A D

Jealousy is a measure of how much you love a person. A D

Love will overcome all differences between two people. A D

When you are separated from your love partner, you are miserable.

To be truly in love is to be in an eternal state of bliss. A D

You would do anything to make your loved one happy. A D

You can always tell when two people are in love; it sticks out all over.

Love just happens; you can’t cheat it. A D

Love and hate are opposites; where one exists, the other cannot exist. A D

A person who really loves you would never do anything to hurt you.  A D

No one can love more than one person at a time. A D

Who Are the Real Romantics?

If your partner also responds to the Romanticism Scale in the previous section, and you compare your responses, you may be surprised. Men and women are both caught up with romance, but research in the 1970s showed that it is men who are the real romantics. Men tend to agree with more of the statements about romantic love in the Romanticism Scale;4.15 they fall in love more quickly; and they hold on to a waning affair more so than do women.4.16

* Rubin, Z. (1970). Measurement of romantic love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 16, 265-273.

4.15 Rubin, Z. (1973). Liking and loving: An invitation to social psychology. N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, p. 206.

4.16 Kanin, E.J., Davidson, K.D., and Sheck, S.R. (1970). A research note on male-female differentials in the experience of heterosexual love. The Journal of Sex Research, 6, 64-72.

 

Listen to Your Heart

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Valentine’s Day reminds us of hearts but when was the last time you listened to your heart? Is your heart racing?  It could be because you are in the presence of a new loved one.  The adrenaline hormone and the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, increase when two people fall in love, causing their hearts to race for just a moment. 1

Losing a loved one through death or divorce also takes its toll on the heart. This stressful event can cause a temporary weakening of the heart muscle, especially in older adults.  The chest pain that is felt is referred to as “broken heart” syndrome.  Ironically, even a stressful happy event, such as a wedding or the birth of a grandchild can cause “broken heart” syndrome.

If you want to be happy and have good health, it might be more important to make your partner happy than trying to make yourself happy.3   Giving love from the heart in terms of social support makes your partner happy, which can help you have better health.

And, yes, go ahead and share that dark chocolate candy and a glass of red wine with your loved one this Valentine’s Day.  Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax.4   Flavonoids are present in red wine, and one glass a day is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Remember, though, you should always check out heart symptoms with a physician and do not engage in chocolate or wine immoderately.

  1. Loyola University Health System. (2014, February 6). What falling in love does to your heart and brain.  6 February 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2017 from, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206155244.htm.
  1. Ghadr, J. R., et al. (2016). Happy heart syndrome: Role of positive emotional stress in takotsubo syndrome. European Heart Journal, 37 (37): 2823-2829. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehv757