We've all seen television shows or films advertised that focus on upsetting subjects. In the past couple of weeks, The Oprah Winfrey Show has included discussions on two such subjects: pedophilia and women who sexually abuse children. When I first heard the opening clips for these shows, my first impulse was to pass them by. In the end, however, I decided that it was worth giving them a try.
In one episode last week, the show included a planel of four pedophiles who had committed sexual acts with children. In an episode that aired this week, the show included victims discussing their sexual abuse by female predators. Though the content of the shows was disturbing, I forced myself to watch them. After watching them, it occurred to me how important it is for all of us - psychologists included - to face what is uncomfortable in the effort to constantly gain more empathy for the experiences of others.
If you have an opportunity to watch segments of these shows on your own DVR or on Oprah.com, I encourage you to do so. Watching these shows in the past couple of weeks reminded me that true understanding of human behavior requires that we face what is uncomfomfortable and search every day for a greater capcity of understanding and empathy. To hear the stories of these victims is heartbreaking, but ultimately inspiring to see how some individuals persevere despite the most horrific human experiences.