What makes a hero? Is it predisposition? Is it the environment? According to Zeno Franco and Phillip Zombardo, two psychology researchers from Stanford University, you can create a hero just as you can create a villain. All it takes is the right environment, along with the right situation. Lucky for you, in the lines that follow this introduction are five applications needed to cultivate a hero. Isolation from any worldly influence, meditation, and provocation of an actively imaginative mind, create a desire for performing courageous acts. The final point would be a capstone of direct application to get rid of any notion of fear.
The first step is to isolate the subjects from society and place them in a controlled environment. This step is based on the common theory from both B.F Skinner and Stanley Milgram, that we are a direct result of our environment, or at least heavily influenced by it. Utilizing this theory, by taking subjects outside of their environment and placing them in a controlled one, you could influence who they become. What might you ask would be the best environment to foster the growth of a hero? Imagine a quaint urban setting: beautiful murals, cobblestone streets, live music and the scent of fresh coffee permeating the air from the local coffee shop. Sunshine warming the back of your neck as you bend down to pluck a bouquet of spring flowers that are being sold by a cute lady with a name like Summer. I want you to note though, that these beautiful surroundings are only available to you when following a crime-less existence. Every night from a far distance you can see this filthy trash-ridden city with sewage overflowing into the streets, graffiti tagged on the windows of closed down liquor stores, and an almost uniform group of suspicious looking characters in black hoodies that wait on every corner underneath a flickering streetlight. This could appropriately be called the dark side, an adjacent city separated by a large river and connected only by a heavily guarded bridge with barb-wired fences. This is the city of lawlessness, it’s full of criminals and hustlers, and it’s a constant reminder to those who live in harmony across the waters that they have the potential to be ostracized and sent to the city of suffering if they decide to let their good-natured behavior dissipate. It’s this isolated environment that subconsciously inclines the subject to follow the rules, and to be obedient. Otherwise, lose what they cherish. That when the subjects are eventually cast out into the world, it gives them this inherent predisposition to not break the law and to do what is right.
After you’ve isolated the subject and created an atmosphere that’s conducive to our purpose and that you can dictate, it’s imperative that the subsequent step is meditation. Meditation is vital to ensuring successful materialization of the hero due to one of the key concepts in meditation. You must become unified with your environment. In meditation you’re taught to transcend the concept of self and to see your surroundings as only an extension. What this does for the subject is two things. One, it allows the subject to create his/her own reality. No matter how dangerous or downright disturbing the environment is that the subject is put in, within their own mind they can create the atmosphere of their choice. This will not only prevent fear from consuming the subject in these harsh conditions, but it will hinder the influence the new environment has on him/her. The second ability this gives the subject is the manifestation of a benevolent psyche. This comes to fruition with the assumption that if you’re truly one with your surroundings then hurting another living thing would essentially be masochism. Coupled with this is the subject’s new disdain towards all types of malignant infliction upon another living soul. Thus, it is from my summation of these theoretical practices that meditation is key to creating the innocuous psyche that despises hostile behavior.
Once we’ve created this harmless and loving attitude it’s important that the third step creates a need to actively search for opportunities of heroism within their minds. We must condition the mind to imagine performing heroic acts; but how? You do this through integrating crime into the community by intermittently releasing criminals from across the river into this peaceful sanctuary. Doing so in small increments will provide just enough action to keep the subjects on edge and forcing them to think of scenarios in their heads. By constantly thinking of potential situations you are more likely to react when a situation occurs.
Following into the fourth step, it is imperative that the subjects create a desire in doing good deeds, that it becomes so ingrained that a heroic act will be more mechanic than conscious. We do this by utilizing B.F Skinner’s operant conditioning theory and rewarding the subjects with public extolment when they respond appropriately to any given situation. Newspaper, television, even town forums will speak of the subjects heroic actions thus profoundly multiplying his/her likelihood of performing Medal of Honor feats. The more someone is praised for doing a good deed, the more they are likely to do it; a very simple concept indeed.
The fifth and final step is applying all that the subject has learned, subliminally of course. This step is most important, because despite all of those steps, it is human nature to rationalize and foreshadow potential consequences. So, the question still exists; how can we apply the preceding steps and prevent rationalization from hindering the subjects heroic capability? They must be sent off to work with an organization devoted to providing social justice in the field. Putting the subject in a position where he might confront a sex trafficker holding women, or stand up to an oppressive leader. These situations will train the subject to act on what is right instead of weighing the consequences, which are often great in number. This manifests within the subject a value of ethics above fear of the potential ramifications as well as applied practice of the previous steps.
Overall these steps are intended to disprove any notion that a hero has a predisposed personality. Through isolation you can influence them how you choose. Meditation creates a love for all living things. Creating an active mind makes the subject more likely to respond to a situation. Conditioning him/her to be brave with positive reinforcement makes them want to respond. Possibly the most important step, applying everything they’ve learned helps them to value what’s right above the apparent risks involved. Under the right circumstances you can cultivate heroism. Perhaps inside everyone is a hero and a villain, but your situation determines what is awakened, if anything at all.