We can be healthier, live longer, and make the world a better place by exploring our potential for compassionate behavior, according to neurosurgeon James Doty,founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, part of the Stanford Institute for Neuro-Innovation and Translational Neurosciences.
Where does your strong interest in compassion, altruism and empathy come from?
Having grown up in poverty with a father who was an alcoholic and a mother who was an invalid, I was exposed to suffering—lack of shelter, lack of food. Sometimes you would see people in positions of power or wealth who could intervene to help, and either would be silent observers or would turn away. And then you would see other people who would immediately reach out. Why is it that there are some who are immediately engaged, and others who turn away as soon as they see suffering because they don’t want any proximity to it? That paradox stuck with me.
By Elizabeth Svoboda