Have you ever seen the classic movie Network? Do you remember the iconic scene when the crazy broadcaster Howard Beale (played brilliantly by the late Peter Finch) tells his audience to open up their windows and start yelling out to the world: ‘I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore’?
Well, that’s pretty much how everybody is feeling these days about just about everything: Covid, politics, the economy, Afghanistan, you name it.
Just have a look at the statistics.
In America, where polls show that three-quarters of people are upset or angry about something, such as:
And don’t get me started on politics:
In Britain, where Brexit caused two-thirds of Remainers to say that it affected their mental health, a recent poll gave Boris Johnson and his government a mere 3% approval rating, largely for the way that they’ve handled Covid.
All these things make us mad as hell, but nowhere near as mad as we are about people who don’t agree with us about all these issues and more.
Mainly, we’re just mad as hell and yelling at each other.
In America, 88 % of Democrats are vaccinated, compared to 54 % of Republicans who got the double shot. Consequently, Democrats blame Republicans for Delta variant, while Republicans blame Democrats for loss of freedoms (like vaccine passports).
So the problems besetting us are pretty big, but bigger still is the widening gulf occurring between us.
We could continue yelling at each other. But there’s another way.
In my Intention Experiments and Power of Eight® groups, I’ve discovered a fast track method to healing these deep divides. And it all has to do with a little understood nerve inside your body.
In his book Born to be Good, Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at University of California at Berkeley, quotes Confucius about the cultivation of jen, a Chinese concept which means that he who wishes to establish his own ‘character’ does so by bringing ‘the good things of others to completion.’ Jen is essentially a rebound effect: your global wellbeing, your essential nature, in fact, is defined by how much you do to help others to flourish.
To figure out how this works, Keltner asks us to consider the function of the vagus nerve, one of the longest of the body, which originates at the top of the spinal cord and works its way through the heart, the lungs, the muscles of the face, the liver and the digestive organs.
Kelter notes that it has three functions: to connect with all the communication systems involved with caretaking; to slow down your heart rate, calming the effects of any fight-or-flight autonomic nervous system activity, the body’s response to stress of any sort; and to initiate the release of oxytocin, a neuropeptide that plays a role in love, trust, intimacy and devotion.
If oxytocin is the ‘love hormone,’ as it is generally referred to, the vagus nerve, maintains Keltner, is the love nerve – a hypothesis given weight by the work of Chris Oveis, one of Keltner’s UC Berkeley graduate students.
Chris wanted to determine whether or not activation of the love nerve helps to nurture universal love in a person and a greater acceptance of differences between the self and the other, and to do so, he set up a unique type of research project involving a batch of his fellow university students.
During the study, Chris showed one group of student participants photos of malnourished children – the ultimate of the world’s victims. As soon as the students saw the photos, their vagus nerves went into high gear. The same effect was not produced in another set of students, who were shown photos designed to elicit be-true-to-your- school pride, such as images of landmarks on campus or U Cal sporting events.
But the most interesting effect occurred when the students were shown photos of 20 other groups of strangers who were markedly different from them: Democrats, Republicans, saints, convicted felons, terrorists, the homeless, even students from their strong competitor, Stanford University.
Those students love-bombed by their own vagus nerve reported feeling a far greater sense of similarity to all the disparate groups than those who’d been exposed to photos designed to elicit pride.
Activity of the vagus nerve helped to remove a boundary of separation, causing the students to focus more on similarities rather than differences, and those feelings of similarities increased, the more intensely their vagus nerves fired. Even students identifying themselves as Democrats suddenly recognized the similarities between themselves and Republicans.
A closer look at the results revealed something even more fascinating: this group of students felt the greatest sense of common humanity to all those in need – the homeless, the ill, the elderly – whereas those whose sense of pride had been activated identified themselves far more with the strongest and most affluent groups, such as lawyers or other private university students.
Instead of identifying with the people most like us, when the vagus nerve is fired, we are prompted to feel closer to the other – particularly the people in need of our help – and more prone to reach out to them.
Check out this short video of Dacher Keltner explaining how this works and why participating in a group intention is the fast track to connecting with people who don’t agree:
This explains why polarized groups – Arabs and Americans after 9/11, Arabs and Israelis, Republicans and Democrats - begin forgiving each other after participating in my Intention Experiments.
The compassion elicited in my participants by the Peace and Healing Intention Experiments may activate a nervous system complex that created a greater willingness to connect with the ‘enemy’ – indeed, all of humanity.
So if you’re a Democrat and you want to try connecting with your Republican neighbor, or you don’t wish to get the Covid vaccine and you’re surrounded by people who are shunning you because of your views, don’t argue with them or try to get them to adopt your views. Just try doing a group intention to heal something or somebody else.
You’ll discover a powerful and immediate way for the heart to leap across the fence.
Sign up and receive FREE GIFTS including The Power of Eight® handbook and a special video from Lynne!