– What do you see when you look at that person from the “other” political party speaking their “truth” at you like you don’t have a single functioning brain cell?
– What do you see when you look at the people from another religion who dress and act differently from you?
– What do you see when you look at the homeless person on the street corner?
– What do you see when you look at the man in the Ferrari, who just cut you off in traffic?
Many times we get triggered. We find ourselves irritated, angry, anxious or even afraid when we meet people who seem different from us. They look odd, they sound strange, they might talk about things that we find absurd. Or they might simply invade our personal space and push our buttons.
Yesterday I was having a delightful conversation with a group of people. We talked about if God has a face. Some of us felt the question was irrelevant. Others felt that God is an entity too large for personification. And then someone simply said:
– “Of course God has a face – it is the face of everybody I see”
I wonder what would happen if we started looking at everybody like they were a personification of God? Or if God is a concept you do not subscribe to, then what would happen if you looked at everybody like they were a part of you?
What would happen in our political process if the boundaries between “us and them” ceased to exist?
What would happen in religion, if we stopped name-calling (or killing) those from another faith than our own?
What would happen?
Maybe we would feel less anger towards “those other people”.
In neuroscience it has been found that anger interrupts the functioning of our frontal brain lobes where rational thought, compassion and empathy take place. When angry, we return to an emotionally charged and primitive behavioral pattern that is very useful if we were a dinosaur (or if we are in legitimate danger) – but maybe not all that practical for a modern-day human being living in a complex world. We tend to feel self-justified and self-righteous. We get reactive and are not able to respond with kindness or even with a rational outlook.
Instead we turn into an emotional loud-mouthed (or internally raging) person.
What would happen if our political discussions were not conducted from this place of opposition, but rather from an inclusive place of “we’re all in this together”. Or if the warring fractions in religious wars reminded themselves that they are really both reflections of the face of God?
It takes a conscious intention to change the way our brain does business. But neuroscience shows it can be done. And reminding ourselves that our “enemies” are in fact a part of us, or have the face of God, might help. It is easy to look at a newborn baby and see the face of God. But can you look at Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner the same way?
Just food for thought.
Why would you want to?
Well, sometimes our normal anger response, the sense of “knowing better” and the feeling of the other side being inferior does not bring us any solutions or a lasting sense of achievement. We simply mire ourselves more and more in our habitual thinking patterns. And the world doesn’t change if we don’t.
So what do we have to lose? Next time we are tempted to go on the offensive whether in action or in our thoughts – maybe it makes sense to give it a try:
-“I am looking at the face of God”
-“I am looking at a part of me”
Maybe we will find that as we unlock new thinking patterns in our brain, new solutions come to mind.
Maybe, as we discover what it feels like to not hide behind our bastions of preconceived notions, we also find a new sense of empathy and understanding.
Maybe it is worth a try….