Most of the literature that we read and the news that we consume is dominated by trauma.
Indeed, it’s almost as if “news” and “stories” are defined by their trauma quotient: if there is nothing violent, tragic or disruptive, there is nothing to report, no plot line, nothing to grab the readers’ interest.
But what effect does this have on us as readers, individually and what does effect does it have on us as a society?
Studies on mirror neurons have shown that in primates, neurons become active when an animal acts and also when the animal observes the same action performed by another. In other words, witnessing someone else’s actions have similar physical effects on primates as experiencing the action oneself.
A similar mirroring occurs when we are told stories. The same part of brain activates when we are told a story of physical pain as when we experience that physical pain ourselves (if to a lesser degree).
So when we are inundated with stories of violence, suffering and injustice, we come literally to experience those qualities as our authentic qualities of the world.
By contrast if we hear stories of healing, peace and kindness, our bodies and minds will get the positive endorphins associated with those qualities of the world.
I am not recommending that we go into states of denial and not pay attention to the real violence and injustices and pressing dangers of our world.
But what I am suggesting is that if we only hear the trauma stories and don’t also hear the healing stories, we won’t know how to react in a positive ways to the many challenges that we need to face, individually and as a society.
If we only are fed a physical and mental diet of pain and suffering, we become overloaded and emotionally flooded and are not able to make good decisions that lead to better outcomes.
We need also to hear stories of that remind us how good people can be towards one another, how much love in the world there is, how much care and compassion, and how both our bodies and our minds have the natural ability, given the right conditions, to heal.
To make the world a better place, we must first believe it is possible. And to believe it is possible, we need to hear the stories of healing and growth.