Is it really in our nature to be attracted to shocking and violent news - or is that just a theory?

Humans are by nature attracted to shocking or violent news. At least, this is what numerous studies on the neurology of behaviour claim. Certainly, any basic review of media statistics seems to bear this out. The more violent or outrageous the headlines, the more sales a newspaper apparently makes. And various politicians are using this tactic (as politicians have through the ages), knowing it brings extensive free news coverage.

Similarly, some retail companies recognize the tendency and manipulate this attraction to the offensive with shock ads that cause instant outrage on social media but create profits. With Halloween looming, shocking outfits on shelves are already creating the expected reaction and profits.

So, why do we have such a fatal attraction to the scary, bizarre and horrific? Increasingly, many behavioural scientists promote the theory that this is a primeval instinct; and, therefore natural and inescapable.

These ‘scientific theories’ are merely the latest efforts to find a cause – in this case, biological – to what makes humans tick. Thousands of years ago, before modern neuro-social theory came into being, our behaviour was assigned to beliefs humans held that deity was both good and bad and, therefore, its creation was also inherently both. And, while many people have thrown off these theological views, we still allow them to influence how we see ourselves. Whether it comes from an ancient creation story or modern neuro-social  theory, the result is the same – the perpetuation of the belief in innate violence and attraction to  evil and their attendant outcomes – i.e.  repeated violence, pain and tragedy.

But we can challenge these theories and beliefs and end the behaviours they produce.

The underlying issue of this particular human problem goes right back to how we see ourselves. If we see ourselves either through the ancient lens of a faulty or evil creator and creation or through the modern biological lens of being simply hardwired to be inherently violent and attracted to evil, we have accepted models from which we cannot escape and to which we are forever drawn.

To change this, we can turn away from these educated beliefs about humanity and adopt a fresh spiritual model, to discover man – as a child of God, attracted only to what the Divine would cultivate in us. A model that inherently reflects the divinely good.

If we consider Jesus as the Way-shower and reflect on his entirely spiritual view of himself and others, “perfect” like the Father, this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, seems good counsel:

“Let the perfect model be present in your thoughts instead of its demoralized opposite.”

Impossible to do? No. One example of a man who changed his own model and influenced an entire nation was Nelson Mandela. In the biography, Invictus, Author John Carlin describes the spiritual reasoning Mandela engaged in and the shifts in his thinking and nature that took place during his 25 years in prison.

Fairly early on in his incarceration, Mandela realized that his model for the liberation of South Africans through violence and anger was not going to liberate anyone. It was only escalating the problem. The description of Mandela’s journey and his personal transformation from terrorist to nation builder, which fellow South African Bishop Tutu refers to as a spiritual journey, is remarkable.

Mandela proved that we can challenge old theories and teachings regarding the violent nature of man. We can choose a better model, one with a spiritual foundation that cannot be taken from us – even by modern neurological theories. In Mandela’s own words:

““Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

This article was published in the Times Colonist HERE

And in the Vancouver Courier HERE