Archive for the ‘Anger’ Category

A Bad New Twist to Self-Fulfilling Prophecies?

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

In my career, I’ve written so much about self-fulfilling Prophecies, SFP’s. That’s the idea that what you believe will happen, you will create by the subtle non-verbal messages you send out to create your future. Visitors to this Website have always been fascinated by the positive aspects of this concept, and the potential for its use to create good things.
Well, a number of my colleagues, knowing how much I’ve taught and written about the subject, have suggested I discuss a current phenomenon they call the “Self-Deceiving Prophecy!” Since it’s directly related to the content of my new book (Surviving Human Venom which comes out this month), I felt it was time I faced the question.

Self-Deceiving Prophecies occur when you believe the worst about others and your own future, and then act in ways that make them come to pass. Current news stories and this current election appear to be full of examples of this. I admit that having just finished a book on the venom humans can spew at their worst has made me sensitive to such examples. But the mundane but malicious evil that I call “human venom” seems to be turning into an epidemic. Unreasoning hatred of others appears to be an epidemic!
Let me give you an example of this phenomenon. Last week I walked into a local store. I said a cheery hello to the clerk (let’s call her “Corky,” a pseudonym to save the real person embarrassment.) I’d had many friendly conversations with her before, mostly about our favorite movies and the difficulties of life in a rural area.

But something was different this time. Her radio was tuned to a station whose announcer was sounded loud and angry. I couldn’t even make out the subject of his rant, but when I suggested that she turn that station off, an amazing thing happened. My friendly neighborhood shopkeeper started yelling something about a presidential candidate lying. I smilingly and non-committedly said I wasn’t sure I trusted anyone politician.
Whereupon “Corky” started yelling that documents had been forged, the candidate wasn’t even a citizen, and how could he be allowed to run for office! The extreme statements were of such an intense hostility that I couldn’t resist asking her where she had gleaned this information. She furiously informed me that if I read the blogs and emails, I’d know the facts too. I suggested that chatting on the Web did not always yield reliable information, and asked for her sources.

At which point she turned on me, indicating that my very calmness proved I was the Enemy! She yelled at me, “Well, at least I’m not a Socialist! I work for a living!” Confused, I pointed out that I did too, as she well knew. Furthermore, I had never been a registered member of any Socialist Party, so I had no idea why she had turned on me so suddenly.

Remember, so far, I had not even made a statement for or against either presidential candidate. My worst crime appears to have been that I was calm when she thought I should have been angry. Under the watchful eye of a seemingly just-as-confused young customer, I dropped the few items I intended to pick up and fled the store. Out in the parking lot, I found I was still shaking from the intensity of the hostile verbal assault.

I had the oddest feeling that even if I walked back into the store waving the American flag, I still wouldn’t know what to say to her to get us back to friendly conversation or to be safe from further attack. She knew that two of my three sons had spent years with the Army in Iraq. (In fact, one of those sons is career military.) Two of my sons appear to be supporting one candidate, one was leaning towards the other candidate, and I was still making up my mind. So what was all that anger about?

I’m still afraid to go back into that store, and I’m pretty sure that “Corky” retains ideas and stereotypes of me that just aren’t true. But where did they come from?

Back to speaking of American democracy and reasoned debate. (Well, we were talking about presidential elections, weren’t we?) I realize that something has changed over the sixty years I’ve been alive. I thought that political campaigns were a time for gathering accurate information and having serious discussions, then making a choice while realizing that no one can predict with 100% accuracy what crisis will occur and what any human being will do when faced with that crisis and a gaggle of other politicians who all have different opinions on what should be done.

But I didn’t think that democracy meant that if I said I like strawberry ice cream while you preferred pistachio, that it might result in your picking up a chair and bashing me over the head while screaming insults. Is that what our society is coming to? Are we headed for Nazi Germany and the overnight stereotyping and vilification of anyone who disagrees with you? Is what a Self-Deceiving Prophecy leads to?

Is history in danger of repeating itself? Has it become okay to label a person different and then make them a criminal and a scapegoat? Remember, we’re talking about vilification NOT based on evidence but on assumptions!

It makes me glad I took a break from writing timely articles during this election season. I’m not sure I would have been prepared for the mindless stereotyping and vicious vilification that is everywhere! As my new book describes, I’ve been dealing with a county-level version of this maliciousness for the last four years. We’re all in serious trouble if human venom has become a terminal infection!

P.S. And for those of you who are interested, the only practical result of the incident I described above was to convince me that I could never vote for a candidate who inspired such mindless anger and hatred in his supporters!

Saying No to Authority Figures

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Do you have a problem dealing with authority?

Do you dread talking to your doctor? Do you jump when someone speaks in a loud voice? Do you break into a cold sweat when a police officer pulls you over? If the IRS called you on the phone, would you faint on the spot?

It’s amazing how quickly we react to people in a position of authority. Childhood memories of being scolded by our parents leap into our mind. Suddenly we’re afraid we’ve been caught breaking into the cookie jar, and instant panic sets in. We don’t even stop to consider our needs or priorities. We just take the path of least resistance, and kick ourselves afterward.

If you’re one of those people who can’t argue with the utility company, fight an undeserved ticket, or ask your boss for a raise, take heart! You can learn to speak up for yourself.

First, you have to mentally adjust your image of yourself. Then, you have to re-evaluate your perception of other people’s power. Finally, you have to practice. These aren’t easy steps, but you’ll be doing yourself a big favor if you try them.

First of all, you have to stop thinking of yourself as a victim. Authority figures only have power if you give it to them. You are paying for the services of doctors and lawyers. You have the right to ask questions about their advice. You are part of the company your boss is working for. You have a right to discuss policy that affects you, like your salary.

Police officers are there to support you and your community. If they make a mistake, you can discuss it without putting either yourself or them down. Even big utility companies and the Internal Revenue Service can only exist with your agreement to pay for the services they provide. (And if you feel that you’re not getting enough in return for your taxes, remember an election year is right around the corner!)

You are a very important person. Other people don’t have power over you. They are trying to accomplish something, and if their priorities conflict with yours, negotiation is in order, not capitulation. If you do run into a person with an insatiable need to control others, they have a problem. Bypass them and go straight to a saner, more rational adult with whom you can talk.

Finally, you have to practice actually saying the words of resistance. Practice at home in front of a mirror, or ask a friend to act like the person you are afraid of while you practice. Use your imagination to pretend you are in the situation you dread. Practice until the words come naturally. It’s okay to be a little tense when you try coping with the real situation. But each time you try, you’re practicing a skill that can change your whole view of yourself. It’s well worth the effort!

Remember, you’re a valuable person. Don’t be a victim and don’t give your authority away. Respect the other person’s job, but don’t treat them like your parent. You’re not a kid anymore.