Reactions to Realities in a Polarized World
The violence in our country does not go unnoticed to the world including the youngest members of our society. Every story, every headline, every post to our social media is there for the world to see. I try to shelter my children from the hate of our nation, but even at 5 and 6 they see it. They ask questions, and I often struggle with how to talk to them about the four letter word "HATE."
In our house we don't say "hate." Not for food we don't like, not to reference others, not to describe our homework. Hate is not an acceptable word in our house, so when the the word is used in the media my kids ask a lot of questions. Last night, I had my six-year-old ask me why it was OK for the news people to use the word hate. Here was my response to this and I think it may be a good reminder to everyone.
Hate has no path to happiness.
YES, that was my response. Hate has no path to happiness. When you choose hate, the negative connotation of that, the revulsion, the physiological response is never EVER positive. Hate is consuming, overwhelming, dividing. To choose hate hurts you more than it hurts the object or target of your affliction. Hate overwhelmingly creates discourse in everything you.
Psychologically your mind re-wires itself when you allow negative things to enter it. For instance I HATE bees, I was stung as a kid, had a bad reaction and I truly despise them. My response to bees is always negative no matter if they are just pollinating the flowers or swarming towards me. My brain is wired to hate them, but 99% of the time the bees don't really care about me, they just want to potentate the flowers. I have spent years trying to not have my skin crawl at the sight of a single bee. My brain is wired, and it is hard to "unwire" it. I feel like this analogy is true for a lot of us. It shows just how powerful our minds can be at controlling our emotional response to things.
We were not born with prejudice
We are taught prejudice, through our personal experiences (like my reaction to bees), through the guidance of our elders. We often fear what we do not understand. Each of us experience adversity in different ways, but we have to change the way that we deal with that adversity. Right now I see so much hate and intolerance for others when they do not agree with their religious or political beliefs. I think the polarity of issues is driving a cultural divide that as a nation we are falling victim to on both sides.
We have to stop compartmentalizing and simplifying these social constraints. Just because something or someone is "X" doesn't mean that it isn't also "Y" and "Z." We tend to all want to have simple explanations for things, but often the issues are more deeply rooted than the headlines we see on TV, and in a world of headlines, it is up to each of us to research and conclude for ourselves.
We have to start challenging our brains when we have a bad reaction to something and ask ourselves why we did that. Another psychological reaction that I deal with is driving on the freeway with semi-trucks. When I was a freshman in college I was run off the freeway by one. I have been terrified by them ever since. When I drive I have to tell myself to relax when I am "boxed in" between a lot of big trucks. They didn't run me off the road, another driver did and it was an accident. Accidents happen. My brains response to this object is rooted in a bad experience, but I am still all these years later trying to re-wire that bad experience in my brain. It is amazing how hard it is to do that sometimes.
The point of this, is that I have given you simple examples of things that change the way we think and feel about things in our lives. We all individually have our own "bees" and "semis" that we deal with. The key to improving our society starts with understanding why people are "wired" the way that they are. More importantly understanding why WE are wired the way that we are. Knowledge is power.
Education is the key to understanding
History is bound to repeat itself when we do not learn from our past. We very rarely get a full view of things in a 30 second sound bite, or a 3 minute new briefing. It is a briefing, not in depth coverage of a situation. That is true for ALL news that Americans are subjected to in our media. We need to stop considering the news as our source for information, but rather a starting point for our personal research on topics that are of interest to us, or pressing national issues. If you stop at the surface and do not ask questions, you are making a lot of assumptions about things without having all the information. It simply is not good enough. READ, EDUCATE, READ and EDUCATE AGAIN.
The Power of Personal Action
The place to improve the world is first in one's own heart and head and hands.
~ Robert M. Pirsig
Our actions speak louder than our words. BE the change, BE the difference you want to see in the world. That mentality from the Dali Lama is so powerful. We have to drive out hate and only LOVE can do that. I think Martin Luther King got it right. Hate does not drive out HATE. We have so many great leaders in the world to reflect on for guidance, and they don't have to be religious, or political. I couldn't say it better.
When speaking to my children about our world today I find myself quoting great leaders who inspire me on a personal path of betterment. Instead of focusing on the negative in the news, I try to focus on the things that I can make better. Actions speak louder than words.
So I choose love, and I choose to teach love to my children. IF I can help them process things in a better way than I do I feel that I am giving the tools that will serve them better than any formal education ever could. I want to help them in their lives to choose to look at the world they live in differently and question the reactions they have to things. I hope to guide them to not pass judgement on things until they understand them better. I want them to question why they are afraid of bees and be cautious of semi trucks, but not have anxiety when they pass one. They may be silly examples but I truly feel they are bigger metaphors for the human experience we can all learn from.
I encourage you to do the same in your life. Ask yourself why do you choose the way you react to different situations? What power are you giving your emotional response to something, and what does that response do to you personally?
Everyone has the power to choose to make an impact in their daily lives.
Elizabeth is a 2002 graduate of the University of Arizona. She completed her undergraduate studies on the National Deans List and honor roll. She was also selected as a member of Phi Alpha Theta (honors fraternity.) Elizabeth is the mother of 2 boys and orchestrates her duties as “Household [...]