Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “I have also decided to stick with love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Why is hate so harmful? I think all of us know the answer, but do we realize that hate actually causes physiological and mental harm? Neuroscience in the last 20 years has made amazing discoveries by studying the brain and how it functions. By watching different reactions while using the fMRI, they have discovered the neuropathways that flow to different parts of the brain and how those pathways create our reactions and responses to the world around us and the world within us.
One of the biggest takeaways for me, from a purely beginner’s perspective, is that we all have a first response that is usually negative. There are reasons for that and mostly it’s because it helped us survive in prehistoric times. I’ve heard that we are using prehistoric brains in modern times. What this creates is a tendency to stick with beliefs even when the scientific data clearly proves differently.
How do we live our highest values and become better than we’ve ever been before? It is simple, but it won’t be easy. We will have to make a concerted effort from the inside out. We will have to be willing to change our minds about many things that come easy to us. All too often, they are supported by our negativity bias and the way it’s been done for a long time.
Some suggest breathing and coming back to the present moment as a cure. I concur. A process that I have used and often teach, formulated by Elisha Goldstein, PhD, co-founder of The Center for Mindful Living, is called STOP. I use it when my thoughts and emotions start spiraling to a place of negativity bias and my old way of reaction takes hold. This can be the path of least resistance, but it usually leads to the burden of hate/disconnection/ fear, etc.
S- Stop and recognize that something is occurring. This sometimes takes a mindful awareness.
T- Take a deep breath–maybe 2 or 3 deep breaths. This can ground you to this moment, move you from the sympathetic nervous system response of “fight/flight/freeze” to the parasympathetic nervous system response of “tend and befriend.” It helps unwind the nervous tension.
O- Observe what is going on in your body. Where are you feeling the physiological response? Now what are your Options. You get to decide at this moment if you will react or respond.
P- Pause and consider: is this the best time to react? Would it escalate and perhaps create regret or get the results you are hoping for? Maybe you need time to let go. Or Proceed, realizing you have it under control and you can respond in a way that represents your highest choice and desired outcomes.
We are in a time of choice and change worldwide, as well as personally. We are all holding our own ticket for the way we will go. I am convinced it all starts from within. Where do our values and heart lead us? Can we stick with love and translate it into the world around us? Of course, we can. As Gandhi says, “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” And as I say, it must start from within. We really can change our minds.