I may have gotten a little carried away as this is a lengthy article. Here’s what I’m talking about at a glance:
- We still have a tribal mind led by fear.
- Our fear persists not from a lack of understanding, but a lack of education.
- Stereotypes help hate persist.
- Words the media uses are biased and hateful towards minorities, which feed everyone’s subconscious.
- Our lack of purposeful communication creates hateful reactions in those we love.
- Hate effectively limits our happiness and growth.
The Origin of Hate
“If one falls, a million will rise.”
-Sister Dorothy Stang
On February 12th, 2005, Sister Dorothy Stang, a Catholic nun from Dayton, Ohio, was shot six times and left to die on a muddy road in the Brazilian Amazon at the age of 73. She had been working in Brazil for the past 30 years helping the poor and the needy start lives that were beneficial to both themselves and society. After several years of lobbying and hard work, she managed to get the Brazilian government to start a program that gave several acres of land to people who had no home. They were allowed to build a house and become self-sustaining under one condition. Because there are no regulations on the amount of trees you can cut down, logging is becoming a serious problem in the Rainforest. When the land is gifted over to whatever family is living there, they could only cut down a small portion, and had to protect the rest. This plan, although great for the peasants, stopped the loggers in their tracks because law now protected this land. This made the loggers very upset and Dorothy became a marked woman. Three men were arrested in connection with her death and are currently rotting in jail. At her funeral Dorothy’s friends said, “We are not burying Dorothy, we are planting her.” I thought that was a beautiful way to approach her death, and fit nicely with the concepts of non-duality.
What makes people commit such horrible acts of hate and violence? A 73 year old lady, who has devoted her entire life to helping people, is shot 6 times as she holds her Bible, and is left to die on the side of a muddy road in the middle of the Amazon. Truth be told, you can pick up your local newspaper and find similar stories that just make no sense at all. I guess it’s the commonality of it that troubles me. The first realization is that all hate stems from fear, and people are mostly afraid of what they don’t understand. So whenever we see stories of hate crimes we can assume that the parties responsible had certain levels of fear that turned into hate, because they were not educated well enough on the situation at hand.
When the first settlers were colonizing the Americas, there was an outbreak of war with the Native Americans. They were labeled as savages, inhuman. We didn’t understand their language, their way of life, and they didn’t understand our concept of being able to possess things like land, and money, so the obvious thing was to kill them. Why try to understand? The same goes for the enslavement of African Americans. Historically, Africans were inferior to white people because they had smaller brains. This is documented many times by scientists in the 1800’s and 1900’s and was a perfect excuse for murdering, or lynching Negroes. They were considered animals because their skin color was different. The truth is though, the settlers and early American’s didn’t know why they were different. They had no clue and that scared them. Scared them so much that the only answer was to kill. This is the only way our prehistoric brains knew how to deal with fear. Different meant danger, and danger meant killing to eliminate that danger to stay alive.
The Invention of Homicide
“Sometimes death is hope. Death is a seed planted in our minds showing the difference between right and wrong.”
Homicide, or the killing of another human being, has been around for a very long time as I’m sure you already know. Hollywood loves to glorify it in movies like 300, or Rambo, but I’m not trying sell movies, I’m trying to change minds, so we are going to back up even further. That’s right, we are going back to the Pleistocene Epoch!
You may constantly wonder why we go back to a period in time that may seem irrelevant to today’s problems, but the fact of the matter is that the way we evolved in the wild is what programmed our brains to think the way we do about the problems that arise today. Cavemen never knew why anything worked. They had a mathematical equation that looked something like this:
A+B=C, If no C, hit with blunt object.
With so many natural catastrophes and so much adversity in the Stone Age the brain custom-tailored itself in order to survive. Unconsciously, we are very good at recognizing a threat to our survival, but tend to sometimes ignore the good things in life. This is all made possible by the amygdala. The amygdala is a small group of nuclei located deep in the center of the brain responsible for processing the memory of emotions. It is part of the limbic system, which is a very old, primitive part of the brain that can also be found in lesser animals. As we evolved, we formed and lived in packs, in groups. If other groups were to invade our space, the latest, greatest conflict resolution was just to kill them. There was no spoken, or written language, no courts, or guards to police the situation. If you felt threatened by another group that was different from yours, the amygdala invoked fear and you protected yourself the best way you knew how. Being on alert for danger back then was no doubt a good thing. But as the world became more populated our amygdala started tricking us into what science calls a false positive. A false positive is a proportion of absent events that yield a positive test outcome (Wikipedia). It’s like crying wolf. Today, in a global society, we have neighbors, and friends who may live half way around the world. If your neighbor knocks on your door asking for milk, you don’t get the bow and arrow out and shoot them because you feel threatened. Throughout history though, human beings struggled with each other’s differences and sometimes still do. If we look back, there are many examples of this in history, some of which I already mentioned. We can look at them today and laugh, but at the time they were very real.
-The Native Americans lived differently from the Whites and were deemed “Savages.”
-African American’s had a different skin color, so obviously they had smaller brains, and were only fit for slavery. This was measured using a cephalometer.
-Thousands of women in Massachusetts died by being burnt at the stake because they were considered “witches.”
-Six million Jews died in death camps during WWII because Hitler blamed them for Germany losing WWI.
-The genocide in Rwanda of over a million “cockroach” Tutsis.
-Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII for fear they were all traitors, even though they were born in America.
-If you exercised while pregnant in the 1960’s you could be accused of trying to kill your baby. Today you’re trying to kill your baby if you are not exercising.
-Several cultures have folk tales of “Vagina Dentata,” telling stories of women who have teeth in their vagina to discourage sex, and deter rape. Really. Look it up.
There has been a growing body of scientific evidence identifying the amygdala as the primary biological culprit responsible for prejudice and hatred, which ultimately leads to so many of the conflicts going on in the world today (Cutler 2 pg 57). If your brain cannot relate to a new idea, and new culture of people, or a new social situation, the amygdala fires sending panic and fear through out your body. Studies show our brains have not caught up to our modern world. We are hard wired to fear deadly animals like sharks, tigers, or snakes, but not cigarettes or cars, which kill far more people these days. These same studies have shown that our brain reacts to guns, knives, and bombs; truly dangerous things, the same way it responds to butterflies (Cutler 2 pg 162). Imagine if you are ever involved in a robbery asking the robber, “I’m sorry sir, is that a gun, or a butterfly you are holding?” As he stands there confused by your Jedi mind trick, someone can then disable him.
Its not just the fact that we are hard wired to be prejudice, but these instinctual responses today can be potentially disastrous as we can see when school shootings or genocide occur. The amygdala is significantly magnifying the differences between groups and overestimating the similarities within our own group producing the automatic response that killing the other person is the only way to resolve the situation. Fortunately, the rational thought area in the brain’s neocortex and the areas of emotion in the limbic system can communicate with each other forming new opinions, and ultimately a new conditioning to social situations that plague this world (Cutler pg 58). The key is looking at our similarities, not our differences, but this is hard to do when everything we are taught points to the contrary.
Hate and the Media
“Once again, it comes down to awareness – cultivating an even wider awareness of the ways we are connected, the characteristics that we share as human beings, and the deliberate promotion of these ideas in our society,”
-Howard C. Cutler, MD
So now I have to hold true to my promise, and start presenting the science behind why comparing our similarities will make us better human beings, which in turn better our friends and families, which in turn better our community, society, country, and ultimately the world. Like Doctor Cutler says in that quote, there must be a deliberate promotion of these ideas in our society in order for them to take root. An old Buddhist saying goes, “A tree with strong roots can withstand any storm, but a tree cannot grow strong roots when the storm is on the horizon.” Before we get into the science behind this concept, we need to be aware of what outside influences may be holding us back. Like we stated earlier, education is the first step to dismissing hate. When you understand what you are dealing with, fear does not turn into hate. Hate then, never gets a chance to manifest.
Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely detest the news. I was fortunate enough to read Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent when I was 23 years old. Manufacturing Consent is a phenomenal book divulging insight into the world of social media. Ever wonder why certain stories are placed where they are in the newspaper? Exposure. Ever wonder why all you hear about in the news is dramatic or tragic stories? Easy, our brains are on the look out for danger so tragedy sells. The business of social media is to make money. Today, there are companies that compile data and find out what information people are more likely to pay for, or more likely to watch. The issue is it’s not a very accurate depiction of what is actually going on in the world.
In 2004, an extensive survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center found that American adults perform an average of 109 altruistic acts a year. Altruism is a fancy way of saying, “I am helping you, and I expect nothing in return.” By multiplying that figure times the adult population in the US at the time there were 23,980,000,000 acts of altruism performed in America that year. Cross referencing that with the FBI statistics, an estimated 1,367,000 violent crimes of all types were committed nationwide in 2004. Doing the math, for every act of violence there was an astounding 17,540 acts of altruism. We would never know it though because according to the FBI, from 1990 to 1998 the homicide rate in America dropped 32.9%, but homicide coverage increased on the news by 473% (Cutler 2 pg 122). Because our prehistoric brains are scanning this world for constant danger, it is no wonder that news stations are going to report more bad than good. We are unconsciously drawn to it! The shift comes from awareness. An awareness into the truth behind the reporting, being able to dismiss the bad and not let it affect you, and only focus on the positive stories. Being the positive, altruistic people that we are, here’s a wallop of a story for you!
Newsflash. A study was done during WWII that systematically studied the firing rates of soldiers on the battlefield. What was discovered was nothing short of amazing. The study showed that only 15-20% of soldiers fired their weapons consistently while under attack (Cutler 2 pg 123). This was not because they were afraid, or hiding in their foxhole. After investigating this phenomenon very thoroughly the only conclusion they could come to was that human beings have an unconscious aversion to killing other humans even when under attack themselves! There is something in our brain saying don’t do it! It’s the evolution of the rational side of our neocortex trying to tell us that killing is now wrong. That the threat is no longer as prevalent as it used to be. As long as we can make this a conscious part of our brain, we can change the world, one mind at a time.
It’s very, very hard to be the constant voice of hope. Especially when it’s your own government that is creating a lot of the fear. When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 sent the country into a frenzy, this was the perfect time for the government to re-exert control on the general population. What did they do? They created a threat level with different colors indicating how safe we are so I can now feel unsafe even in the safety of my own home. In February of 2003, Time magazine did an article on a newly released tape by Osama Bin Laden and how Homeland Security raised the threat level to orange because of it. Homeland Securities web site had a scrolling message on it, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” Ready for what? Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said there’s the threat of nuclear, biological and chemical attacks, and the exciting possibility of armed aggression by “hostile governments or extremist groups.” Armed aggression by hostile governments or extremist groups? Yes ladies and gentlemen, the magistrates and council members of other governments are going to fly to your city, armed to the teeth, fool all security measures along the way, walk to your doorstep, knock on the door, ask for a cup of milk, then blow you away with a nuclear weapon. Talk about excessive. Tell me Tom, how does one protect against a nuclear attack? The Homeland director says, “Keep a three-day supply of water and canned food on hand, and make sure you have ample duct tape and plastic sheets to cover windows in the case of a biological or chemical weapons attack. You should also have a flashlight, as well as “sanitizing” supplies like bleach, water and soap.” Ok, got it. Soap and water for my post nuclear war bath. Make sure it’s the anti-radiation soap, not the anti-bacterial.
Speaking of taking a bath, remember all the commotion that was created during Hurricane Katrina? The aftermath was a complete mess as there were hundreds of thousands of people in desperate need of help. Now, I’m not going to say there were no looting, or desperate acts of crime or violence, but look at how the victims of this natural catastrophe were being depicted in the news:
-White survivors who were fleeing their homes were described as evacuees, which for the most part is accurate. Black survivors were described as refugees. The definition of refugee is one that flees, especially to a foreign land. What foreign land were they on? These are Americans, on American soil!
-A photograph of a white couple carrying bags walking through the water had a caption “foraging” which means to wander, and collect provisions. A similar photograph showing a single black man walking through the water carrying a bag simply had a caption saying, “looting.” Why the disparity?
One final anecdote before we move on. In the hours after 9/11 when everyone was panicked and scrambling trying to figure out who was responsible, the reports came back that it was Osama Bin Laden and President Bush was asked by the media who he was. His response? “I’m not sure who he is, all I know is he’s evil.” Really Mr. President? Was that report very long, or did you come to that one-word conclusion all by yourself? I don’t mean to keep repeating myself, but are you starting to get the picture now of how hate develops? The Homeland Security director, The President, the media, all propagate the idea of fear in our mind. As we become afraid of what we don’t understand, because it is different from what we know, hate quickly develops. If you don’t educate yourself on the differences of other people, hate is then your only option. But if you learn about others, if you keep your mind open to how other cultures operate and analyze the similarities between them, and yourself, you will start to realize that we are all family, and hate will disintegrate.
We Are All Family
“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion”
We all have our own thoughts. The thing is, when you have a thought, do you live it, or just think it? In the amazing true story of Chris McCandless, who tried to survive in the Alaskan wilderness and be self-sustaining, there is a scene where he is living on the side of a hill when an old man stops and talks to him. The older man asks why he doesn’t just get a job so he can live in an apartment and Chris replies, “I believe careers are a 20th century invention and I don’t want one.” It got me thinking. What in this world today is truly “real?” Did we invent everything? As human beings we have the ability to make our own reality. Is my job real? Are my friends real? What about reality TV? Sports? We made the argument that time isn’t real already. What about racism, sexism, or fear? Are they real? Real is what you make it boys and girls, more importantly, real tends to be what you can prove.
At the turn of the century everyone was concerned with the computer scare of Y2K. So much so that it was overshadowed by one of sciences most amazing discoveries – that we are all family. The Human Genome Project unlocked the sequence of over 25,000 genes in the human body. We all know about DNA so I won’t get into describing it, as I’m sure some of you are avid crime scene TV show watchers. But do you know the facts behind what DNA is really telling us? It was reported in the press that every human being is close to 99.9% the same, and there is a greater difference in genes between people of their own race, than there is between people of different races. This means that white people are less similar genetically than other white people, and more similar genetically to black people, and vice versa! From a biological point of view race is completely false. It doesn’t exist. White skin is produced by changing one letter in the DNA chain out of 3 billion (Cutler 2 pg 93). Three billion! We walk around every day judging each other on the basis of a microscopic DNA structure. Talk about nit picking.
Scientific research has gone back 200,000 years to find a common female ancestor called Mitochondrial Eve. Most of our DNA is a mix from both parents, and their parents, and so on. But mitochondrial DNA is passed down only from our mothers. Using specific calculations, scientists have traced everyone’s mitochondrial DNA back to one female fossil. Men, who have participated in the majority of killing in all the wars mankind has created are now proven to literally be brothers and share a common male ancestor called Y-chromosomal Adam who lived in Africa 208,300 years ago. This was determined using a certain Y chromosome that is passed down only to men that does not mix with other DNA. We think we know what race is, what family is, what our enemy looks like, but after looking at this evidence does what we think really hold weight? Does any of it really matter anymore? After realizing that science has left us with no argument for any reason to hate, does it make any sense to still go ahead and do so? Of course not, because that’s your brother, or your relative. You may not have grown up in the same household, or even the same country, but you have a connection, and science found the plug. Stop hating, and start living. With hate, you destroy yourself as well as others. Love is not the opposite of hate, it’s indifference. When you hate something, it still provokes something inside you to cause a reaction. When you’re indifferent about someone, or a situation, you literally don’t care about it. Indifference is the key to becoming actively passive, controlling the ego, and dispensing hate.
More than indifference though, it’s education. Being educated on the ways of the world gives you the strength to try anything. Being educated on other cultures gives you the compassion need for talking to people of other cultures. The most successful people in this world have a combination of intelligence and experience. We are going to give you the intelligence in the next few paragraphs, it is up to you to go get the experience. We all think we know what race is, what different is, but looking at the previous data on the Genome Project do you really know? Different to us is speaking another language other than English, wear something other than a hat on your head, or praising another deity. On a biological level, those are not differences, they are interests or hobbies, something totally different from what we “think” they are.
The Science Behind Hate
“Racism is mans gravest threat to man. It is a maximum of hate, for the bare minimum of reasons.”
-Abraham J. Heschel
So here it is. Like I stated earlier in the study of firing rates during WWII, there is an unconscious shift occurring in our brain to where we actually want to do the right thing. What we need to do is make that a conscious reflex. When a situation presents itself where hate can potentially arise, we need this fuel at the forefront of our brain. Life is about perspective, true, but it never hurts to have some solid scientific facts behind your reasoning.
-In the Decent of Man, Charles Darwin wrote that our strongest sentiments as human beings, the emotions at the very core of our soul, are sympathy, caring for others, and the delight and welfare of other people and beings. This was in 1871.
-Abbott Ferris at Emory College did a study with eleven thousand participants and found that those who saw the world as evil, not only portrayed more hate and anger in their daily life, but were significantly less happy than those that saw people as good.
-Scientific research has shown that negative emotions in general tend to have a narrowing effect on our thinking. This makes us oversimplify the facts, think superficially, and come to quick judgments (Cutler 2 pg 152).
-Studies have shown that just the presence of anger can lead to the formation of prejudice. In one study, anger was induced in subjects and then they were shown fictional court cases that had nothing to do with why they were angry. The angry people judged the defendants much more harshly than the control group that wasn’t angry (Cutler 2 pg 153).
-A study done at UCLA showed that just labeling the emotion fear reduced it. Subjects were shown pictures with people depicting different emotions and the subjects had to say what emotion they thought it was. When the subjects said “fear” there was an inhibitory signal sent to the amygdala, which, if you remember is our programmed fear center of the brain.
-Studies have shown that disclosing your negative emotions has several heath benefits. Subjects who wrote about their problems for even 20 minutes a day suffered less illness and had more helper T cells which promote a healthy immune system, throughout the entire study.
-Dr. Barbara Fredrickson did a study showing positive emotions helped subjects recover faster after feeling fear. She told subjects that they had to give a speech in five minutes. After their heart rate increased, and blood pressure started to rise in fear of public speaking she then told them the speech was canceled. The subjects were separated into four groups that watched a happy video, a sad video, a serene video, or no video at all. The group that watched the happy video had significantly lowered heart rate and blood pressure.
-Studies show that when extreme anger or hate arise it destroys the ability in the brain to decipher from right and wrong and blocks you from seeing the short and long-term consequences. Extreme hate and anger produce health problems such as lack of sleep, loss of appetite, bad stress, tension, cardiovascular problems, and damage to our arteries.
-Continued research in the fields of positive psychology continues to show that the more positive we think, the more we look for similarities in situations, rather than differences automatically (Cutler 2 pg 267)!
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their mind, cannot change anything.”
-George Bernard Shaw
One day after having a great lunch with friends we all gathered in the parking lot to say our goodbyes. The mood was very up beat and energetic. In the middle of our discussion I could see a girl and a guy get out of a car in the parking lot and start walking toward us. The man was at a brisk pace in front of the girl, and you could see the lady following him was giving him an earful about something. As they approached us the girl yelled out, “I’m sick and tired of all your crap!” The four of us stopped talking for a second, and kind of looked at each other, troubled. As positive as we are most of the time, the energy between us totally changed. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways for the day.
Why is it we talk to the people we love sometimes the way that we do? Why do people stay in love – hate relationships? Why do women stay with men that physically abuse them? Simple. With the invention of Facebook, instant messengers, text messages, email, and other multimedia devices, we as a society are becoming worse and worse at communicating effectively. We are unable to detect tone when something is written on a screen, especially when we are already emotionally upset. Ever have an argument through text message? I have. They have never made any sense. The words become escalated, soon you have a serious situation on your hands and you’re spending most of your energy wondering how you got here in the first place. What we need to do is learn how to communicate non-violently, more so face to face, but especially when we text or write e-mails.
Dr. Marshall Rosenburg developed a series of books designed to help people take the sting out of their words. He believes that we are raised in a culture today that promotes the harsh use of language instead of reason or concern for the other persons well being. He believes that we developed the ideas that evil people are selfish and the good life is being heroic and dehumanizing these people and turning them into objects. The Dalai Lama agrees saying that we are more likely to label people rather than see them as human beings that have the same basic needs as us. He’s a garbage man, shes a lawyer, that guy is MY mailman, MY teacher is mean. What we are doing is personalizing people like they are slaves, like we own them and that makes it much easier for us to talk down on them when anger issues arise. Every program on TV has super heroes or cops catching bad guys and beating them up teaching our children that if you are a wrongdoer you deserve punishment. The key, both of these gentlemen say, is understanding, (education!) and empathy. Understanding the needs of the other person to understand why they acted as they did. Why does someone who did something wrong always have to be punished? If negative reinforcement worked, why do we have repeat offenders in the jail system? I remember one of my favorite movies, Arlington Road. A man moves to a new neighborhood and makes friends with the people next door, but quickly suspects that they are terrorists. A series of events occur and the innocent man then gets pinned as the terrorist. At the end of the movie, the bad guy gets away! I remember people were upset by the conclusion; I however, applauded the originality of the writing. It’s just a movie guys, but you can see how strongly people’s dispositions were to the outcome.
When we look at the examples in the following lines its easy to see how we do not take responsibility for our actions and place blame on others making them “bad” and us “good.” Here is just a little of what we are talking about:
My mother made me do my homework. -Placing blame
I chose to do my homework when my mom asked. -Non-Violent Communication
How many of us state it the first way in even the most casual of conversations? “Hey Martha, why didn’t you return my call last night? Oh, sorry Rupert, my moms MADE me do my homework. Instead of taking responsibility for the fact YOU had homework, you made it sound like your mom was forcing you into boot camp or something. Dr. Rosenburg says we should learn to replace “I have to” with “I choose to,” and “I should” with “I might.” Listen to the difference:
I have to go to college to get an education. -Demand, no choice
I choose to go to college to get an education. -Freedom of choice
I should go clean my room so my parents don’t freak. -Demand, you are a slave to their wishes
I might want to go clean my room so my parents don’t freak. -Your choice to not upset them
The reason for speech is to communicate to others what is alive in us, and to find out what helps the other person feel alive. We are in a sense telling the other person what we need to feel alive. When we label or judge someone we are telling other people what is alive in us, not them, so it makes no sense to do so. “My brother is lazy because he never studies” is a statement depicting what the speaker thinks a lazy person is. The speaker feels not studying is a marker for laziness, it says nothing about what his brother values even though he is speaking about his brothers life not his own. The cause of our feelings is not what another person is doing, its how we interpret the situation. In other words, ITS ALL ABOUT PERSPECTIVE! Imagine that. Expressing emotion in America is not being tough, so we are trained to constantly “think” of how others are seeing us and act according to another persons standards. What other people say or do may be a stimulus for how we feel or take in feedback, but never the cause. Are we seeing what they said as being positive? Are we finding a meaning in the connection realizing it is happening for a reason? Are we living in the now, or still unhappy about something that happened yesterday? Is 100% of our energy going into a solution or contributing to what we see as a problem? Are we controlling our Ego, or do we think we are always right? Did the feedback come from someone we dislike, and his or her comment is stoking the fire of hate in us? You need to stop giving these situations energy they don’t deserve.
Building relationships based off of needs, clearly defined needs, will always be more rewarding because people are not compelled to help other people until they can identify with their needs. Think back to every time you helped another person. Was it a random act of kindness? Probably not. I know when I had to do community service for high school I devoted my time at a local Boys and Girls club. I played basketball and football with the kids, helped with computer work, and painted the classroom there. All things I loved to do at the time. I could identify with the kids because they needed to play in order to have fun, just like me. I love to paint, and the room needed painting so I offered. Really looking at each other’s needs is just another way of looking at similarities. Focusing on what you both want in a relationship will be much more productive than focusing on what went wrong. I helped a friend through a tough situation the other day. His lady friend that he just met, that he really, really, liked had posted a picture on Facebook that she was at dinner with an ex-boyfriend. One person commented, “How romantic.” My friend was upset because he was going on a trip with her in a week. He texted her and brought the picture to her attention. Influenced by a little alcohol she responded defensively. I asked my friend why he was upset and he said, “If she’s going to be seeing this loser we’re through. I don’t like that she’s with him.” I said, “did you ever communicate with her this is a deal breaker?” He said, “no” and so I told him about non-violent communication. The next day he called his lady up and told her how much their relationship means, and that seeing her ex-boyfriend, and posting pictures on social media would trouble him and besides ruining his feelings for her, it may destroy their friendship as well. She understood why he reacted that way and said that she didn’t know how to tell him she is still friends with her ex, and that was her way of communicating and not trying to hide it from him. This is the trouble social media platforms cause. They communicated effectively and actually grew closer from the situation.
Most of the time situations like that end up with both parties blaming each other, becoming defensive, and then anger ensues. Rosenburg sheds light on the situation saying, “Unfortunately that’s how most people educate themselves. They educate themselves in a way people educated us when we did things that authorities didn’t like. They blamed and punished us. As a result we often educate ourselves through guilt, shame, and other forms of violent, coercive tactics.” Think about it. When you become angry, how many times do you try to make the other person feel guilty for what they did? Rather than express your needs, why you feel the way you do, you just want him or her to feel guilty in hopes they won’t do it again. Then we are surprised and even angrier when it happens a second time. It’s okay to make mistakes, but the worst mistake is the one that you learned nothing from. It comes back to education. In arguments, using the phrase “you should” triggers the idea of a demand in the other person. Dr. Rosenburg suggests we start using the phrase “Are you willing” instead. Using my friends’ situation, we can see how things can change:
You SHOULD have told me you were going out with your ex-boyfriend before hand. (This is implying responsibility on her part for knowing what your needs are without you communicating them to her in the first place).
Are YOU WILLING to tell me before hand next time you go out with your ex-boyfriend? (Posed as a non-threatening request).
We have all gotten requests that sound more like orders. Parents, friends, bosses ask us to do something, but its more like they are telling you to do something. No one likes to be told what to do. If you are truly asking someone to do something for you, saying “are you willing” can turn any statement into a true request. You hand the power over to the person you are talking to and they now have the freedom to do what they want. This creates a feeling of having a choice. Everybody likes choosing what he or she can do. It troubles me though that most people get told what to do in relationships, and end up doing what other people want in order to be liked. They’re love seems bought or in need of approval. When you enter a relationship for the sole purpose of enhancing the other person’s life, people start appreciating you automatically, and you no longer have to seek approval for anything.
Non-violent communication seems like an easy concept, but you will realize how hard it is to actually practice. Sometimes people use words in such a way that it strips their humaneness from them, and we blow up throwing everything we have been preaching into the gutter. We see the other person as a beast, as a monster. If you cannot control that situation walk away and revisit the conversation when cooler heads are available.
Conclusion and Review
It could be argued that one in every ten million living things is a human being. By saying that, we can realize on a biological level human beings are a rarity, a miracle of sorts! We are approaching a population of over 7 billion people on this planet. To put it in perspective, whales eat 6 billion plankton a day. So there you go. Every person you see, every person you meet, every person you help, is an extremely rare event as far as biology is concerned, so why not try to do it more often? As human beings our greatest trait is the ability to adapt. It is made possible by a concept called neural plasticity. Neural plasticity is the process in the brain that continually produces new synapses every time there is a new stimulus in your life. In fact we can make up to 1 million new synapses every second! It’s how you learn. If you want to grow a new hand, you can’t. If you would like a third foot, you can’t tell your body to make it. But you can change your mind! By being positive, by seeing the similarities in each other, even if it’s at the most basic level like he/she breathes oxygen, has to eat, has to drink water in order to survive, you are forming, or reforming a pattern in your brain; you are literally changing the way your mind processes information. Practicing the art of being positive will automatically help you see similarities instead of differences; labeling fear by saying it out loud, in your head, or writing it down will diminish it instantly, and in some cases may make it disappear all together. Doing this gives us the tools to build a happier more successful life. It is up to you if this is the sort of change you want to make in your life. Since science says that you are more than likely 99.9% the same as I am, I believe you do, all you need is to believe it too.
- Lama, D., & Cutler, H. C. (2009). The art of happiness in a troubled world. New York: Doubleday.