When it comes to mobilization in campaigning and activism, an impressive body of scholarship has provided campaigners and activists with valuable findings on human psychology and behaviour. The focus here tends to be primarily on cognition and rationality, motivated by a strive to gain better understanding of target audiences and to tailor campaign strategies. The bottom line is that in order to mobilize people it is important to also take into account affective or emotional dimensions. Even though emotions are a comparatively unexplored field, they are “as much a part of culture as cognitive understandings and moral visions” (Jasper 1998, p398).
Rollin McCraty and his colleagues from the Institute of HeartMath are among those who strongly emphasise the significance of emotions. Their research has found that whilst a “two-way communication between the cognitive and emotional systems is hard wired into the brain, the actual number of neutral connections going from the emotional processing areas to the cognitive centers is greater than the number going the other way” (McCraty, 2015, p78). This explains the huge influence emotions have on our thinking and implies that decisions we call rational are deeply rooted in our emotional system.
“There are two basic motivating forces; fear and love. When we are afraid from life, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement and passion” – John Lennon
The current US election and Brexit referendum, both of which arguably represent votes fuelled by and based on fear have given ample evidence that we need to shift our focus towards the phenomenon of fear. However, if we want to simultaneously shift our attention to something that may be able to counter fear, I would concur with John Lennon and argue that it is love that can create an anti-pole to fear.
Building upon the work of cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, who has found that a cell has two basic functions – growth or protection – Devaney (2016) writes that at times a cell needs to close off and protect itself. However, since extended periods of time in a closed system do not allow for adaption and change, the cell cannot grow, which would require an open system. “Ultimately,” he writes, “just like the cells within us, we have a choice between acting from love or fear. Love is an open system built on trust. Fear is a closed system built on suspicion and lack of trust” (Devaney, 2016). Consequently, I would argue that in order to create real and long lasting social change, to shape a world in which we can live together more peacefully based on mutual respect, we need to make sure that our campaigns and actions are based on and seek to propagate love instead of fear. Whilst fear surely is a powerful tool that can mobilize people quickly, fear ultimately leads to a dead end: perpetual fear. Love, on the other hand, whilst perhaps less immediate, is ultimately the only way to move us forward.
Devaney, J. (2016). Will Humanity Choose Love and Fear? Uplift Connect, 28 December. Available from http://upliftconnect.com/love-or-fear/ [Accessed 30 December 2016]
Jasper, J.M. (1998). The Emotions of Protest: Affective and Reactive Emotions in and around Social Movements. Sociological Forum, 13(3), 397-424.
McCraty, R. (2015). Heart-Brain Neurodynamics: The Making of Emotions. Issues of the Heart: The Neuropsychotherapist, special issued, 76-110. Available from https://www.heartmath.org/research/research-library/basic/16278-2/ [Accessed 30 December 2016]
Schwartz, S.H. (2012). Basic Human Values: An Overview. Available from http://segr-did2.fmag.unict.it/allegati/convegno%207-8-10-05/schwartzpaper.pdf [Accessed 30 December 2016]