As the media show us almost daily, a single individual has the power to destroy others lives instantly. Bystanders are often put in harms way because someone has lost touch with humanity and succumbed to their irrational emotions. But we all are only human, and developing a mentality of never being alone can help society improve the quality of life for everyone. I wanted to write about this topic for Mental Health Day.
Countless cases have shown instances of physical brain trauma, from undetected tumors to accidents or even chronic stress, which have altered people’s decision-making abilities. A least a portion of the harmful acts in the world happen due to such a loss of control, which anyone could experience! What if we could spot this loss of control? Or train people to recognize it in themselves and in people that are confiding in them? And could we teach everyone to seek professional help at that point?
The first step is to follow Machiavelli’s advice: “Know your enemy and know thyself.” We tend to distance ourselves from people who we don’t understand, instead of trying to see situations from an opposing perspective. By respecting everyone’s point of view, and encouraging open and respectful discourse in the case of disagreements, we can build a foundation upon which people will learn to be vocal in times of need. It will be a strategy that will not only protect us from potential harm, but also help grow and learn as individuals.
Through listening to different viewpoints respectfully we all become much more accepting, broadening our horizons. Most importantly, listening and acceptance reduces the isolation from society that many people feel at one point or another, or even consistently throughout their lives. It diminishes the prevalence of negative stereotypes, including racist and sexist assumptions that have been slowing the evolution of our society for millennia.
We can never prevent all bad events from happening. But we can definitely seek to improve our own lives, and those around us, through the simple act of listening and accepting people who are different. At times, we may all need to seek professional help – whether it’s for ourselves or someone who has confided in us – and doing so could change countless lives for the better.