Why So Curious? #22 | MAY 2021

Why So Curious? #22 | MAY 2021

We recommend pairing this issue of the newsletter with:

🎧Mushishi OST

This month's little big question:

Is trauma the only way to become an empathetic person?

Featured artist: Bhavani Bala | Artist and storyteller based in Singapore. Loves word building, puns, cats and improv. | Instagram: @bhankadraws | Site/Shop: bhankadraws.com | DM her on Insta for commission enquiries!

Every month, we'll pose a little big question for you to chew on, and share answers from some awesome people doing interesting things...

Ah empathy. This 'E-word' is a rising buzzword these days. From leadership to politics, from social issues to personal relationships, empathy is being bandied as the solution, or at the very least, a key part of the solution.

Everywhere now, schools, companies, even apps and services, are trying to cultivate empathy in people. But despite their best efforts, many platforms, organizations and individuals just come across as tone deaf or insensitive.

Before we go any further however, maybe it'll be helpful for us to define what empathy is.

Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as:

Empathy (noun): ability to understand and share the feelings of another

Empathy is an ability, which means it can developed.

But that's where things get curious, to us at least.

See, definitions aside, most of us can recognize an empathetic person when we meet one because of how they make us feel. For that same reason, we can also recognize an un-empathetic person when we meet one. Even if said person follows all the rules of empathetic engagement. Some way or another, it often feels like they are doing empathy, or perhaps 'exercise' is a better word, rather than being empathetic.

So then, what transforms someone from being a person capable of exercising empathy, into an empathetic person?

We have no idea.

It's kind of why we're inviting you to go down this rabbit hole with us.

Is trauma the only way to become an empathetic person?

Superficial sources (e.g. TED talks, books, social media) would suggest that transformation into an empathetic person usually stems from some kind of personal trauma, big or small.

But that can't be the only way to become an empathetic person...can it?

We'd love to hear your thoughts on the matter (half-baked, quarter-baked or otherwise).

Meanwhile, here's what our Artist in Residence, Bhavani thinks about this matter 👇

Artist says: Bhavani's response

Is trauma the only way to become an empathetic person?

Trauma is probably not the only way to become an empathetic person, but I can't deny that it probably plays a major role. I'd like to clarify that I believe that a person who acknowledges their trauma and is making an effort to resolve it probably has a better chance being empathetic. A person in denial of their trauma might take the opposite direction and judge people in similar positions as them, as a way of projecting their insecurities.

A person who recognises their own trauma might see it in others and be able to empathise. Even if it's not the same kind of trauma, suffering is generally a collective human experience, so empathy might not be a reach in these cases.

I can only speak from my own experiences, but I've definitely become a less judgemental and kinder person since I was diagnosed with depression, and started going to therapy for it. I've learnt to recognise when people were projecting, and weren't making an informed choice in that moment. I've learned to catch myself when I'm angry or judgemental, and I'm able to suss out my reasons for feeling that way. Therapy helped me, but I remember also being very sensitive to other people's misery as a child. It is possible that that sensitivity has also contributed to this.

I'm sure there are kind, generous people out there somewhere who didn't go to therapy though!

Makes me wonder if certain groups of people are relatively more empathetic as a group, compared to their more privileged counterparts, due to their collective, historical trauma.

It is an interesting question, and one I can't really answer with the kind of nuance it deserves!

Name: Ferne Health

Species: (At-Home) Health Screening Service

Mission: To empower everyone to take charge of their sexual health.

Moves: Health Screening Kits

It's the month of staying home (again), so we thought, what are home-based services you may NOT know about. (Because we hipster like that.) At-home STD testing sounds like something ya'll might not know about, so...

Yes, we're going there. And why shouldn't we go there?

The whole fact that we are making this elaborate disclaimer just to talk about sexual health is exactly why Ferne Health was launched and is meaningful in our modern-day society.

To make sexual health more accessible.

And by that, we mean more emotionally and financially accessible.

But let's start from the top, what is Ferne Health?

Ferne Health is a new start-up that is offering at-home health screening services through (discreet) testing kits delivered to your home. And in the event that blood is required for testing, Ferne Health has worked with clinical physicians that will come to your desired location. Alternatively, you can also opt to pop by one of the partners' clinics.

You can read up on how their at-home health screening works through reviews online, so we won't bother. Instead, we want to talk about the kind of considered-ness Ferne Health puts into what they do.

Founder Xi Liu clearly understands the stress that comes with confronting the stigma of sexual health issues and screenings. So she's made sure that Ferne Health does whatever it can to make it less emotionally tumultuous.

The website features comforting colors to reassuring language, embodying what self-care for sexual health might look like. You are empowered to choose what you want to test for and how you'd like samples taken.

But what we value the most perhaps is that when you do have to go to the clinics. And we speak here from personal experience using their service, Ferne Health has found some of the nicest, most sex-positive doctors and clinics to work with.

When it comes to emotional accessibility of sexual health, having doctors who make you feel safe is half the battle.

tldr; if you're a shy bunny who wants to get tested, but have always dreaded going to a clinic to ask for STD testing, well, now you have another option.

(PS: Usual disclaimer, we didn't get sponsored to do this, rather we were doing our routine health screenings but were too broke to afford the packages at our usual clinic. We then stumbled on Ferne Health, had a really lovely experience as a regular paying customer and so decided to write about them. We're also not getting any cut or benefits from you using their services, this is purely PSA.)

🤯Head Exploding Read

(Edited) Excerpt taken from Transformative Experience Design by Andrea Gaggioli

"Most experiences of everyday life are mundane and tend to be repeated over time. However, in addition to these ordinary moments, there exists a special category of experiences – transformative experiences – which can result in profound and longlasting restructuration of our worldview (Miller & C’de Baca, 2001).
Their phenomenological profile often encompasses a perception of truth, a synthesis of conflicting ideas and emotions, and a new sense of order and beauty. By virtue of this radical transformation of the self-world, the individual can find new meaning in life, turning his view in a totally new direction.

Abraham Maslow introduced the term “peak experience” to describe a moment of elevated inspiration and enhanced well-being (Maslow, 1954). A common characteristic of peak experiences is that they often involve a heightened sense of awe, a multifaceted emotion in which fear is blended with astonishment, admiration and wonder.

As recent research has suggested, not only positive events but also psychological trauma and suffering may bring about genuine transformations of the individual. In particular, Tedeschi and Calhoun (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004) introduced the concept of Posttraumatic Growth, to refer to positive changes experienced as a result of the struggle with major life crises; such changes include the development of new perspectives and personal growth, the perception of new opportunities or possibilities in life, changes in relationships with others, and a richer existential and spiritual life."

The elusive segment that only appears some months and disappears in others...

1) Your Words of Wisdom

Last month, we asked you wonderful souls, how you hack/trick yourself into doing things.

These are your responses:

You can add to this wall of responses here

2) 品系列-Taste Series Manifesto

Like we shared last month, we've been exploring the intersection between taste, narrative and interactivity through what we've affectionately dubbed the 品系列-Taste Series.

Well...we've kinda gone ahead and wrote a manifesto for this series!

Taste Series Manifesto
The intention of taste series, and what I hope to achieve is to create spaces, artefacts and activities, where people can experience and even practice this new (and perhaps for some, simply less-used) way(s) of accessing their sense of taste.
😎 Tsundoku (積読) Corner
Straying from the topic of emapthy, here are some cozy and curious reads.
Anthropocene.otf is a parametric typeface that will change its design based on the air pollution level in the world.
In the real of empathetic (or at least conscious) design, here's a font that changes according to the air quality index.
History of Cat Collars
The Abridged Version
On to ACTUALLY recovering from empathy, here's a fun and cute read by our friends at Paw Cat Guide

And to end off this month's newsletter, this very pretty and cozy shortfilm:


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Ri Chang
The intersensory workaholic who has made life their job. Also an artist-padawan...and kind of long-winded. 康復中的工作狂. 正努力練習認真生活