When you think about a normal day in your life, from the moment you get up in the morning until you go to sleep, you experience far more expressions of kindness and love than meanness and hate. But as I wrote a few weeks ago, we are hardwired to be far more alert to negative, fear-inducing events that generate fight or flight responses than to positive events that generate security and empathy.
It is not surprising then that with our traditional and social media offering 24/7 content, we are flooded with negative – be it violent, nasty, humiliating, or simply unkind – information, entertainment, news, videos and images. We are literally more alert and attracted to such news – we slow down to see the accident but not to smell the roses. But everything we see and take in affects us on a cognitive and psychological level – just like we are what we eat, we become more and more of what we watch. We metabolize information just like we metabolize food.
There is actually a term for this – media priming – what we see and hear influences our emotions and behavior and affects the way we treat each other. Our brains are active when we watch things so when we see an action or emotion, it’s almost like our brain makes us more ready to perform or experience that behavior ourselves.
This means we have to work harder to notice, watch, and share stories that open our hearts, inspire, and sensitize us to what is best about human beings. Here is my empathy share for the week:
In 2012 Amy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. After a surgery and four months of chemo, the cancer came back in 2013. It was resistant to traditional chemotherapy, which meant that the diagnosis was terminal. Not knowing how long she would live and wanting to remind her how much she was loved and appreciated, what a positive influence she was, and why they should simply enjoy being present in the moment, Amy’s family and friends prepared a surprise no one would ever forget. The original intent of this was simply to show love for Amy and have a record of Amy’s joy after her death. But love actually can swallow up death and kindness is more powerful than evil so this went viral.
Simple wisdom in the words of Amy’s family:
“I hope this video becomes a motivation for all the families, especially for those that struggle with diseases, going through tough times. Cherish the moments you spend with your loved ones, celebrate life while you live, you never know what is going to happen tomorrow. So let’s forget all the arguments, don’t hold a grudge, call your family and tell them how much you love them.”
Irwin Kula is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Irwin’s writing has been featured in The Huffington Post and the Washington Post. He is the author of Yearnings: Embracing the Sacred Messiness of Life and a co-editor of The Book of Jewish Sacred Practices. Irwin has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The O’Reilly Factor and PBS Frontline. Irwin also serves as President Emeritus of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.