I wrote this in response to the Chapel Hill shootings. Minster Joy
The Possibility of Peace
After twenty years researching, “What makes humans thrive?” I can state emphatically:Hate does not lead to thriving.
In a Positive Psychology course with Dr. Barbara Fredrickson at UNC-Chapel Hill a classmate asked me to define what I meant by thriving. Here is my answer:
Thrive, for my students, means fulfill as much of the individual's potential as possible in every area of life including physical, mental, and behavioral health, relationships, career and whatever else is important to them. Personally, it means the highest and best use of who I am in every area of my life and recognition and appreciation of the fact that I am continually (as are others) becoming more.Questions draw answers out of me that I did not know I had, and that energize me.
The same classmate asked a follow-up question about the definition of “highest and best use” and whether that was determined by the individual or society. It is absolutely individually determined. An internal locus of control, meaning the concept of having some control over events in our life, or over our response to events, is required for good mental health and resilience.Research from Positive Psychology, psychoneuroimmunology, criminology, biochemistry, and medical science demonstrates that positive emotions lead to the best physical and mental health outcomes and the best behavior.
Our minds and bodies are designed to function at their optimal capacity when we feel positive emotions. The lower our emotions are, the worse our minds and bodies function. Our behavior is also linked to our emotional state.News of the shooting of three UNC-CH students is so sad. Every life has value and at any point someone can begin contributing enormously to society. It sounds as if those the world lost in the senseless shootings at UNC-CH were already doing that and there is no reason to believe they would not have continued to do so for decades. The magnitude of loss, of their young lives and the potential good they would have done, saddens me enormously.
It also saddens me that this may increase the feeling of those who share the faith of the deceased that the world is not always friendly to those of their faith. I want my voice to be one they hear that says for me, that is not at all the case. I've met many Muslims here in the US and in my travels around the world. Muslims are as human as everyone else, as valuable as everyone else, and as welcome in my world as everyone else. I believe most of the world believes this.
The man who is in custody was obviously not living in a positive emotional state. Behavior and emotion are inexplicably linked. There are other variables, but happy people do not do the types of things he did.Today, most of the world ignores the tie between behavior and emotion. Ignoring it does not make it go away. When we begin consciously recognizing this link, we will be able to predict those at risk of this type of behavior with more ease and develop interventions to prevent senseless tragedies.
Teaching children from a young age how to develop and maintain more positive emotions will prevent so much that we do not want in the world.
Allow this horrendous loss to create a desire to find and sustain as much positive emotions in yourself as possible and for those who wish to help others, allow it to reinforce the importance of this work. There may not be any work that is ultimately more important, especially when you consider the health and mental health benefits that are also linked to positive emotions.
Just as Candy Lightner created MADD to make sense of a tragedy and ensure there were fewer families that suffered as she did, we can use this to increase our impetus to create a better world for all. Together we have more than enough power to create the momentum needed to effect great positive changes. We cannot change what happened, but we can give it meaning that feels better than that of a senseless tragedy by using it to fuel our desire for a better world.
Individuals and communities will thrive more when we advocate for and take action to make the best of things, even when tragedy strikes.
We have a choice in how we respond to this event.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave us words that are good to remember today:
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness;only light can do that.Hate cannot drive out hate;only love can do that.Hate multiplies hate,violence multiplies violence,and toughness multiplies toughnessin a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil --hate begetting hate,wars producing more wars --must be broken…”
My condolences go to not just the family, but the world, because the loss of these young individuals is a loss to the world.Jeanine Joy is the founder of House of Peace and Love for All and Happiness 1st Institute and the author of two books, Prevent Suicide: The Smart Way and True Prevention—Optimum Health: Remember Galileo. You can follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JeanineJoyJOY
BibliographyFagley, N. S. "Appreciation uniquely predicts life satisfaction above demographics, the Big 5 personality factors, and gratitude." Personality and Individual Differences 53 (2012): 59-63.
Peil, Katherine T. "Emotion: The Self-regulatory Sense." Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 2014: 80-108.