Saturday, November 14, 2015

When Empathy Doesn't Work:The Paris Attacks

The recent bombings in Paris are maddening, sickening, disturbing and deeply troubling. The attacks targeted innocent unsuspecting people attending a concert, a soccer game, dining or simply enjoying a warm fall Paris evening at a local cafe or bistro.
And or course, it is natural to respond to these brutal senseless killings with fury, hate and a desire to inflict revenge upon those responsible. 
ISIS has taken responsibility for the carnage, so our anger and calls for retribution are directed at them...whoever and wherever they are.
I understand this....I too, feel pain and anger as well as disgust and worry, though of course, my pain and anger is only a fraction of what is experienced by those who have been directly impacted by the losses, or by the threats of further loss. 
My visit to Paris last month, my first visit to France, to the very hospital that is across the street from one of the cafes that was hit by the terrorists, has heightened these feelings,
I feel a connection to Paris that seems to grow stronger with each passing hour and each story that I hear or read about the tragedy. 
Yesterday, I sent an email to the physician and his assistant who generously consulted with me during my visit to Paris, letting them know my thoughts were with them.
I imagined what they might be feeling, and I was moved to reach out to them to let them know that I support them. 
This, I believe, is an attempt to express empathy. Hopefully, my attempt to express empathy was received and was experienced as helpful, as emphatic. If so, it's an example of how empathy can "work".

However, I am having difficulty understanding how humans, the terrorists who both planned and executed these acts of violence, could act so ruthlessly, with such blatant disregard for human life.
I can't even imagine a human brain, a human heart, a human soul could allow someone, anyone, to act in this way. 
In this instance, empathy fails me. It's missing. It doesn't work. Perhaps, I am missing something?