Heroism: The Antidote to Evil?

Kimmel & Associates e-Letter

An Electronic Mental Health Newsletter from Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. & Associates

Volume 7, Number 8

For many parents here in South Florida, the summer is over. August brings the return of children and teachers to school. Vacations are over. Traveling is done. And we again begin to assume the usual yearly responsibilities. August contains some interesting days. Did you know that August 25 is Kiss and Make Up Day and August 27 is Global Forgiveness Day? We hope that you have had time to relax and enjoyed some pleasant adventures.

Several weeks ago, Dr. Kimmel attended the American Psychological Association convention in Orlando. Beside meeting and catching up with some old friends, he attended a talk on heroism by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. As you may know, Dr. Zimbardo is an icon in psychology and is best known for the Stanford Prison Experiment. He has written a book called The Lucifer Effect which describes the point in time when an ordinary, normal person first crosses the boundary between good and evil to engage in an evil action. In response, he currently heads a movement for everyday heroism and is the founder and director of the Heroic Imagination Project which is dedicated to promoting heroism in everyday life. Much data has been gathered regarding how ordinary people rise to the occasion and take the personal risk to help others. He believes that this behavior can be taught to everybody. We have seen heroic actions where soldiers have risked their lives to save their buddies, where people jump into a canal to save a drowning driver, and when people will rush into a burning building to save people trapped inside. What makes them take these actions and become heroes?

In this August E-Letter, we present information about Heroism, our Ask the Doc question relates to mother and daughter separation, and our email of the month is about Tech Support for the heart. We hope you find the enclosed information helpful. As always, we appreciate your questions and feedback.

Practice News

Testings. If you are concerned about your child’s school placement for the next school year, this would be a good time to have them evaluated. Recent questions from parents have ranged from should their child be retained to whether they are gifted to whether they have a disability that can qualify for accommodations at school. Our practice does different types of evaluations to help answer those questions and information about these evaluations can be found on our website. If you have more specific questions, please contact Dr. Kimmel who would be happy to answer them.

Qualified Supervisor. Dr. Joel Kimmel has been certified by the State of Florida to supervise mental health counselors seeking supervision to meet the licensing requirements. If you or anyone you know needs a qualified supervisor to meet these requirements, contact Dr. Kimmel for further information.

Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. We have been certified by the Department of Children and Families, State of Florida, to offer the Parent Education and Family Stabilization Course. Sometimes referred to as the Divorce Class, this 4 hour class is state mandated for divorcing parents of involved children. This course is intended to teach parents about the effects divorce has on children, to lessen the impact of difficult transitions, and to improve the ways they communicate with each other and their children. Our course is provided live and in small groups. Please contact our office at 954 755-2885 for further information.

Low cost counseling: Denise Champagne, M.S., is offering low cost counseling as a mental health intern. She is currently seeing patients and is available to take on new patients. This allows those individuals who cannot afford treatment to obtain it and allows her to get the required training. If you or someone you know is in need of counseling but just cannot afford it, please call the office and ask for Denise. All treatment provided by Denise will be reviewed and supervised by Dr. Kimmel.

Handouts from previous e-Letters can be found on our website. We invite you to read and download them if desired.


Our E-Letter this month focuses on heroism which is the individual’s commitment to helping or saving others despite the great personal risk or consequence that may happen to them. Most heroes are just plain ordinary people who do what they had to do in the moment. And unlike descriptions provided by the media, most heroes are ordinary people who do heroic behaviors not just celebrities who show up. Most heroes such as Wesley Autry say “It was nothing special” or “I did what anyone would do in that situation”. Those who rushed into the World Trade Center on September 11 to save lives despite great personal peril, those on United Flight 93 who decided to attack the hijackers knowing they were facing imminent death, and those righteous gentiles who rescued many Jews during the Holocaust despite certain death if found out all show that there is something in these people that drive them towards good. And if it this is true, can we develop these qualities in people? Can we teach them to everybody so that we can help to repair the world? Can heroism be an antidote to evil?

Heroism is the attempt to create positive change in the world, to address injustice, and to oppose inequality. Research indicates that heroism is made up of at least four different qualities:
• it must involve a quest to save a life or preserve an ideal
• it must have some form of risk involving physical peril or deep social sacrifice
• it can be active such as a clearly observable action or it can be passive such as passive resistance
• it can be a one-time act like rescuing a person from a burning car or something that lasts over time, such as hiding Jews during the Holocaust.

Consider becoming heroic and acting socio-centrically not egocentrically. Become mindful of situations you are in and watchful of potential emergency situations Look for things that just don’t fit, are out of place, or just don’t make sense. Stand up for your beliefs and do not fear peer pressure or interpersonal conflict. Consider the “what if” if you do not take action. Resist urges to walk away and not get involved. Do not rationalize inaction or that the other guy will do it.

These are actions that you can do and not just talk about to make our world a better place to live in. This is a way to change the cynical, negative attitudes of the world we live in. This is a way of stopping the banality of evil. Who knows, you may just save a life.

We offer the following information on Heroism:

I did what anyone could do, no big deal to jump on the tracksWesley Autrey, New York City’s Subway Superman

What to Know!

  • Heroism involves doing great things at great personal risk to oneself
  • Heroes have the willingness to make a personal sacrifice for the benefit of others
  • Heroism is different than altruism as altruism is selfless acts that assist others, while heroism involves deeper personal sacrifice
  • Heroism doesn’t come from a few exceptional people but from those placed in the right circumstance at the right time and given the tools to take action
  • Heroism involves a commitment to a noble purpose and accepting the consequences of fighting for that purpose
  • Heroic acts usually have 4 characteristics:
    • a quest to preserve a life or an idea
    • some form of physical peril or social sacrifice
    • it can be active as is firefighting or passive as in passive resistance
    • it can be sudden such as pulling a driver from a burning car or it can persist over a longer period of time with planned actions
  • Some researchers believe that a hero is just an ordinary person who does something extraordinary because of the situation they get placed in
  • Many heroes act when they have no choice and don’t consider themselves as heroes
  • And who the media call heroes are often not true heroes but celebrities
  • Research shows that the same situations that can make some people hostile can also make some people perform heroic deeds
  • Heroes do not conform to groups; they act when others are passive and they act for the good of others, not themselves
  • Dr. Zimbardo believes that habits of wise and effective acts of heroism can be learned, encouraged, modeled, and are achievable for anyone at any point in their lives
  • The Heroism Model has 4 elements: it is done voluntarily, it provides a service to others in need, it involves risk to health, social stature, or quality of life, and it is done without expecting anything in return
  • The Heroic Mindset is a set of beliefs and attitudes about helping and caring for others and a readiness to take risks on their behalf; it involves being aware of heroic opportunities and a willingness to take action regardless of risk
  • The risks of social heroism involve arrests, death, danger to family members, loss of financial stability, loss of personal credibility, and lowered social status

What to Do!

  • Recognize that everyone has the capacity to be a hero even if not recognized as one
  • Develop a heroic imagination by being prepared to acts in ways different from others such as taking responsibility and being mindful of actions around you
  • Be prepared to make vital sacrifices for others
  • Practice social heroism on a daily basis by looking to help others and giving aid when necessary such as in natural disasters
  • Seek professional help to learn to be heroic and to overcome anxiety and depression

We Can Help!

Call us at (954) 755-2885 or email us at drkimmel@kimmelpsychology.com

Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates
5571 N. University Drive, Suite 101
Coral Springs, Florida 33067

As always, we would like to welcome new readers to our e-Letter. We hope that you find it informational and enjoyable. We invite you to share this e-Letter with others. If you have received this from a fellow reader, please send us your email address to include you on our list.

Ask the Doc

DE writes: I just brought my daughter up to college to start her freshman year. We have been very close as I have raised her by myself.  This has been no typical mother-daughter relationship. I have had to protect her from my ex-husband and his family and we did everything together. Now she leaves me and I have a range of feelings from emptiness to worry to relief. How do I deal with all these feelings?

Dr. Joel Kimmel replies: Yes DE, your world has changed but your job is not over. It’s just different. You raised your daughter precisely for this day; for her to be independent and leave the nest and this is what she has done. But that doesn’t mean she won’t need you. She needs to make her own decisions and protect herself because after all, this is just what parenting is about.

It is possible that you and she were too close which makes separation difficult. However, that may have been necessary. Your feelings of worry are quite understandable as you have been doing that her whole life. It just doesn’t go away because she moves out. And because you don’t see her every day, you may worry even more. However, this is the time for you to trust her and what you have taught her. By doing so, you will demonstrate confidence in her and she will develop more belief in herself. You report feeling relief and that is probably due to not having to take care of her daily. This is now her job and you needn’t feel guilty that you are not doing it.

As for emptiness, it is also time for you to consider your own life. What activities add meaning to your life? What other relationships do you have? What do you now do that your caretaking job is over? Who else is important to you? What can you now do that you put off doing because of being a mother? You may find the shift to focusing on yourself as being somewhat strange but it is necessary.

Your daughter will need you for guidance and support and encouragement and you will continue to provide it. But the responsibility for her life is now in her hands just as your life is now in your hands. Try to see your future as an adventure. Find those relationships and activities that are meaningful to you and incorporate them in to your life.

Email of the Month

We would like to thank Ronald K for sending us the following email:

Tech Support:  Yes, how can I help you?

Customer:   Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love.  Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support:  Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer:  Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support:  The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support:  What programs are running?

Customer:  Let’s see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support:   No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off?

Customer:  I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support:  With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer:  Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?

Tech Support:  Yes, but remember that you have only the base program.  You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.

Customer:  Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program not running on internal components.” What should I do?

Tech Support:  Don’t worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.

Customer:  So, what should I do?

Tech Support:  Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files:  Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.

Customer:  Okay, done.

Tech Support:  Now, copy them to the “My Heart” directory. The system will  overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming.  Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.

Customer:  Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves  all over My Heart. Is this normal?

Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes a while, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running.  One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.

Customer:  Thank you, God.

Please continue to send us your comments, questions, and favorite emails for our e-Letter.

Till September…

The information provided in this electronic newsletter is not a substitute for professional treatment. It is the opinions of the writers and is provided solely for educational purposes. For mental health care, seek a qualified professional.

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Copyright © 2014 by Joel I. Kimmel, Ph.D., P.A. and Associates.