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How can I be more helpful?

Have you ever 'helped' anyone? any thing - small, big/ inconsequential, saved the world?
By help I mean, of being useful for someone other than self and when some effort/ money/ time would be required to be spent.
Truthfully speaking, I haven't much. Upon that realisation, I quickly rationalized that perhaps its an 'ability' - An ability to help. Which is to say, that some people are better at it than others. Perhaps, its just me trying to distance myself from the responsibility or perhaps I have hit upon something here. Anyways, here's the thought process.

If the tendency to 'help' is an 'ability' that is intrinsic to individuals, what factors would influence it? (I won't get into the 'born with it'/ learned sort of debate. Sure it can be acquired. Yes we can. :) )

I thought of a few. They could be,
1. Empathy
2. Inner lightness/ inertia
3. Habit of rationalizing
4. Following the norm

1. Empathy
I think I am am right when I say that being able to 'feel' for another human being, being able to identify with others would be the starting point of 'help'. If you think of 'helping' as a process, you would 'realise' that someone needs help only if you can identify with the context/ situation of the person who needs help. Empathy is the initial force applied through our senses to set us in motion.


2. Lightness of being (sorry Mr. Kundera for appropriating the title in a different context altogether)
If you are a robot, then certainly that is a whole different ball game. But if you are a human being with a free will, you are constantly busy trying to direct that will in one direction or another. Its like driving a car. Some are good at it, some are a little awkward with it. For some it become a second nature, they don't even feel a thing when shifting gears. That's the case with will too. Some will themselves into action fairly easily, while for some, to kick start the vehicle of their vitality is a huge onerous task by itself.

3. Habit of Rationlizing
I did a terrible thing recently. On my commute to work, I saw an accident. A car hit a motorcycle driver. The driver fell. The traffic halted. As soon as the driver began to stand, I left the scene. I rationalized that he seemed OK and that there were so many people to help if he needed help anyways. That was a terrible thing to think. I should have stopped and ensured if he was really OK, instead of assuming that he was OK. If I was in his place, I would be so overwhelmed! It took me a little while to realise that. I guess, a person who can empathize more readily would have thought of this more quickly.
The point is, I took the decision to move away, because my mind overworked its grey cells into rationalizing my way out of the situation. My very first thoughts weren't those of empathy, but those of trying to asses the situation as to 'am I really needed here?'. Its a wrong question to start with in situations of distress. Empathy, no empathy, one should get into the habit of starting the thought process with 'how can i be of help here?' instead of 'am I really needed here?'.

4. Bystander effect
Watch this video. 
The awareness of bystander effect should not let us think of it as an excuse - 'we are wired that ways'. Instead, we need to be aware against it. We know that we would tend to go with the herd, so we need to be all the more conscious of acting against this impulse.

Any other ingredient in the mix? Your thoughts? Any thing you can share about the psychology/ sociology of helping? of being more empathetic? do share.

Comments

Strider said…
I can't believe you feel you've never helped anybody! I don't think anybody has helped nobody. there's bound to be that instance of huge convenience to be helpful at little personal cost. And if you are discounting that, remember, the helpee wouldn't care why! your intended, internal and external, push towards a more evolved, utopia-isc, model of personal behaviour, though admirable, is removed from reality. denial of our evolutionary tendencies of selfishness will only result in an unhealthy, suppressed beast of a mind. Is there a reason for being nice to, feeling empathy towards others that will also benefit you? I believe there is. And that's what needs to be made popular. That's what will drive majority to feel for others as they would for themselves. Unless one intends to control the populous chemically!
Ajinkya said…
Why think so much? (me saying it. :P)

evolution - schemalution... why think on scales that we can't completely comprehend or affect change on?
This post was actually from my diary. The intent is being a better person - not intellectually distancing myself from the world.

I am not being too hard on myself or anything. just being a realist and trying to figure out ways to be better.

if we stop trying to be better, we might as well be dead!
Strider said…
"if we stop trying to be better, we might as well be dead!"
What's that? naivety? it's like teenage girls dreaming, literally, of a prince in shining armor riding a white horse.
whatever you are trying to do, will remain on a personal level unless you find a way to bring everyone ("we" you call them) at your state of mind. one doesn't need a lot of intellect to observe that ain't the case. you are convinced "if we stop trying to be better, we might as well be dead!". what about others comprising the "we"? you intend to blog a change in them?
thinking only on scales you can "completely" comprehend will certainly give you the satisfaction of "affecting a change". but I am afraid this too is a way to distance yourself from the world. only with a self satisfied facade.

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Ctrl-tab
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Alt-tab
Alt-tab...
Catch yourself slipping away.

Deep  breath. 

Close the browser. silence the mobile and turn it away.

Open an offline-real-paper diary. Stop your thighs from lolling impatiently. Stay still. 

Pick up a pen awkwardly. ahh, the fingers are stiff. It will take a  while for them to get used to holding a pen. Quick finger exercise - open the palm, stretch finger outwards, close into a fist, dig the fingers in. Repeat.
Ok now.. about to pick up the pen again, but eyes dart towards the screen. Tempted to check email.

Shut up. The last consequential email came two months ago. Nothing of consequence is online.

Pick up the pen. Don't fetishize the object now. Get on with it. Put it on paper, write a word and start it already. If I get to a sentence, perhaps I will get into a flow and won't have to look up from the paper at all. 

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