When urban planning discusses the need for renewal and regeneration of cities a notable omission from these discussions is recognising “when hope of regeneration has to be abandoned, then there is no longer anything else to do but to forgive” (Jankelevitch, 2005, p. 106). Providing space for forgiveness begins with establishing empathy between a victim of crime and a remorseful perpetrator (Gobodo-Madikizela, 2008). This underscores why empathy is as vital as regeneration to create safe neighbourhoods in cities.
However, traumatic experiences can disrupt our ability to empathise with others, thus impairing formation of safe neighbourhoods. Consequently, when the objective of urban planning is to restore community connection within vulnerable neighbourhoods understanding how to cultivate the emergence of empathy is critical.
Asking ourselves how we can nurture empathetic sensibilities within our communities begins with the expression of compassion for others and ourselves. Practising compassion for ourselves and others helps us not be too hard, inflexible and with a forced indifference for others. With more compassion we enable ourselves to establish more secure and beneficial personal and community relationships.
Therefore, to harmonize between regeneration and empathy start by fostering conscious compassionate communication, especially during the everyday negative thoughts of stressful moments. By attentively listening to each others’ concerns gently and tenderly while sharing our own we permit behaviours that help empathic spaces emerge. This is particularly important when designing urban environments for the public !
Given time, I’m sure the statement that empathy is as vital as regeneration will become commonplace, and compassionate communication more widely practiced. This will help assist more people in their trauma healing journey for finding purpose !
Gobodo-Madikizela, P. (2008). Trauma, forgiveness and the witnessing dance: Making public spaces intimate: Trauma, forgiveness and the witnessing dance. Journal of Analytical Psychology, 53(2), 169–188. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5922.2008.00715.x
Jankelevitch, V. (2005). Forgiveness, trans. by Andrew Kelley. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.