The Unexpected Root Of Xenophobia: Energy Preservation
When I discovered the mathematical patterns in human needs, one of the surprising conclusions was the close relationship between beauty and order. When you overlay 1000 faces in photoshop, the average face that emerges turns out to be our stereotypical image of beauty. This is because the average of all those faces has the least amount of deviations. When we see order we often see beauty. For the same reason we created law and order. Because it makes human interactions more predictable, thus safer, and less to think about or worry about.
Deviations from the average like a missing nose make us pay attention because our brains need to process these deviations. Familiarity relaxes us because there is less for our brains to process. We know what to expect. Less cognitive processing power also means less energy required. When we know how someone will react, our perceived sense of danger is lowered. If we know the road home we are relaxed. If we take a new route home we have to pay attention. More focus is needed. More thinking is needed. More energy is needed. Often we feel less safe in an unfamiliar neighborhood or environment. The same is true for people. When we are around new people we are more guarded then when we are around friends and family. The extreme version of this phenomenon is xenophobia. I always loved the unexpected and was excited to be around people who were different from me. But many are afraid of people and situations they are not familiar with. This is because the brain can’t fall back on tried and true definitions, instead it has to constantly define and evaluate the new stimuli entering through the senses. Since our mind thinks around 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day, our brain is constantly trying to minimize the need for processing. We automate as much thinking as we can. We don’t think about wearing our socks and even our daily commute is mapped in our brain. We don’t think about wearing our shoes unless there is a stone inside of them. When we encounter a deviation from the expected we become present. Children are often more “in the now” because everything is new for them. Meditation has become a popular tool to “snap” into the present moment. From this follows that there is a remedy against xenophobia. Creating familiarity between people who are different from each other. Many times when a new and “different” person moves to our neighborhood, we get to know them. We get to know their family and we start to like them. As a consequence our prejudice erodes. Stereotypes fall apart. It is my hope that Peace City can play a role in creating this kind of new familiarity. After all the more diverse we are, the greater our chance to draw from a broader variety of different experiences as a way to come up with better solutions for the challenges of our time.