Thursday, April 18, 2013

Empathy and stress

My friend Ram writes a great bit about the weird paradox where three Americans dying is a catastrophe, but dozens of (innocent) Afghanis dying due to drone strikes is business as usual. Is it weird that this is my first reaction, not only to Boston but also to Newtown? (that, and that we should stop reading the news at all.) Ram points at a need to increase our sense of empathy somehow. It's like the old proverb about someone throwing babies in the stream to drown, and how we're downstream fishing babies out instead of stopping the thrower. Except we're not even fishing them out, we're just kind of seeing dead babies and gnashing our teeth over and over.

"It's very, very difficult to be a dick to someone when you understand that you are dealing with a thinking, feeling being with little wishes and big miseries much like yours."

On the other hand, it's been unfortunately easy for me to be a dick to everyone recently, and I blame it on stress. I realize that's a little like saying the air is polluted because it's full of pollutants. That's how it feels; I'm under a little haze and can't really be myself because I'm trying to breathe a lot.

What stresses us? Especially, what stresses us that I might be able to do a damn thing about? (and here I'm drawing on a lot of recent posts from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang; his blog has resonated a lot recently)
Words With Friends - interesting post from Amy Bruckman
Texting - I guess increased stress as well as antisocialness
Imperfect abstractions - yes indeed
And what can we do about it? Mildly intrigued by continuing reports of using heart rate variability to detect (and thereby provide feedback and lower) stress.