Forced Crying: Induction of Despair
After the announcement today of Kim Jong Il’s death, North Korea’s state media released the following disturbing footage of people demonstrating grief in Pyongyang:
As New Yorker writer Philip Gourevitch describes it, this “mandatory public crying” perfectly summarizes the cruel methodology used by the North Korean regime to torture and enslave their people completely, body and mind. While the video may seem initially absurd and even comical, the scene quickly becomes chilling as the people in this video force their physiology to point of inducing their brains to feel anguish.
The good news is that the crowd in this particular video seems to require a lot of effort to bring themselves into a state of authentic emotional distress. Perhaps their underlying joy at Kim Jong Il’s death is making this such a big effort… and/or perhaps they are the cozy members of North Korea’s ruling class who have less of a reference point of despair to draw from. Regardless, the very act of participating in this spectacle has got to be pretty damaging to their psyches.
This video reminds us that the mind-body connection is a powerful tool… and can be a way for us to inflict punishment on ourselves, in big ways and small ways.
The flip side of this is that we can harness this phenomenon in more positively and choose to do things with our bodies that induce mental health and happiness in ourselves:
Comparing this video of people engaging in Laughter Therapy (or “Laughing Yoga”), versus the video of North Koreans self-inflicting emotional pain, I’m struck with how the laughing folks seem to require much less effort to induce a change in their internal brain chemistry… and how it’s achieving a much more profound result. Of course, in the laughter video, the participants are attending the mood-modification exercise by choice.
Sit up straight, smile and choose happiness… because if you’re able to access the Internet and can read this, that’s gotta be worth something.