Compassion, empathy, positive bias and the Pollyanna effect

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Pollyanna
I have been thinking about this lately. How do we go about living? It’s definitely nicer (I believe) to be pollyanesque and put a silver lining on everything. It makes you feel happier, and sure it might not be true all the time, but then you can focus on other things rather than be wallowed up in your misery. Right? It also helps you be more thankful, and being thankful is seriously very good for you. Then there is the other side of the coin, people that say putting the silver lining on things does not help, but diminishes one’s experience (be it your own or others’). People that view Pollyanas as being fake and suspicious, annoying even. It is better to be empathetic, not sympathetic they say. There seem to be tension between the two mindsets, yet one is exhausting and the other is, in the short run at least, fulfilling and helpful. What’s the point of being vulnerable and letting your own darkness come once again so you can relate with someone else’s? Aren’t you better off with a strong foot on the green grass as you’re trying to help someone that is in the dark pits? Is it not possible to show someone you care despite not sharing their feelings, or commiserating with them? Maybe this is biased, but in perspective, it’s been more helpful to be around people that I felt did not understand me at the moment, but that eventually shook me off the darkness I was in. Except for times when I was not ready to leave the darkness and then it felt somewhat violating to be pulled out of it… How do we live and be thankful and mindful of every small thing? Isn’t Pollyanna (positive bias) more like the way to go about life than the other approach? (maybe not Pollyanna but a sort of hybrid-Pollyanna is closer to the answer?)
Thoughts?

Sources

  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-judith-rich/what-are-we-to-make-of-po_b_705565.html
  2. http://www.salon.com/2014/11/08/the_one_thing_that_could_save_the_world_why_we_need_empathy_now_more_than_ever/
  3. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/compassion/definition
  4. The video on empathy and sympathy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
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