By Ratna Bala –
Sri Lanka was fortunate to have a decent democracy, in spite of its deficiencies, for a long period compare to many countries in the world. Unfortunately instead of improving it qualitatively and quantitatively we have paved the way to twist in so many ways to give it a distorted demonised dimension. Political magicians with their word and deeds performed a brilliant display to deceive people to fulfil their greed for power and wealth. This has caused our country countless death and destruction for many years. We were blinded to grasp the reality and followed them spell bounded by their pipe piper magic. The cold war scenario complemented its upheavals. Rest is history.
Last 30 years several seminars have been conducted and many books have been published about devolution of powers in Sri Lanka. Exemplary devolutionary models in various parts of the world have been vividly explained and explored. Now, to bear the fruit of these efforts, we have at last initiated the process to construct a meaningful new constitution to represent the aspirations of all citizens of Sri Lanka. There is big hope with enthusiasm among people to contribute to this process. They believe that a new constitution will ensure greater happiness, peace and prosperity to all and will guarantee equality among its citizens and communities by mutually respecting their interests, identity, traditions, religions and cultures. They hope this would give new beginning to their country, put various bitter experiences of the past behind and enthrone political, economic and cultural equality of all communities. They honestly wish with all their hearts equality will be given utmost respect in all state’s affairs by this constitution. Reconciliation will take a big leap forward with compassionate caring constitution.
Mind The Gap – Mindset
To make this a successful story we should honestly embark on this journey with commitment and compassion. For many of us our political history and bitter experiences of the past had framed our mind-set to be hardened and fixed with negative thoughts and beliefs. With this mindset who can make any compassionate compromise?
Studies in psychology reveal how our mind-set can influence our thoughts, beliefs and actions. Different mind-sets could divert us down different set of roads as one thing can lead to another differently in different mind-sets.
We all are capable of getting influenced, trained and nurtured to adopt two different types of mindsets: Fixed mind-set, Growth mind-set.
Our mind-set can derail our sincere efforts without our knowledge. Changing our mind-set may be the initial essential ingredient to conceive a compassionate caring constitution and meaningful reconciliation process.
With fixed mind-set we tend to believe and act as qualities of people such as beliefs, behaviour, intelligence and characters are carved in stone. Fixed mind-set consumes our efforts to prove ourselves over and over and concern more with how we’ll be judged. With this mind-set we develop an inability to accept accurate information as they contradict and disprove our beliefs. We could only think of few choices and refuse any change.
With growth mind-set we believe human qualities can be changed and cultivated with effort. Growth mind-set make you concerned with improving, keen on learning and open to know the accurate information. We’ll stretch ourselves to find a solution and accept change. With growth mind-set we understand each other’s needs and necessity in working through the inevitable differences to find better choices.
Without realising the influence of mind-set one can easily succumb to the distorting effect of fixed mind-set and will be unable to have the courage to face the challenged ahead to make bold decisions.
Mind-set can be changed. We can learn and motivate us to be in growth mind-set. Then, instead of trying to prove or judge constantly, we’ll be able to focus and find many choices available to us. We can work together to find a way forward in a constructive manner. Growth mind-set give us resolve to respect others views and beliefs. It encourages us to stretch our limits for compassion rather than confrontation.
Even in growth mind-set with genuine commitment for change and avoiding the urge to prove as we are right and judge others as they are wrong, we need to have empathy to feel or understand others feelings and grievances. Without empathy one is imprisoned in self focus and solely concern about his own emotions with pre-occupation of his own entitlements.
Empathy occurs when we suspend our single-minded focus of attention (one spot light shining on our own interests) to double-minded focus of attention (with second spot light shining on someone else’s interest). Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.
Empathy has two separate stages: Recognition and Response. Recognition alone does not mean empathy. Empathy is not all or none (on or off switch) phenomenon. It has a quantitative scale (dimmer control switch). Empathy described to have seven levels. At level zero individual has no empathy at all and at level six has remarkable empathy being always aware of others concerns.
Although every individual belong to one level of empathy their level of empathy can fluctuate to different levels transiently. Empathy erosion may occur because of bitter resentment, desire for revenge, blind hatred or desire to protect. It can also be eroded due to certain beliefs, goals, intentions, of fear, obedience to authority, and wanting to conform to a group. Empathy erosions in these situations are transient and reversible. Empathy erosion may be a result of permanent psychological characteristics.
With low level of empathy we devalue others into mere objects. We may think in I –it mode of being instead of normal I –YOU mode of being. At level zero some people are capable of committing serious crimes, including murder, torture and rape
Empathy make other person feel valued, heard and his dignity respected. With empathy we will consider how everything we say and do affect others. We’ll be more considerate to avoid any misunderstandings and compassionate to avoid any offence by being aware of how it will hurt them. Above all we’ll have courage to find solutions with compassionate compromise to issues which are otherwise will remain unresolved. Because we feel our thoughts and actions do not have an intention to hurt others does not mean that they are perceived by the others same way.
What others say or do not always have the same intention as what we feel of them. Only with empathy we can be aware how our interactions influence each other. Eempathy enable us to avoid deleterious statements and actions and give us determination to promote comfort and co-operation to improve relationship.
Small Step – Big Step
Every word and action to promote growth mind-set and high level of empathy help us to agree together to produce a compassionate caring constitution and reconciliation process to unite our people to make all feel Sri Lankan in their soul and sprit. We would avoid sowing seeds of separation and harvesting hatred. We could be vigilant to be aware of our responsibility to avoid empathy erosion by all means. With high level of empathy we can cultivate co-operation for issues which still remain in deadlock to thaw very rapidly. Humble hearts of ordinary people, most beautiful and valuable of all Sri Lankan treasures, could find peace and happiness soon.
Reference source books:
Mind-set :The new psychology of success by Carol S Dweck, Ph.D
Zero degrees of Empathy : A new theory of human cruelty and kindness Simon Baron-Cohen