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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 20-Sep-15


Sunday 20-September-15

The 'Next Village Effect' and 'thinking makes it so'

When my parents-in-law were young, they lived in two adjoining villages in South Wales, called Pontarddulais and Hendy. You might think that the villagers would be friendly with one another, and on one level they were. They would mostly speak civilly and would all be Welsh when Wales were playing England at Rugby. Yet there were also many niggles, disputes and long-running feuds. While openly civil, they each whispered dark judgement on the other. And when the Boxing Day rugby 'friendly' came around, legitimized violence was the order of the day as scores were settled and blood flowed.

This is the 'Next Village Effect' and is not unique to the Swansea Valley where Pontarddulais and Hendy still probably seethe. Villages, towns, streets and even individuals are often only superficially friendly with the lot next door. When you are near but not the same as others, they easily become a dark mirror in which you can project your lesser feelings. In this way we easily envy and look down on those next door. We judge them imperfect and may not be shy in letting them know this, especially when angered. And when we disagree, even over trifles, we find it hard to blame ourselves for anything, so all the badness is laden on them. Familiarity, if not managed, can easily breed contempt.

A reason for this bias against those nearby is simply that they are available. We see them often and conversation about them becomes habitual. When things go wrong we do not like to blame ourselves, so having another person or group to be the cause of our ills is useful. It is also helpful to talk about others simply as a distraction. If others are worse, then we can feel better about ourselves and our lot in life.

The Next Village effect need not be as aggressive as those two Welsh villages. Many local relationships are more friendly than combative, yet there is always an essential difference and unkind thoughts may easily stray into our musings, even as we try to keep them at bay. A lesson, perhaps, is to guard against such thinking. Just as we can spiral down into feuds, so also can we rise above it all. When you think kind thoughts, you act more kindly. And when people are kind to you it becomes harder and harder to think unkindly about them. So you become kinder as well. And so it spreads.

Underlying all this is the principle that 'Thinking makes it so'. That how we think is how we act and eventually becomes who we are. 'Fake it 'til you make it' is a variant of the same thing. When you smile, your brain actually creates positive feelings (and vice versa). So choose who you want to be. Work hard not to think ill of others. And have a great life. Just like that.

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