Dominika Kulczyk: Deep down we’re all good. We become desensitized in order to protect ourselves.
It’s believed that children have an instinctive empathy till the age of 2. Then, they enter the world and they discover: if they show their weakness, they might get hurt. An interview with Dominika Kulczyk, the President and co-founder of the Kulczyk Foundation.
Anita Karkowska: Why do have so much trouble with empathy?
Dominika Kulczyk: I love being Polish so much that it’s really hard for me to be critical towards Polish people. However, I must admit that during meetings and conversations here, in Poland, it is very difficult to hear the truth. We have a big problem with being open. Is it because we’re so much afraid of being judged? It is very unfortunate, because – when we look into somebody’s eyes and we don’t judge them, but instead we send them the message: it’s great that you’re here - we can really get across to them. Only when I go somewhere far away, for instance, with the Domino Effect’s team to Bangladesh, do I experience something extremely beautiful – people opening up. I know that this might be easier there, since for them, we’re a bit unreal, from another continent. And then, the fear of being judged disappears. And I feel the same. Far away from my world, I confide in strangers and share with them my deepest feelings.
From various problems, which we experience in relationships with other people, you’ve chosen openness. Why? - This is a lesson from my parents, which I’ll never forget: understanding the other person, their motivations and decisions is the key to be able to feel harmony in our own life. It’s crucial to be able to listen to other people and open up to them in any situation. Only then can we get into a relation, in which there’s no winner and looser, there’s no fight. Only then can we reach equality, and avoid being a judge or savior to each other.
What kind of Poland is ahead of us, if we don’t teach this to young people?
- I’ll turn that question round – what will happen if we’re able to teach empathy to children?
What will happen?
- It’s highly possible that they’ll build a new reality for us, in which we’ll all feel welcome, we’ll all be able to find space for ourselves, to feel accepted and unjudged. But this requires years of hard work, a clever idea, and very open, determined teachers. It’s believed that children have an instinctive empathy till the age of 2. Deep down, we are all good, but then, some bad experience might deprive us of this ability. I understand that this kind of desensitization is a protective reflex. How can we be open if that might trigger our failure? If I show my weakness, I might get hurt. The fear of being truthful, the fear of being not respected and understood by the other person stops us from being ourselves. We get locked from the inside, and there’s no intimacy and partnership between us. But it’s impossible to be alone in our everyday life. I know that this is hard, we all love our comfort zones and we are afraid of getting out of them. We need a lot of courage to make such a step. But through changes, we might discover more beautiful versions of ourselves. I like changes, as I always perceive them as inspirations, even though they might sometimes be painful.
* This interview with Dominika Kulczyk has appeared in the Christmas Magazine of Gazeta Wyborcza