‘Empathy’: Best Qualities of Generations
A psychologist is not only a profession but also the inner state of a person. When working with people, such a specialist must have not only a set of specific knowledge and skills but also certain mental qualities. Olga Rumyantseva, Dean of the Psychology College of the International College for Arts and Communication (MKIK), believes that one can and should learn to empathize. For this purpose, MKIK launched the Empathy social practice-oriented project aimed, among other things, at strengthening the ‘bridge’ between the older and younger generations.
PhD in Psychology, Associate Professor, Dean of the Psychology College of MKIK
The Empathy project launched at the Psychology College of MKIK combines several disciplines related to social work into one module. Thanks to taking part in the project, students will learn to show empathy and feel their belonging to their ancestral experience and roots. Most importantly, they will learn more about life before their birth.
– What format will the new project have?
– The initiative is based on cooperation between MKIK and the Izmaylovo District Council of Veterans of Moscow. Together with the Chairperson of the Council Elena Kotkalova, we decided to combine two important areas: developing the best human qualities in young people and establishing effective communication among generations. Without our parents and grandparents, without their past, there could be no present. That is why it is so important today to not only think about the future but also study history.
The past is not an artificial picture: it is life. Only people themselves cal tell it.
Within the project, students will communicate a lot with veterans and study their life stories. They will find out how they grew and worked, participated in the war, rebuilt the country in the postwar years. They will learn what helped those people survive in difficult times and what life experience they gained during the years of the formation of their personality. All those are personal stories of specific people. They are more powerful than any textbooks in terms of immersing us in the past. Such communication makes it possible to not only learn the facts but also establish links among the generations, thus echoing strongly in every person’s heart.
One of the first tasks of the project will be related to the families of the students. It is important for us to make sure that the younger generation representatives learn the history of their own families. Sometimes grandchildren do not remember what role their grandparents played in their lives many years ago. However, such things need to be ‘refreshed’ in memory in order to understand ourselves better.
Turning to his or her roots helps a person not only strengthen family relationships and feel the unity with his or her loved ones but also reconsider his or her own values.
Most importantly, being closer to family and one’s own roots helps one avoid the feeling of loneliness. Today, it is greatly important for the younger generation and young people. Adolescence is a period when a person is in a state of some loss and disorientation.
The situation is complicated by the fact that young people often leave their home cities in search of their place in life. After school, many Russian graduates go to Moscow or Saint Petersburg to receive higher education. Thus, they distract themselves from their loved ones, parents, and grandparents. That sometimes invisibly deprives them of the sense of support that the older generations provide.
The sense of being supported by parents and grandparents is very important for a person. Just as a tree cannot grow without roots, it is more difficult for people to walk through life without support.
Unfortunately, the elderly often feel even more lonely. They lack communication because their grown-up grandchildren and children often pay more attention to their own families, work, and personal problems. Meanwhile, it is very important to give our grandparents the opportunity to share their life stories, experience, and knowledge. This gives them a very important feeling of being useful and needed.
Mutual exchange and mutual support will become the backbone of the Empathy project. Students will help veterans learn new skills, for example, those related to computer use.
In addition to communicating in an interview format, we plan to hold a concert for Victory Day and a series of online meetings with veterans. All that is extremely important for the development of a sense of empathy in the younger generation, the transfer of wisdom from the older generation to the younger one, and the preservation of family stories.
– Will you turn these stories into some kind of tangible form?
– Yes, indeed. We plan to create slideshows and video clips restoring the picture of the life of the older generation. That’s important not only for us but also for those who will live after us. Thus, we can give future generations the opportunity to not only learn about the world of the past but also literally look at it through the prism of those people who were born and raised in it, i.e. through specific life stories.
We plan to publish a book with Veterans of War and Labour as its heroes. They deserve special attention of the descendants like nobody else. After all, these people gave us peace, in which we live, defended the homeland from fascism, and rebuilt the country while overcoming all crises.
When developing empathy in people, it is necessary to bring up the right thinking in them. It is very important to ensure that a person is able to put him- or herself in another person’s shoes, to understand all that he or she has experienced.
When communicating with veterans, we will talk about how their challenges strengthened them, about what helped them to believe in a better future and not to lose their humanity. This story is more about life rather than war.
– What useful things will the Empathy project have for the Psychology College students?
– The project will make it possible for students to develop important professional qualities necessary for both psychologists and social workers. A sense of love, belonging, and empathy are the fundamental personal qualities serving as the basis of both of these professions.
A psychologist can master many effective techniques and methods of working with people but he or she will never help a person if he or she does not feel involved in the interlocutor’s problems.
In the process of teaching, we strive to immerse students in the conditions of interaction with various social groups. The older generation is one of them.
Communication is an art. That is why a psychologist simply has to be an artist in this field.
– Why is it important for you to contribute to a project like Empathy?
– This project is very close to my heart. I have great respect for Russia’s history, especially for the Soviet period in which I grew up. I remember that when we watched films about the war, they were so close-to-life for us that we didn’t feel detached from those events. This allowed us to have a very keen sense of our background and of the price we paid for the peaceful world we live in.
The Soviet period and the experience of the older generation is what instilled these qualities in me. Our grandparents are the people who can teach us a lot. I wish the younger generation not to miss this opportunity.
Probably, the older generation has strongly-developed empathy because of the challenges of their past and the difficulties of war time. I believe, the modern world lacks these qualities. People are becoming more and more divided and we need to fix the situation. The world needs warmth and humanity.
– Why is the Empathy project especially relevant today?
– It is especially important in terms of the current Stage of everyone’s lives. This is the stage of the transformation and radical change of the world. The time has come to choose a path. However, need to find support to make the right choice and not to lose ourselves.
The connection to old experience and to the world, in which we grew up, gives us a sense of stability. If change everything at once, we will probably lose everything.
For me, the preservation of personal, close-to-life, and human-caring stories, traditions, and ties to our roots is the light that warms us. They link us to the world and the era that had a very human-focused foundation: kindness, support, and unity among people. That is the foundation that can become very sustainable support.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov