Have you ever read something on the internet and then wish that you could punch the person that posted it in the face?
Well now you can. All you have to do is prove them wrong.
Being shown that something you believe is wrong activates the same center in the brain that senses pain. Safe to say that I’ve been punched in the face, and I’ve also been wrong a great many times, and I can say that the two experiences are very similar.
People react to getting punched in the face in the same way that they react to someone challenging what they believe in. Presenting ideas that challenge beliefs causes a fight or flight response, and many people subconsciously resist factual information that threatens the things that they feel defines them as a person. This is as natural as defending a punch.
This process of defense is called “identity protective cognition.” There are actual brain scientists that go deeper into the subject, so I’m not going to go further into it, but I do want to talk about how we can take this knowledge of human wiring and apply it.
Aside from the obvious of punching someone in the face with our words.
There is a zen koan that ends with “When the mouth opens, all are wrong.”
Look up the koan to get more context, but basically we are beings that exist in a constantly changing world, and as soon as we try to fix our opinions as concrete and absolute, they become wrong. Maybe not now, or tomorrow, but eventually the context for what we believe will change, and much of what we believe slowly becomes wrong.
This presents two opportunities. The first is that it is easy to find someone’s old opinion on the internet and use that in the present to show them how wrong they are, effectively punching them in the face.
The other is to recognize the fact that almost by design, the purpose of the world is to punch you in the face. Every single day has change, and every time we are presented with that change, it is like we are being punched in the face by life.
The answer is not to ‘shut the mouth.’ Rather, to recognize that pain is your brain’s way of letting you know that either something is changing, or something needs to change.
I try to be mindful so that I get punched in the face gracefully and I try to have compassion for those around me that are getting punched in the face. Because we all do. Daily.