First off, what is a ‘Mirror Neuron’? Well, to be briefly thorough, ‘Mirror Neurons’ are neurons that activate when an animal (or person – mostly, observed in primates) does something and then sees another do the same thing – imitating mechanism of the learning process. So, that having been said, how do they play a role in empathy, and how does this translate to some sort of danger in identifying with fictional characters? Well, again – to be brief and thorough, we tend to mimic and imitate one another – usually, but not limited to, associating the imitated with a higher or more enviable position within the understood/desired hierarchy, i.e. you see the ‘hero’ higher than yourself or others and imitate the ‘hero’ to rise to their station – and exiting yours’.
So yes, these peculiar, yet damned essential to the learning process, ‘mirror neurons’ dictate how you learn certain things, how you feel empathy for certain things/people, and how you orient your consciousness within a logical reality – a framework of games that eludes to an outcome of prosperity and continuation, i.e. happiness, safety, and procreation. They’re the culprit behind you taking on portions of someones speech, mannerisms, goal orientations, and tiny chips of their conveyed consciousness – spirituality, enacted philosophy, emotions, etc. This is why someone ‘impressionable’, i.e. someone who is sure the person or thing they are observing is inherently ‘higher’ than they are in the hierarchy of Life as they see it/know it, can be susceptible to being led astray, and this is precisely why orientation on fictional heroes can be dangerous.
I mean, it is terrifying enough to get lost in someone else’s reality & personality, but it is especially dangerous to mimic what isn’t real. Now, this isn’t to say you ought to toss out your comic books, stop reading literature in which a hero manifests itself within the story to force an ending desirable for the reader, or that you ought to run hysterically in the opposite direction of movie theaters, but should certainly use caution thereabouts. You see, as we mature from these tiny imitators of all things around us, we also shed the utility of mimicking fantastical things rather quickly, and do so because it simply isn’t socially acceptable to, say, run about the lawn like a T-Rex or to conduct a tea party by yourself in your backyard. Just like we mimic the things around us, well, we also receive our social cues from the facial reactions, verbal inquiries of a puzzled nature, and mockery for doing things outside the ‘norm’ of one’s particular age or station. In other words, if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, well, mockery is the sincerest form of imitation run amok.
So, precisely how is it that we should be so cautious of fictional characters? I won’t speak of adolescence a great deal – as I believe the above example conveys that children have an internal mockery mechanism that ushers the participants in the ‘kid game’ onward into the adult phase of Life’s series of games. However, sometimes children who are stuck too deeply in fantasy, don’t have the mocking mechanism to dissuade them, and don’t have a great deal of structure or external motivation, well, they tend to stack up at ‘zero’ – a ‘failure to launch’ into the world. But yet, as unenviable as it sounds, the world has even carved a space for those who fail to launch into society with their full potential, and they find themselves companion to the like-minded. So how is it dangerous for those of us who have launched into society, were structured, and have accumulated things in life that would be a tragedy to lose by following something, by all accounts, have shed ourselves of in adolescence? One word: Casual.
You see, those who have launched properly and have a trajectory that society views as ‘normal’ – and does so because it can extract utility from it, can be lured by a plausible reality. In other words, a reality that mimics their own…or has core elements of their own, is woven in a poetic or rhythmically spiritual narrative, and thus can be casually translated to the viewer. It’s downright hypnotic! Which, if you hadn’t observed in your life to this point, can be seen whenever someone binge watches programming – they’re attaching themselves, their life and their aspirations to something within the program. Now, most of this can be logically detached from – like, say, detaching yourself from a character (who, while adult in appearance) is clearly the projection of an implausible reality – flying about on dragons or slaying vampires at her local high school. There are, however, sneaky and hypnotic archetypes: someone with a profession, life-story, emotional conundrum/crisis, or belief structure similar to yours. And they’re most dangerous when they’re, presumably, close to discovery of the ‘thing’ you are missing.
This is why it is so damned easy to get lost in the ‘casual hero’. This is why it can be dangerous to watch programming that is designed to hypnotize the view – which, if you weren’t aware, it is. I mean, by sheer virtue of the aim espoused and the one implicitly woven into the story itself, the terminus is to subconsciously subdue the viewer into a state of assumed identity. They’re one with the program or worse – they’re one step behind their hero…desperately trying to keep pace for the ‘meaning’ they’re missing in Life. And believe it or not, they’ll spend hours living vicariously through them, somehow expecting to be empowered and wiser upon completion of the story at a terminus they, too, would desire. But unlike the hero in the tale they mimic to the point of near madness, the writers are beheld to Life’s reality – budget, ratings, quota, actors leaving for career advancement, etc. And with these logical departures comes a rather depressing reality – the sudden loss of the hero.
And while most view this quick loss of their hero as the sensation experience in one’s ‘dream state’ to thrust them back into reality…some are resentful and search for their hero elsewhere…anywhere. And that is where the danger looms. I lurks in the shadowy and disappointing corners of reality, and it engulfs those who had elements in their character or life-experience that had failed to launch them fully into a healthy, livable state of consciousness. Their madness manifests itself in a never-ending frantic pace of pursuing the very surface of many belief structures, practices, and philosophical implementations. A maze of mimicking things at surface-level…never truly accepting the reality of the pressure the exists deep, deep down, and how that pressure ushers us forward in Life.
Again, while fantasy carries a great deal of utility, as does the reality in which we are all beheld by the rather complex and unforgiving apparatus of our progress-driven society. I mean, you can teach your children the meaning of fantasy or reality without knowing and living the balance between these two necessary concepts in our Life. Fantasy inspires us to move beyond what the fear innately tethered to reality, and reality anchors us from diving headfirst into absolute calamity – even explores have compasses and maps have legends…even fantasy mustn’t be a purely aimless endeavor. This is why I often preach to be approximal in your pursuits – so as to not succumb to the melancholy that is likely to result from not becoming an astronaut. Aiming for the stars and lassoing the Moon or which any of the billions of stars is a bit more logical, attainable, and far more rational than fixating yourself on anything or anyone.
So yeah, beware lure of living your Life by the fantastical and fictional ethos of ‘Carrie Bradshaw’ (Sex and the City), ‘Mike Flaherty’ (Spin City), or ‘Khadijah James’ (Living Single). While their relatable, they are too relatable to not be leery of the casual fantasy they present and the aimless philosophy they inherently are beheld t0 – that being, the whim of writers with very real quotas. In other words, much like a casino is for entertainment value (when approached in a healthy manner once in a while) or how having drinks with your friends carries the utility of socialization, emotional decompression, and stimulation of your reward centers…you simply cannot do both to excess. Too much reward eventually results in nothing to be rewarded, and too much fantasy lures one furthest from the realities of Life – ones that need us dearly.
Pick up a book, turn on the tube, detach from reality and dream. Heck, dreams are necessary to consciousness, but for the same reason you shouldn’t live too much in fantasy…your brain simply won’t let you live in your dreams. You brain stores your dreams and the access-key to them separately for a reason – to keep you from obsessing over the meanings and the fantasy therein. If your brain, something forged in the crucible of hundreds of millions of years wrought in trial and error – you are a balance, fundamentally speaking, of accessibility and availability. In that, like the memories of your dreams and the keys to accessing them, you too are logically beheld to this truth – too much access to available sex and you get nothing else done, too little access to sex and you don’t anything done by the biological measure. Your hormones plummet from too little sexual stimulation, and your hormones skyrocket and spiral out-of-control when over stimulated.
Hence your likely obsession with the first person you slept with.
We are carefully constructed packets of complex chemistry designed to balance the rigors of existence, consciousness, and the derivations that sprung about our curious and progressive march onward in evolution. We mustn’t lose the balance of reality and fantasy, and as adults it is easy to get lost in casual fantasies acted out by relatable figures. Keep your mind and heart, like the dream and the dream-key, in different places most times, but do allow a space for them to mingle. Not to live through, but to take a note on something you feel to be profound, and then to check the math on it their your experience with whatever you are extracting. For example: if you dream of your significant other being kind and gentle, but they are abusive and malevolent…well, don’t trust the fantasy – trust that the fantasy is telling what you deserve: someone kind and gentle, and not the abusive, malevolent figure before you. Allow fantastical things to be confirmed by reality, but never let reality be steered aimless by a fantasy unchecked. That, quite simply, is mad.