“Knowing the way you think and where you place your energy allows you to step away from the various stories and mind traps that don’t serve you and enter the space of awareness where you can consider alternatives for creating a more flexible, healthier mind.”
~ The Now Effect
Cheerios recently came out with a commercial that has brought to light how our learned mental models about how things in life “should” can create powerful emotional reactions. A recent Cheerios commercial depicts a mixed race American family pouring some cheerios. While there were many positive comments, many of the comments online were so racist and extreme that they had to take off the comments section online.
Here’s the commercial:
The fact that this commercial was so controversial points directly to how models in our minds are created over time about how things in life “should be.” In this case the mental model is of how an American family “should be” same race.
Whenever something in life isn’t how it “should be” the brain recognizes it as a threat and reacts in kind. We experience the fight, flight or freeze response coming in the forms of anger or fear. This is the source of the racist comments.
Cheerios went on to do a round table of kids showing them the commercial to see how they react to it. But when the kids were interviewed, they couldn’t find anything wrong with the commercial and were confused when they were told that people had an issue with the commercial being of a mixed race family.
One kid said, “I thought Martin Luther King fixed this already.”
It’s important to look at our mental models in life, see where they came from, who is influencing them and what the net effect of them are?
I like to think of them in terms of “Think.”
The beauty of mindfulness is training us to get some space from our automatic perceptions in order to give way to perspective. When we get space from our thoughts, we step into a “choice point” to really look at them; in this space we can question the mental model, “Is it true, is it helpful, is it inspiring, is it necessary, is it kind?” Entering into this space is where our growth and freedom lies.
This commercial is not only a genius move by Cheerios to get a whole lot of free media attention (I’m guessing this was part of their plan), but it revives a new awareness of our mental models about race and multiracial families. It’s also reviving that discussion within America between people.
After all, who is anyone to be the judge of who another person chooses to love?
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.