“An open heart is an open mind.” – Dalai Lama
Do you want peace everywhere around?
Deep in our hearts, we all want world peace. Everyone wishes to live in a harmonic sunlit world where we could always have what we desire without having to compete and fight each other. Yet, most of us were taught that a peaceful world is nothing but a dream.
Coincidentally, the more suspicious we become, the more betrayal we experience.
But is it the only possible way?
The Old-Fashioned Origin Of Our Win-Lose Approach
Happily, cooperation has a huge force at its side. And sadly, competition has one, too.
These two contradicting forces are present inside any of us as two parts of our brains. We all have a stem primitive brain and a bigger, new analytical brain. Even the most brainless people have these two powers, though they don’t necessarily use them very often.
Our old brain, the reptilian one, is interested only in survival, food, and reproduction. We all know the type. We do have to thank this brain for keeping our breathing, heart rate, and keeping us alive in general.
When we’re scared, tired, hungry or stressed, this is the brain which automatically takes control, quickly and forcefully. It’s excellent when we have to run away from a tiger, but not that excellent when we have to respond to our irritated spouse.
Regrettably, tigers are not very common nowadays while domestic quarrels are. So more often than not, the old brain’s decisions are not that beneficial for us.
The new brain is the one responsible for conscientiousness and contemplating. As we can see by the length of the words it manages, this is the wiser brain. Indeed, research proves that it makes better decisions, if only we make the effort of letting it work.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to stress or scare us into automatically moving the control to our survival reptilian brain. Since birth, our benevolent caretakers traditionally teach us, by exclusive stressful competition games, that our success must come at the expense of others. Thus, our loving educators can conveniently use competition to manipulate us to do whatever they want.
Then, programmed to compete, we become excellent pawns in the hands of whoever knows how to push our buttons. Schools, workplaces, advertisers, and politicians use competition and rivalry to maneuver us.
Some politicians, not naming any names, build their entire political capital by spreading hatred and fear. If, by the way, it causes violence and wars, it’s surely not their fault. They did nothing but provoke the stressed reptilian brains of their audience.
Still, these brains are ours. With some awareness, we can choose to examine situations with open minds. We can lull our reptilians and let our new brains make the decisions. It will help us significantly because, as researches reveal, trusting cooperative people are more successful. The distrustful truths we grew upon are, regrettably, nothing but a bunch of lies.
Success, in fact, comes with trust and cooperation. Remarkable, isn’t it?
But there is more to that.
Researches prove likewise that countries with a high level of trust are not only more flourishing. They are also happier.
And you can become that blissful and successful, too.
By using your brains properly.
The Novel Origin Of Our Win-Win Approach
Our new brain evolved after the age of reptiles when the new warm-blooded creatures could no longer lay eggs and leave them conveniently to their fate in cold blood. The new warm creatures had to take care of their cool offspring relentlessly.
As any hot-tempered parent knows, raising descendants is insanely unbearable. Our ancestors had to evolve an enormous power to connect the parents to their cubs nevertheless.
And they did. They created one of the mightiest forces in the universe.
It’s called love.
Some of them, us included, took another step forward and developed entire groups to support one another. Our evolving brain learned what the reptiles don’t know: that being alone is bad, and being together is good.
Or, in the somewhat wiser words of the Dalai Lama, “Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek.”
Our new brains know it deeply, physically. Actually, they have an area of neurons, called the mirror neurons, which identifies with other creatures’ feelings. That’s why movies and stories about others touch our hearts (or, as a matter of fact, our brains).
That’s why extreme suffering of someone else nearby causes us trauma like it’s our own suffering. Also, it’s the reason why, to your inner self, benefiting someone else is benefiting you while hurting someone else is hurting you.
As mediator Zohar Roimi says, a win-lose solution can’t deeply satisfy us in the long run. Somewhere in our hearts (and brains), we keep carrying the pain of others with us.
There’s another, more prosaic, reason for the failure of win-lose solutions.
We frequently stay in touch with the other sides and their resentment can eventually harm us in reality, too. Sometimes, we don’t even know where this result is coming from.
My best friend, for example, was once accused by a boss who wanted to fire her without paying the due severance package. I felt helpless but several years later, this boss wanted to join a group I participated and I refused. He never knew why he was rejected, but I felt that some justice was done.
We’re all connected to one another. It’s clear and irritating when it comes to couples and divorcees, to families, communities, and ecosystems. It’s less clear, but still irritating when it comes to companies, countries, and the entire world.
This is the big truth.
As the Dalai Lama says, “The creatures that inhabit this earth – be they human beings or animals – are here to contribute, each in its own particular way, to the beauty and prosperity of the world.”
We all live on the same planet and we all affect one another. We all depend on one another.
The law of karma is fundamentally a law of nature. Killing a butterfly on one end of the world, may it rest in peace, can cause a hurricane at the other side. Using gasoline in the Western world causes melting of icebergs in Antarctica and a war over water in Syria.
We have nowhere to run away from it. We’re all connected.
United we stand, divided we fall.
And your brain knows that. You can count on it.
Why Win-Win Is The Approach You Actually Want
The hardest time to remember our connections is when we fight each other. Not only when our country fights foreign ones or when our sports team fights the bad ones. Even when we fight our most-beloved, we feel as lonely and disconnected as an astronaut left alone in space. More lonely, in fact, because the astronaut surely has a family to mourn him, but we have no one who really loves us — or so we feel.
Yet, fighting is also the most critical time to remember our connection.
When we fight with our partner, remembering that we’re on the same boat can help us realize that there’s no real power struggle going on. That if one of us gets what he wants and the other doesn’t, we, as a couple, will both be miserable.
Remembering that our strength as a couple is in making the two of us pleased can help us communicate and ensure that the needs of both of us are answered. It can make us happier in the short run and more loving in the long run.
It works in the same way with our blabbermouthed parents or our closemouthed children. No one can win fights here alone. We want the happiness of our relatives and we have to work together on a solution that satisfies us all.
It’s clearly the same with our over-righteous neighbors, our erroneous co-workers, and the judgmental people in our community. Our justified fights with them follow us everywhere. We better do without these resentments, even if these people unquestionably don’t deserve our cooperation.
When it comes to the rest of the world, the connections seem blurred. But they aren’t. We carry them forever in our brains. And we carry them forever in our environments.
The boat we’re on is indeed big, but still, together we’ll drown or together we’ll live. We’ll all lose or we’ll all win.
How To Use Win-Win Approach To Win What You Want
Knowing the connected nature of ourselves and of the world can help us get what we want and (accidentally) what we need. It can change our attitude from competition to collaboration.
Sure, there will always be a minority of hurt people who’ll violently try to distract us. We should stop them but we mustn’t put our focus on them. Our focus should always be on our shared goals and our cooperative vision.
Thus, our win-win approach can help us get peace and prosperity in life, our home, society, and the world.
A win-win approach can turn our struggles into support. It can turn us from lonely ones into loved people. It can help us protect what’s most important for us all – our world’s resources, ecology, safety, and peace. And it includes our future, too.
We all wish to live in a peaceful world where we can have what we desire without having to compete and fight each other.
And we can.
It’s up to us.
By adopting a win-win approach.
One fight at a time.
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Author: Estee Horn
Author and traveler, with an MA in Eco-psychology, who explores human nature to help people be happier.