x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Better parenting can repair The Selfish Society

Instilling empathy in children from birth will help restore the sense of community that provided a social safety net that is fraying in the West, says psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt.

The Selfish Society: How We All Forgot to Love One Another and Made Money Instead by Sue Gerhardt (Simon & Schuster)
The Selfish Society: How We All Forgot to Love One Another and Made Money Instead by Sue Gerhardt (Simon & Schuster)

The psychotherapist Sue Gerhardt traces the West's shift away from community dependence towards individualism. "The price of becoming a free-standing human being with a mind of your own, rather than a functional part of a whole, was that there was no longer any safety net, no community and no care from other people that could be relied upon."

Over centuries and on a global scale, this has resulted in a society that yearly spends billions on pet food while billions of people go without clean water and sanitation. It's a shocking situation when you think about it, but one we might be able to fix.

Better parenting, according to Gerhardt, will equip the next generation with greater empathy for others. It starts with responding to the basic needs of our children in a kind and timely fashion, especially in the first two years of their lives, when important "pathways" of emotional association are set up in the brain.

Can we cuddle our way out of the status quo? Gerhardt makes a compelling case.