Wentwell Wednesday #16

There’s a term in psychology called “psychic numbing” – a concept that argues “the more people suffer or die, the less we care.” Meaning, one life is incredibly important to us, but the human mind isn’t capable of comprehending the significance of huge numbers, because they mean less to us personally.

“From an evolutionary perspective, we were focused on the things that threatened to kill us immediately or in small groups,” said Melissa Finucane, a senior behavioral and social scientist at policy think tank the Rand Corporation, who has studied decision-making and risk assessment. “Now we’re trying to figure out very complex risk scenarios where there’s a lot of statistics available.”

As writers, we’re primarily telling the stories of individuals. Our job is to contextualize and rationalize what’s going on in the world, and shrink it to a perspective we can understand. Journalists interview neighbors, photographers narrow in on a child’s lost shoe – the human experience, the personal toll. That’s how we build empathy. Inclusive writing isn’t just sharing other views or spotlighting differences, it’s showing how those views and differences relate to our own.

The point is this – your story is important, because it’s the story of all of us, how we make it through our lives and cope with the things that happen. Don’t settle for being part of a generation or a trend or a label. Own your own story.

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