A doctor writing in Bible & Life reflects on his understanding of empathy growing up, and in his years as a child psychiatrist. His mother was a pharmacist, and would take care of his medical needs. He never considered medicine as a career, and he ends up as a doctor. He saw this as a mystery. The troubles he saw growing up and the death of so many in the family, the pain of so many young people, gave him the desire while in college to go on to be a child psychiatrist.
In one of the cities in Korea a few years
ago there were two successive suicides of children jumping off
apartment buildings. Thinking of the classmates of these children the
doctor had to do something, he took members of the children's mental
health center, and went to the school. He looked at the girl who sat in
the seat behind the child who committed suicide; her head was down,
completely dispirited. He was sorry for those who had died but had more
of a need to be with the living. After the period of mourning he did
make it clear to the students, it was alright to laugh.
coal briquet suicide of a mother with a brain tumor, and her two
daughters were found dead by a middle school teacher. The doctor
mentions that the teacher after a shower and changing his clothes, the
smell of the coal briquet remained with him while teaching, he
couldn't hold back the tears. The doctor told the teacher, it was a good
lesson for his students. And reminded him that smell is the most
sensitive of our senses.
The doctor was five weeks at the school that lost so many students in the Sewol tragedy; they
wondered if the school would ever open again, but the doctor had trust
in the strength and resiliency of the students.
occasion helping to heal persons who were sexually abused one of them:
"Doctor have you ever been sexually abused? If you have never been
abused how can you understand me?" These words were like a chisel at
the heart. He felt lonely and heartbroken; this feeling came back again
when he was asked if he had ever lost, unexpectedly 250 younger
Empathy, he says, has to have both the
emotional and the cognitive operating together. With trauma, the
emotional faculty is so strong that it silences the thinking brain.The
doctor believes more than learning the different formulas of mathematics
and another English word; it is important to have social and emotional
learning: skills to manage emotions, show sympathy for others, and
make responsible decisions. When our emotional faculty is in order the
cognitive will naturally do what is necessary.
finishes the article with sadness that this was not part of the
training of those in the Sewol Ferry. If the students had been exposed
to 'social-emotional learning' when the loud speakers told them to remain in their cabin, and they realized this was a question about life and death, they
would have acted differently, and the adults would not have put
their safety first.
The last words are not to
criticize, he says, we need to understand others. The Sewol tragedy is
happening around us continually. We need to have a love for
others. He brings Cardinal Kim to our attention with his kind smile.
He misses the Cardinal. The Cardinal "wanted to give more people more
happiness' and the doctor would like that energy, to enter our sterile
society to give life.