Recently we have been exploring the fact that we have a natural tendency to make mental associations, that we use this skill all the time, that we can consciously develop this skill, that it potentially came from our evolutionary past and that scientists have shown that these mental links can change our behavior.  We also considered how marketing experts tap this ability through commercials and branding to sell us things.  Can we consciously tap this ability to serve our greater good?

Back to my initial question – how can we use this ability to foster more peace and compassion among humans?  Of course, I am assuming that this is something we want to do, right? This is to our advantage as a species to reduce violence and expand cooperation, correct?

“But wait”, some of you might say – “aren’t we also hardwired for competition and protection of what’s ours?” It is true that in our evolutionary past we also gained an advantage when we exhibited certain behaviors that protected our food, our shelter, our family. To this day, we are still struggling with a natural tendency to fight with one another to protect what we see as ours – sometimes physical stuff but more often it’s now a battle for supremacy of ideas, beliefs and power (political, financial or other).

But we are also at an interesting point in our evolutionary journey. This tendency to compete and win over others has served our evolutionary past but it’s also threatening our evolutionary future. The  human species has developed the power to destroy the planet  several times over.  A byproduct of our competition for financial gain has led to climate change and an inability to address the problem.  We may ultimately destroy our species if we don’t find a way to overcome our competitive tendencies.

The good news is that our evolution has also sparked a tendency for cooperation, community and love. Our upward journey has shown us great success when we can come together in groups and support one another. Those groups of cooperation and sharing have gotten bigger and bigger – from family to tribes to cities to countries. As we grew our “circles of care and concern” to be larger, we always also had some “other” who was “out there” competing with us.  Ironically, we grew the size of our group, expanding the numbers of whose with whom we were expressing  internal cooperation, in part motivated by our competition against other groups.

Now, we are now being called to expand our tribe to include everyone on the planet, only this time we don’t have competition with an external “other group” motivating us towards global cooperation.  For our future survival’s sake we must foster more peace and compassion and see all humans as “our group” as a conscious effort.  We must intentionally open our hearts to other humans, we must naturally associate other people with the feeling of love and compassion.

We already have the experience of  linking certain things to opening our hearts.

When we see a dog or cat or some other cuddly animal, some part of many of us goes “oh how cute, how sweet, how lovable!” Kitten videos on the Internet go viral frequently. I confess, I see a chocolate lab in a commercial in my heart just automatically is triggered open.

We already associate babies with the opening of our hearts.  We are naturally drawn to looking at them and making funny noise and faces, trying to make them smile.  There is an evolutionary reason most likely that we make over babies so much.

Marketers already know how to produce commercials that pull at our heart strings. They use nostalgic things, someone aging through their life.  They use dogs and cats.  They use babies.  They know that if they can create an emotional linkage with their product that they can sell you their stuff.  I have cried at many an advertisement in my lifetime, probably subconsciously bought their products as well.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our world were filled with triggers that opened our hearts for each other?

What would it be like if every face I saw led to a trigger that behind that face is a person with a personal history, with desires and hopes, with intentions for the best for their life and that realization opened my heart towards them? What would it be like if every face was like that sticky note on the door or like that commercial jingle – immediately calling forth a broader and fuller sensory picture of the human life behind the face?

If somehow we were able to use the power of branding and triggering associations to open our hearts to one another, then I’d truly be “loving it”.

Mark Gilbert

PS. I would love to hear your suggestions on how we can trigger peace and compassion.


Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!