Socialization has been studied as a way to promote caring and helping. But in recent years there have also been educational/training projects that aim to promote helping and reduce aggression. I review a number of them, ranging from training police and students to be active bystanders, promoting reconciliation in Rwanda, training heroes, reducing boys' aggression.
Empathy and more recently compassion have been found important motivators of caring, helping, altruism, active bystandership, and heroism. But many studies have assessed the feeling of and belief in one's responsibility to help others, sometimes as an aspect of a "prosocial value orientation," which have shown it to be a powerful motivators of helping, and non-aggression.
I briefly review a few well researched practices/principles for the development of caring and helping, and a few creative, new approaches. These practices also enable children to function optimally and to be effective and fulfilled emotionally, and they do the same for adults who learn by doing as they use these practices in the face of everyday complex realities.
Victimization and life injuries create trauma, suffering and psychological wounds. Some avenues to healing are engagement with experience, which can be created through reading and writing stories in schools; warmth, affection and support by parents, teachers and peers; and gaining meaning out of one's suffering by becoming active bystanders to prevent others' suffering.
Students who are frequently harmed by peers are greatly affected, but so are all students if everyone remains passive. Children who are excluded have even worse feelings about their lives at school than those who are harmed. Active bystandership makes a difference for both victims and actors. Everyone--students, teachers and parents-- need to become more active.
What characteristics, socialization experiences and circumstances lead people to morally courageous and heroic actions? How can we "learn by doing," shaping ourselves into heroes as we act in helpful and courageous ways?
Nonviolence has been effectively used to achieve great social ends: through mass protests and people's movements, but also through diplomacy and other means. It can be used to address inequality, repression or the threat of violence against groups, as well as conflict between nations, as now between Iran and the U.S. and other countries.
When individuals need help, or groups are victimized, witnesses often remain passive. But research and real life examples show the great power of “active bystanders.” Sometimes even single individuals have huge impact. At other times it requires people to join, or the power of governments, to help or protect people, or develop harmonious relations between groups.
Occupy Wall Street protestors, and those they inspired around the country and the world, are doing most things right, but something important is missing: a positive vision that creates hope and engages others.