In the wake of recent tragedies here in the US and around the world, we are challenged with how to deal with our emotional responses. It is so easy to go directly to anger and even worse, hatred, for those who have perpetrated these horrendous acts of violence, but this only exacerbates the problem and engenders more of the same. We are left stunned, fearful, and ready to attack back, losing our important and powerful capacity for judgement and reasoning. Reacting with a full charge of emotion fueled by fear producing adrenaline, we most often make the wrong judgement and only pour more fuel into the already embroiled mass of emotion. But let’s stop for a moment and take our temperatures. How are you feeling? Are you sad, fearful, enraged, hopeless, confused? I was just wondering………………….
As I have explained in my book, Anger the Toxic Temptress: Understand It to Overcome It, anger acts as a defense mechanism. That is, anger blocks us from experiencing our true underlying feeling, a feeling of vulnerability. This is why it is so easy to go directly to anger in response to recent events. But it also means we are not actually dealing with our true feelings of vulnerability. It does not help to mask vulnerability with anger. It only ensures that the battle will continue.
But even more importantly, we are failing to understand that we are all interconnected, and that what hurts one of us hurts all. You may not be aware of this, or you may not view how this is directly happening to you or your loved ones, but let me help to make this clearer. Many years ago Ken Keyes, Jr. wrote about the hundredth monkey phenomena. While observing a Japanese monkey, scientists discovered that one monkey one day learned that washing a sweet potato removed the unpleasant tasting dirt. This new trick was taught from monkey to monkey across the island. But strangely enough, the same behavior began to be observed across the sea. Scientists came up with the “Hundreth Monkey” theory, that is, when a behavior reaches a certain critical number, that we collectively “get it,” almost as though the behavior is transmitted by ESP. This discovery lends credence to the concept that we are interconnected through some kind of force, or even more fascinating, that we are not only interconnected, but we are all a component of one large whole. Metaphorically speaking, once the big toe gets it, the new learning slowly travels throughout the entire body system. Think of each living creature as a part of the one, large, all-encompassing whole being, that we call by many names such as God, Buddha, Krishna, Allah, Great Spirit, Jehovah, Yahweh, or my own favorite, Order of the Universe. We are one collective consciousness. So, once one part of the body whole gets it, the rest eventually adapts to the new learning. This is critical to understand because we can then see that everything we do spills out into the universal being, that is everywhere throughout us. So it is so vital that right now we do not take the wrong path toward hate, anger, and revenge.
Another great example of this phenomena is the “butterfly effect,” coined by Edward Lorenz. This concepts states that a small change in one state can result in a large difference in a later state. Again, to simplify, Lorenz discovered that the flapping of wings of butterflies many weeks before a large hurricane system can influence the direction and force of that system. This phenomenon has also been known as the “ripple effect” or the “domino effect,” which also demonstrate how very small events spread out far beyond the area of initial impact. The implications of this are astounding. We come to realize that even the most seemingly insignificant action can have a staggering effect on future events.
We understand this phenomenon also in family systems therapies. Achieving change in only one person’s behavior will have a change effect on the entire system. Teaching someone to stop reacting, for instance, will often have the effect of eliminating the annoying behavior. It is a circular system. One change creates other changes. However, just as in the previous examples, the exact outcome cannot be predicted. However, we know that positive behavior generally elicits more positive behavior. Negative, angry, threatening behavior creates fear which results either in submission and withdrawal or in war.
I encourage everyone reading this to take a moment to take your emotional temperature. If you feel angry and hateful, I strongly urge you to connect to your underlying vulnerable behavior. Once you are there, then connect emotionally to the tragedy in all of this and make a promise that you will not add to the growing fury. Stay connected to the pain and try to find a way of understanding how we got here. Remember that great psychologist Carl Rogers said, “What is most personal is most general.” Think carefully with reason and good judgment, do you really want to hurt another part of the collective being of which we belong? Begin to understand that we are all one and that we must address this growing problem with an even temperament that does not cloud or judgment.
What is your emotional temperature? Can you connect with your vulnerability instead of hiding it with anger so that you can avoid reacting impulsively and dangerously? Can you remember that when you cause harm to another that it boomerangs back? Can you be a strong force so that we can collectively stop “shooting ourselves in our own hips?” I was just wondering……………………..