Empathy, Empathy! Empathy is what makes us human – humans being –  being in relationship to others, and if we are not in relationship to others, what are we? Empathy allows us inside each others heads and hearts. Babies die without empathy, and with not enough, they grow up to be psychopaths – incapable of feeling, of feeling how anyone else is feeling.

Many of the people in charge these days are psychopaths, which is a cause for worry. If everybody knew this, would they care? The empathic ride against the men of action, oh, see the men of action falling back! I wish. ( Apologies to Leonard Cohen).

Depression, a suicide note, Empathy, it’s all linked. Depression, no empathy, suicide- that’s where you end up. Caring, responsive – not controlling. That’s suicide prevention, but it needs to start at birth; by 27, it’s too late. Maybe at 15 a rescue might be staged, but “Cheer up”s and Smiley faces will never work. Think of the money society would save if parents were taught to love and respect their children ( instead of trying to teach children to love and respect their parents). What if the Commandment was not made by a patriarch, and instead of Honour Thy Father and Thy Mother, it was honour thy children, love them and respect and attend to their needs as much as possible, and then a little more. If you do, they will not only honour, love and respect you, but themselves and everyone else they meet as well! If you don’t, there will be no punishment, but of course, there will be consequences, because your children will not turn out so well. If you ignore their needs, manipulate them or try to control them, they may suffer various mental illnesses and personality disorders, and will prove to be unrewarding and unhelpful as they grow older. Or they may become victims of totalitarian regimes, cults or other organisations which require the mindless obedience and blind faith which you have instilled in them. If they are lucky, however, they will realise what you have done to them, wake up and shake off your toxic conditioning, and if you are lucky, they may even forgive you. But they should not forget, because, if they did, they might poison their own children in the same way.

This is a little verbose, perhaps, but I think it’s a fair summary of what I’ve read of Alice Miller (‘Thou Shalt Not Be Aware’; ‘The Truth Will Set You Free’ et al), Oliver James ( ‘They F*** You Up’), Robin Grille (‘ Parenting For A Peaceful World’). There is a pattern that emerges from all my reading, and this is some of it; like the Mandelbrot set, however big it is, whichever bit you look at, still the same pattern is there. I wish I could’ve read these books before I had my children, instead of learning as I went along. Growing up in a family that believed in Original Sin ( babies are born bad, and have to learn to be ‘good’, which is a load of tosh), I had quite a lot to unlearn, and I’m still working on it.

Let Love be my Reason

My framework

My result

Not little love

That seeks to own another

But love that sheds itself

Freely and indiscriminately

Like petals of blossom

From a spring flowered tree

That shower themselves

Into the wind

And onto the grass

Drifting far away

Not caring where, or why

Let me love

As carelessly and hopeless as that.

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