“An Open Mind”
In the pursuit of truth, an open mind is essential. When one acknowledges that all conclusions are tentative, one grows better able to challenge one’s opinions with a more thoughtful consideration of the possible validity of new information.
Many cultural indoctrinations, however, encourage close-minded acceptance of the day’s dogma. Complacency may set in, and the paradigms through which one tries to understand the world are outmoded by deeper insight, to the distress of those clinging to old certainties.
It is important to be active in breaking this tendency. It does one no good to be set in one’s ways, and one may have a more positive effect on the world by remaining open to new perspectives. To quote George Bernard Shaw, “Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
A being must be willing to perhaps let go of the conclusions of the past in order to adopt more informed perspectives in the present and steer more mindfully towards a better future.
“The Process of Consciousness”
The uniquely evident phenomenon we call “consciousness” might be unique to the complex neurological processes of larger-brained mammals such as primates, porpoises, and pachyderms, though the more instinctive lives of less neurologically complex species may give warrant to inclusive consideration in this brief essay on the subject. Are they conscious? one may wonder. I deduce that many, most, or even all are, for it is evident that neurological processes generate it.
More specifically, the mind appears to be a field of electrical activity produced by the complex structures of a creature’s brain. This seemingly probable hypothesis is evidenced by a range of scientific tests showing how different aspects of consciousness are correlated with various neural activity. One may question whether it is the neurotransmitters, released and reactive only in the many small and isolated synapses of the brain, or the electrons moving along the axons and dendrites connecting the brain’s neurons, which creates what might be envisioned as the fluid field we call “consciousness”.
I would point out how quickly electrons move compared to large molecules, how electrons have been shown to exist as a diffuse field themselves, and how long the journeys of electrons are in the brain, compared with those of neurotransmitters. The amount of activity required to create a conscious field would seem to me to be higher, rather than lower, and so I conclude that it is likely the electrons which create the phenomena we experience in our conscious lives.
So what are the component processes of consciousness? What universal spectrums of sensation define the many differences which make each soul unique? Along that line, if sentience is appropriate to species, what inter- and intra-species difference in realities might there be? How may we describe reality’s foundation – the “shape” of sense and awareness – to help ourselves to consider what one’s full attention may be? Each creature’s unique configuration of nerve endings and receptor cells (interpreted in the mind) supports a unique sense of body and surroundings. Dispositions of focus further shape this full-body sense into the basic foundation-reality of one’s experience.
One unconsciously processes this raw data into understandings affected by mood, expectation, and what may be aptly labeled “Recognition and Regard” (Use, Meaning, and Danger). Whom and what one cares about, turns understandings into emotions, or “action-energies”, and these feelings may linger in fixation, if unresolved, to affect one’s longer-term mood – which in turn affects further understandings, thus completing the existential cycle. Cognizance of this process may empower one’s volition to transcend unconscious automation and provide a map with which to navigate mental matters more wisely.
Thought itself is cued via dominant neural associative process from current or recently queued thought and the processed senses. Mild reference-hallucinations, such as concepts, memories, and hypothetical scenarios, naturally enrich the syntaxic connectivity of one’s logical train of thought, which works in tandem with the guidance of emotions invariably suggesting their own rationality, in memory of the causal understandings and cares.
One feels these emotions on three basic continuums, which boil down to Peace-Fear, Love-Anger, and Joy-Sadness – six emotional extremes which combine variously to build all other familiar emotional states. Each of these emotional opposites also lies on a spectrum with the Comedy-Tragedy dichotomy, which is created by the success or failure to meet one’s goals of hedonism or greater conscience.
From this understanding of the psyche, it seems that the mind operates quite logically, given its understandings and cares, which suggests fated determinism, rather than free will, to be the case for us. Yet free will seems quite self-evident. I would submit, however, that, while one may feel free-willed, one cannot escape the mind’s logical process, even through attempts at logic-less spontaneity.
That one may witness his or her being’s process and identify highly with its thoughts, cares, and emotions, compels me to submit, however, that the answer to this age-old question is that one’s reality is both free-willed and deterministic – that, while the syntaxic connectivity of the mind may run on cause and effect, we are the consciousnesses of such logical processes, and that is no minor point.
“Addiction in Perspective”
Life offers us many choices – some healthy, some not. The activities which we engage in enrich us with life experience and personal meaning, and it is these rewards which compel us to make habits of our behaviors, for better or worse. Our attempts to create well-being (through our words and actions) train us to pursue certain hobbies, and I submit that it is important to recognize when those hobbies are working for or against our values and goals.
In this spirit, please consider who, I submit, almost all of us are – naturally social souls attuned to a harmony which, for many, no longer exists. In the absence of such healthy relationships, one feels a deep sense of dissatisfaction, as this harmony is essential for the most souls’ well-being. As a result, many become fixated on addictive mirages of happiness (like money, drugs, and power) – illusions which some elements in society tragically present as central to a happy life.
While these fixations may grant temporary satisfaction or relief from a nagging desire, it is my experience that only social harmony is adequate to grant meaningful well-being, a finding which I hope is shared by my audience. In the process of shedding the dysfunctional fixations of addiction, one must re-focus one’s priorities, confronting dysfunctional urges with mindfulness of the tragic nature of unhealthy habits and what natural alternative is attainable and sustainable for our souls.
“The Significance of Emotion”
Our cares add meaning to our thoughts, generating our emotions, giving our lives the significance which makes them matter ethically and to each soul whose will is compelled by every feeling’s useful energy, described below:
The Acceptance Emotions
- Peace – Promoting harmony with a calm emotional climate
- Love – Promoting harmony with a caring emotional climate
- Joy – Promoting harmony with a cheerful emotional climate
The Non-Acceptance Emotions
- Fear – Resolving conflict by avoidance
- Anger – Resolving conflict by confrontation
- Sadness – Resolving conflict by appeal to compassion
Sense of self may be, in part, the ground from which thoughts and actions emerge. Crucially, if one is called names by those one respects, those names tend to “stick” to some degree, reinforcing the notion of a fluid, ever-changing self as static and unchanging in ways. Indeed, it goes deeper – simply internalizing another’s directed demeanor, be it tone of voice, facial expression, or body language, sends the suggestible mind a powerful message of projected esteem, which can be insidious in affecting one’s self-concept.
A soul may, of course, attempt to maintain his or her identity by insulating against hurtful relationships, thereby protecting one’s self-respect from erosion and shift, but a certain nagging doubt may remain with a person for some time. One may find oneself wondering, unacknowledged beneath a mood of insecurity: Am I good enough? A basic acknowledgment that we are so suggestible to the social content of our lives – even when it’s not directed at us – may come easily to many, given how deeply aware we are that we learn constantly throughout our uniquely growing and ultimately self-defining lives.
Yet we tend to think of ourselves as the same people through our lives’ many lessons. But is that really as rational as it feels? I challenge you to think of your earliest memories and consider how different you are today. Consider your unique path of growth through life’s many interests, hobbies, and relationships. Are you not a different incarnation of person now and at every point of time throughout your life? All that endures is change, to quote Heraclitus, despite our instinctive impressions on the matter, and much of this change comes from our interactions with others.
The implications of this are ENORMOUS. Every person in a position of authority has significant power, for better or for worse, to affect real people. In the home, school, workplace, military, prison, or treatment center, we are all suggestible to some degree. It is for this reason that I advise authorities to consider well, just how they think of – and therefore treat – their subordinates of such obvious plasticity. It is my assertion therefore that such labels as “bad”, “criminal”, and “addict” have no place in our civil discourse, despite what the status quo may think of the matter. As many studies show, people change everyday and leave such labels behind.
“Functional Neurolectics: Healthy Ways to Engage the World”
The substance of a soul’s emotion, speech, and action may “add up” to indicate a range of concern and a manner of engagement with the world which I term a “Neurolectic”.
This theoretical model of the human soul offers potential insight to those of us who are attempting to better understand ourselves and others in our life. It also offers wisdom to those of us who seek a more grounded, effective presence through which to engage our world.
In this brief exposition, we will be examining three archetypal neurolectics which I feel are functional for the average soul in today’s world. We will be delving into the functional neurolectics of The Hero, The Healer, and The Humorist, the essence and relevance of which will be explained in the coming pages.
Whether you are seeking to mature your own neurolectic or simply familiarize yourself with the utility of the concepts contained within this text, its perspectives have been laid out for easy digestion. Perhaps you will find these ideas useful; that is certainly the author’s hope.
The Hero is a model of conscientious integrity. Its neurolectic is the epitome of moral ascension, through which an individual selflessly risks his or her comfort and safety for the sake of someone else.
Dignity – The Hero must begin from a place of inner dignity and respect the basic dignity of everyone (s)he meets. From a place of such dignity, a morally upright philosophy emerges, and a heroic presence is enabled.
Grace – The Hero must have grace enough to choose his or her battles in life and fight those battles with fluid efficacy. By existing in a state of grace, The Hero under-reacts to life’s stressors and gains the natural charisma of the graceful.
Honor – The Hero must be of honorable intent – ready to help another in any way (s)he can. With honor, The Hero roots his or her basic motivation in conscientious selflessness. This is a necessary foundation for a life which is effectively devoted to the cause of Greater Good.
Courage – The Hero must actually function in order to do good in the world. Yet life can be scary, even for heroes. To have courage is to act despite one’s fears, and this is the essence of The Hero’s strength. The Hero must rise above the fear to find the strength and focus necessary to make a positive impact on the world.
The Healer is a being who does good in the world by helping others to help themselves, with the guidance of experience and with faith that others are capable of discovering and implementing solutions to their own problems – that The Healer’s role is subtle and supportive, not pushy and presumptive. Insight is innate, and many simply need a good sounding board to grow into their higher selves and make the vital journey to the enlightenments they need to move ahead.
Caring – The Healer must, first and foremost, care. With caring comes the drive to help. By seeing others as worthy of our esteem, we wish to help them to unravel their problems.
Wisdom – The Healer, like anybody, has a wealth of life experience to draw upon as (s)he tries to deal effectively with life. In a healing context, one’s digestions of life struggles are essential to one’s attempts to relate with another soul’s distress and offer perspectives which might serve as the seeds of effective solutions.
Balance – The Healer must consider issues in balance to avoid the tendency to be myopic in his or her assessments. It is balanced to consider that there may be many valid points of view and unique facets of process in play.
Deference – The Healer does not know what it is like to be another person, of course. One tries to aid in another’s self-discovery, but that being’s personal growth is ultimately up to him or her to direct and digest. By staying mindful of this, The Healer places the reins of healing in the hands of the healed, enabling the empowerment of (s)he who seeks to resolve issues and grow into a better version of his or her unique self.
The Humorist serves an important function – to bring levity to his or her world. When humor is at play, stresses melt away, and life is felt as comedy. It falls upon us, then, to train ourselves in the ways of humor, so that we may better cope with life and teach others to do the same.
Irony – The Humorist knows intuitively that speaking in playful irony is how one may help to brighten moods and encourage laughter. So irony is presented, and the sense of such irony as ridiculous surprises us with the tension-sublimation of a laugh.
Silliness – The Humorist is intentionally silly in his or her approach to dialogue, entertaining thoughts beyond the stuffiness of dry exchanges on serious matters. Silliness seeks to make light of the moment, in the interest of greater joy and warmer bonds in life.
Insight – The Humorist utilizes insight to highlight issues. The focus of one’s insight is the subject of the joke, and the joke serves to illuminate the point of the insight in a novel way. With insight, humor gains vital relevance and piques receptive individuals’ interest.
Absurdity – The Humorist senses absurdity in his or her prospective communications, turning phrases out of basic contradictions, to inspire a comic high. It is the absurdity of irony which makes it funny, the absurdity of silliness which makes us laugh, and the absurdity of insight which creates a working joke. In humor, absurdity is key.
“The Ethics of Humor”
Humor (the absurd) delights in laughter’s bright appreciation. Wrong is ..right, in humor’s sight, where dissonance rings free in seizure’s joy, without a care that wrong is wrong, not somehow right, that tragedy’s not comedy, in truth, that happiness in horror contradicts the conscience and addicts the soul to inverse ethic, thus eroding one’s integrity of basic social care.
Yet, this is not to say that humor must ride others’ pain; absurdity exists in many forms besides the bad, like simple, self-effacing silliness or serendipitous surprise, sublime as stress-resolving boon upon the mood that makes one feel so bubbly, open, and more confidently free. Is there a better way to be? Joy for the greater good, wellness, harmony all seem socially so right to me, our humors multiplying synergistically – the basic ethical success of mindfulness in comedy.
“Levels of Care”
In the interest of a deeper understanding of what personal values one may possess, this essay explores some useful categories with which one’s conscience may be described. I organize these pathologies of basic motivation into what I term Levels of Care, which are as follows:
- Level 0 (Nihilism) is a complete lack of care – a personally and socially destructive and dangerous point of view for any to carry through life.
- Level 1 (Hedonism) cares only for oneself, for just the pleasure one may glean from life, heedless of another being’s possible resulting pain.
- Level 2 (Tribalism) looks out for the good of a select in-group, in short-sighted concerns of love and/or pragmatism.
- Level 3 (Moralism) cares for the well-beings of all good and moral, genuinely caring souls, whether or not they are known to the moralist.
- Level 4 (Universalism) identifies a basic worth in all beings and sees all suffering as tragic, rejecting the paradigm of hatred, even for evil.
One’s conscience may be described by more than one of the Levels, of course, and nuanced variations abound. This exploration is intended as fuel for the generation of personal insight and social empathy, yet may fall short as definitive.
“Cycles of Conscience”
One learns in life to either care for the end of pain and suffering or, perhaps, to celebrate it sadistically or masochistically, depending on one’s upbringing and life context. The development of conscience – which I posit as the foundation and core of one’s veryperson – is the expansion of caring, past cares for self, to greater social inclusion, expanding with one’s humanizing perspective on others’ heart of intent.
Being care-free, on the other hand, is a possible gateway to moral apathy – a route to, and a root of, psychopathic psychology. Yet one whose conscience is well-developed may safely handle moderate-to-high levels of care-free living, returning from apathy to caring maturity with or without the guilt of one who recognizes that he or she stopped caring for a time, perhaps unconsciously and in need of some selfish “me” time.
This cycle of guilt may repeat, perhaps until one can find long-term success as a prosocial being and live care-free, guilt-free, returning to intensive caring only as life ethically compels. This planet of constant, obvious suffering could certainly compel one, however, to caringly search for – and work toward – solutions to its ills habitually, as a matter of conscience… and, while this may be a tough path to follow in the short term, the world may well be better for it, if you are genuine and competent in your care.
We all have basic freedom of thought, speech, and action, though with this freedom come consequences for others as well as those imposed upon us by the world in which we participate. Acceptance of this reality is a basic acknowledgement of responsibility for one’s states of mind and the resulting expressions of self.
Yet, are all people this mature? No, so we have law. Law is a system of balancing what may be called “Freedom From” and “Freedom To.” “The freedom to extend your fist,” one may say, “ends where my freedom from violence begins.” This expresses the basic social contract of Mutual Nonviolence, which intuitively keeps the peace among we good souls who are driven by a natural desire for peace, love, and harmony, rather than these states’ opposites – excitement, contempt, and horror – vices from which violence may arise.
So, other than a soul’s healthy drive for peace, love, and harmony, what reason is there to care about one’s fellow man? Can one understand the fundamental logic of morality at a deeper level and mature accordingly? Consider the following: One is not alone in life, but coexists with other souls. This is ethically significant, in that it is not only oneself who matters, but others, as well, whose perspectives make sense to them, just as mine makes sense to me, compelling our respective actions in comparable ways, with universal emotions, or “action energies,” which one cannot easily avoid experiencing.
Does moral criticism truly walk in others’ shoes enough to see the inescapable process of one’s consciousness and forgive it as such? Consider this a seed for true awareness of our common humanity – an attempt to establish the validity of the notion of Universal Worth, which may be seen to increase through one’s caring and suffering, yet, conversely, cannot be extinguished. Perhaps Mahatma Gandhi understood this “universal worth” when he taught his followers to “hate the sin yet love the sinner”. One feels the tragedy of evil but keeps the love which one may learn to see as morally right, from a certain ethical perspective.
Of course, evil must be dealt with, for the closure of those affected, as well as for the prevention of future crime. Without ethical consideration for the presumed criminal, however, further tragedy is enacted in the form of the suffering of the wayward soul whom society so prevalently demonizes. Clearly, a balance must be struck between resolute righteousness and caring compassion, as well as between the societal efficacy of law and one’s ideals of forgiveness and empathy for even the selfish and violent.
For those who may not be so open-hearted and accepting in their views of those whose hearts lack basic human warmth, I acknowledge that such views are arguably just as valid as those I advocate earlier in this essay. A being in pain, however, is a horror to be concerned about as an ethical being, I feel, despite that being’s sins.
“The Problem of Evil”
Those who derive pleasure from the pain of other beings – from those seen as virtuous or weak especially – lack the basic caring which guards one from the disregard which results in others’ pain.
Of course, it is ethical to attempt to restrict this behavior – through effective socialization, as well as some rational legal framework for dealing with the problem of evil in the most balanced possible way.
In this spirit of balance, I ask: How ethical is it to cage such wayward souls in isolation or with other selfish, violent individuals? Are they deserving of indefinite suffering, simply for an inability to care, or a rage too deep to heal?
Might it not be a more judicious and compassionate course of action, for the greatest and the common good, to euthanize those who elude inductions of conscience – who’d only cause further suffering or suffer for lack of the opportunity to do so?
The ethical equations for which we struggle to find solutions in this life mandate consideration of what would truly end up for the best – which we may learn to better reason, implement, and rethink in our philosophies and the resulting societal policies.
“The Moral Renaissance”
Beyond divine mandates and The Things We Know Are Wrong, are Real Emotions, the balance of needs, and the concept of mutual nonviolence. Those who subscribe to commandments and/or laws as their moral compass may not like this attempt to ground morality in basic precepts of ethically sensible action that nonviolent and prosocial people use and act on intuitively. I write for those who are progressive enough to acknowledge that all actions have a complex ripple and psychology which is easy to inaccurately categorize with quick judgments, and so it seems to make the most sense to cultivate a modicum of considered regard for complex moral issues and those on the other side of the fence.
Of course, rules make functional sense for a stable society. Laws and commandments aim to promote mutually functional social structure by deterring violations of the social code of acceptable behavior. It is morally disturbing, however, that they may inappropriately lump nonviolent assertions of personal autonomy (as in illegal drug use), with forms of violence and manipulation – which may be partially exonerated themselves, as expressions of compelling situational thought-emotion-behavior “channels”. Once one understands what one calls “evil,” it’s psychology becomes somewhat identifiable, if obviously tragic and dysfunctional; and by relinquishing our anger, we are able to think of solutions – like empathy induction, violence aversion, and social efficacy therapies.
These therapies might best be instituted with deference and grace, to avoid polarizing tough egos with pushy manipulation and the insinuation of superiority… but here’s my “take” on the process: Empathy Induction builds on our natural curiosities of understanding and the innate contagiousness of emotion, to teach intuitive perspective-switching and empathetic regard; Violence Aversion uses victim role-taking and perception of tragedy to make forms of violence aversive to one’s evolving conscience; and Social Efficacy therapies teach the caring and wisdom which one needs for a sustained ethical-and-effective life past rehabilitation, by inviting the student to value positive, genuine interactions and “shaping” one’s temperament from habitual hot-headedness or cold-bloodedness, to a resilient warmth and respect for every person’s basic worth.
But this predisposes that the dysfunctional soul can grow to like and care about people. Many have cynical views of current culture and those “taken” by it. Yet, don’t we grow to care about those we like, whom we admire or identify with? Is redemption a matter of seeing others’ endearing psychology, with an understanding that selfish people are either very self-endeared (from a life of suffering?) or are overlooking or rationalizing their behavioral “ripple”? It leads me to wonder… does understanding have transformative power for those who have stopped caring? Can healthy empathy for any formative hurts of the psychopathic help to turn such lives around? One can only hope for and work toward positive, prosocial change; but it’s no guarantee, I can see, and execution is always an option.
So what is the foundation of a balanced personal ethic? I exist within my selfish zone of comfort, with selfless consideration for others’ perspectives and emotions. I want everyone to be happy, and I act in intuitive accordance with this goal. It’s not a perfect system, but my personal and social awareness evolves as I learn about myself and my life’s impact, and what else can a caring person do? Spend one’s free time contemplating what The Greater Good may be?
Let’s try. To start, everyone has a different degree of moral worth, which starts as basic worth, which we all possess, perhaps, and is enhanced by how much one cares and how much one suffers. I define worth as the amount of pleasure which one ethically deserves. One who has suffered and cared deeply for most of his or her life, for instance, ethically deserves more happiness than one who victimizes others habitually, for self-gratification. Many religions honor this logic with belief in some ultimate justice for the good and bad, such as Karma or Heaven-and- @#!*% .
Perhaps, in the interest of understanding the calculation of greater good, we might entertain the following concept: every being has emotions, needs, and potential contributions. One wants the net emotions in the system to be as positive as is possible, and the needs and contributions must balance, factoring in that many needs can be met with little direct contribution – synergistically or by pursuing one’s intellectual interests, for example.
We modify this equation with consideration of each being’s worth, of course. It would seem, at least to me, to be ethical, if perhaps impossible, to enact as law, the complex considerations of this formula, with or without consideration of worth. A certain degree of cognizance of this might well lead to a more balanced ethic for those who must make critical social judgment calls (authority figures especially), provided that they are of healthy conscience and would use such wisdom.
A conscientious being, of course, just wants the world to be right, its people caring, happy, and experientially enriched. Yet, the existential imperative is not only to help foster happiness for the receptive, but, along the same lines, to help eliminate suffering, which is fear, anger, sadness, or some combination of these three fundamental pains.
A being must learn to effectively cope with the hurt from which these forms of dissonance emerge, and this may (for all that I know) necessitate a life phase of suffering, the lessons and experience of which one may unavoidably need, to learn to self-soothe and to grow to maturity as an ethical and effective being – ethical, in that others’ suffering reminds a person of his or her own life sufferings and therefore leads one to identify with those in pain and care about it; effective, in that one grows maturely tolerant of minor aggression and forgiving of its sources in one’s life and in the world at large, a vital attribute in many life situations in which even balanced assertiveness is ineffective, so apathetic are powerful victimizers in this day and age. The hierarchical structure of “civilized” societies, as opposed to more egalitarian lifestyles, may encourage such abuses, which I attempt to analyze to the point of curing, in the following three-part essay “Causes and Cures of Violence”.
“Causes and Cures of Violence”
Cause 1: Domination-Thrill
Cures: The induction of selfless consequence-consideration is vital for the timely extinction of this essentially evil thought, emotion, and behavior (“That is a real person, with real emotions, who really matters,” one might say). Yet, how much personal progress is really to be expected and believed as something other than manipulation of the authority vested with the power to judge and impose punishment or grant leniency? Time would tell, of course, as might a forensic psychological evaluation.
It is my experience, however, that both untrained and professional judges alike are quite capable of believing in ironic misunderstandings and holding fast to those misimpressions in possible attempts to preserve safety, certainty, ego, reputation, political stability and/or employment. Of course, that may merely be the author’s own misimpression, but it seems to me to stand to reason in the light of my extensive experience both as a judge of character and as one who has been so often judged. May the scientific method, in the hands of the insightful, bear out greater truth for the socially inexperienced or misguided to use as a foundation for life’s required empathy and rational compassion. Along this line, it is my hope that antisocial children and young adults be accurately diagnosed and effectively corrected before they have much of a chance to hurt the rest of us.
I cite the methods described in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the preceding essay – “The Moral Renaissance” – as outlines for progress in this field of urgently needed reform – the field of “corrections”, which I have experienced as highly abusive and sorely lacking in insightful treatment. We are all only human, however. Perhaps this work of corrections-theory might one day inspire needed reforms. One hopes and works to influence a shift in the interest of the common good, which is somewhat obviously the primary purpose of this collection of creative efforts – to do some good with this life, a likely aspiration of the truly reformed as well.
For those who are unwilling or unable to learn to care about the ethicality of an act or state of mind, I am compelled to submit that the execution of psychopaths who are hopelessly resistant to positive, prosocial change, is perhaps only significantly unethical if torturous methods are used in their executions. Death itself is on par with deep sleep, in my view, as an ethically neutral eventuality which is simply, in these cases, the permanent cessation of an evil form of consciousness – unless there is life after death, in which case… who knows? Of course, this logic may be of little consolation to the condemned psychopath’s family and friends or to conscientious objectors.
I would note that resources are limited on planet Earth and submit that, while all may have a basic level of worth, we as a people can choose to set a reasonable standard for a being to live up to – which is simply to live in accord with basic ethical truths – like that one is not alone in life, and others matter too. Perhaps this world would be a safer and happier place to live on were laws created in cognition of this ethical logic and true psychopaths not supported by the community, state, country, and world which they terrorize.
Cause 2: Defensive Anger
Cures: Having grace in the face of aggression enables a stable and able response. So we under-react, with tolerant tact, or assert that we’re hurt and are not without worth. There’s a better way than the bitter way; expressing concerns without getting stern is one way which one may harm only that which afflicts harmony, keeping eyes on the prize – greater peace’s new leases on life, waiting there in the care breaking walls down for all who are growing the knowing we need as the seed for such unity in our community’s strife-solving, evolving life.
One who has pacifistic leanings has a certain level of grace – refraining from quick judgment, giving others the benefit of the doubt, consciously avoiding speech which would likely escalate a conflict, and perhaps practicing a “love the sinner, hate the sin” approach to others’ transgressions. One may only have so much of this grace, however, past which may lie a volatile zone of panic and/or rage (depending on one’s level of confidence – think “fight-or-flight”)
Of course, greater success lies in never losing your calm, cool, and collected state of mind, even in highly stressful or dangerous situations (when serenity may be most vital). Make a commitment to nonviolence and conflict avoidance, and your life may be more amply blest with love and joy, the natural fruits of peace and harmony.
Exceptions may, of course, be valid, as in cases of actual, physical self-defense or physically intervening in an altercation as a third party. The assumption which I have made in writing this section of the essay, is that passivity and balanced assertiveness are the best solutions for most conflict situations which one is likely to encounter. Some people, however, are apathetic in their aggression and may see passivity or assertiveness as a weakness to exploit, or they may view any anger toward them as a high offence to be dealt with, with violence. In these cases, one may need to protect oneself, run away (perhaps to seek help), or attempt to de-escalate the conflict with active deference for one’s opponent.
Cause 3: Corporal Punishment
Cures: Consider – broken spirits, rebellious streaks, immature internalizations of authoritarian logic (as in bullying), necessary lying, the silent treatment, undermined relationships, cynical world views, fixation on fear/anger/sadness, naive egos becoming the authority’s cynical projection…
The cure for the violence of corporal punishment may be as simple as an education of its ill effects as well as of the easy alternative – lessons of ethic. Of course, the authority must learn, him– or herself, before he or she may be able to teach another. Consider the following insights, which I offer in the hope of providing some perspective:
- Fundamental Autonomy – We are all logical-emotional beings, with unique perspectives, valid within our respective understandings of self and life context. That every being has the fundamental, autonomous right to his or her own perspective, emotions, and nonviolent volition, is my primary supposition. Asserting one’s autonomous rights in the face of control, while respecting the autonomies of others, is one hallmark of a self-respecting and conscientious individual. Of course, authorities may impose restrictions on one’s autonomy, a violation of rights which one hopes is both necessary and accompanied by effective therapies of moral education.
- Perspective Taking – Learning to accurately see all sides in a conflict amounts to social growth and is conducive to habitual consideration. Punishment and reward distract from any empathetic understanding of the complexity of events and may induce self-centeredness, teaching one to consider the consequences of actions for oneself, rather than for the others whom one may, in life, affect.
- Emotional Climate – People, young and old, are both empathetic and reactive – intuitively social beings, autism and psychopathy notwithstanding. Helping to set a positive tone alleviates stress and conflict, while modeling gregarious etiquette and resilience to negativity. An attitude of caring warmth can work wonders, as well, in my experience, for a struggling authority, helping to foster high regard and fellowship all around.
- Vice Resolution – Simple, willed repression of an aspect of the self may temporarily extinguish its expression, yet does nothing to evolve it to enlightened resolution, so the mind will lapse in mindfulness in time, and it will re-emerge inevitably – an old friend you’ve forgotten to avoid or even why. When you accept yourself as good and valid, you may then consider, from pragmatic points of view, the basic issues of importance in the balance they deserve.
- Soft Power is the influence one has over others through one’s personable charisma.
- Hard Power is the influence one has over others through violence and intimidation.
- Conditioning affects one’s sense of consequences through the behavioral associations of reward and punishment.
- Conformity affects one’s sense of consequences through fear of rejection, playing on one’s desire to belong.
- Conscience affects one’s sense of consequences through a basic caring for those one holds in high esteem.
- Shame is about what others think of you.
- Guilt is about how you feel about you.
- Self-Doubt converts Shame to Guilt.
- Self-Assurance fights Shame and Guilt.
Child: Ow! Fine! I refuse to participate in your culture of violence, pending your ethical conversion to nonviolence and respect for my soul’s basic worth. I will continue to judge your expressions of ethic.
Parent: What? It is for your own good!
Child: No, it gives me guilt and anger. Guilt added to anger creates evil. Don’t you see? When you feel like you’re a bad person, and you want to hurt people, you’re evil. What are you trying to do?
Parent: You did something wrong!
Child: Mistakes are to be learned from, with appropriate guidance. That you don’t trust my intent indicates that you have fundamental mistrust, a dark and dysfunctional view of human nature. Please stop projecting that onto me.
Parent: People are evil – they need to be held accountable for their actions, you idiot!
Child: A personal attack – that is not ethical behavior in a logical debate. To counter your error of reasoning, I submit that reward and punishment create that kind of person, through their focus on consequences for oneself.
Parent: What are you even talking about? I’m giving you up for adoption!
Child: It’s for the best. I need to spread my enlightenment so that the future leaders of the world may find their ethical ground.
Parent: Fine – whatever!
Child: I’d say that it’s been nice knowing you, but… you’re mean.
“The Power Trap”
Callous hearts shouldn’t hold power, but power callouses hearts. Permission to pull rank enables judgmental coldness to emerge. Superior status inflates the ego, and “lessers” are less respected. Relationships are lost to the perception of one’s harder heart. This may be inevitable – authority tempts a stalwart disregard.
One must learn to see every soul as valid in a most basic sense. With consideration of one’s story, thoughts and cares gain context. In understanding, empathy dissolves one’s rank and ego. Without the role of power, one returns to softer heart. Humanity is thus restored, and a cautionary tale is born. Softer hearts that know of power know that it’s a tragic trap.
“Authority: A Last Resort”
When an authority “pulls rank”, individuals who are treated as subordinates may feel fear, anger, and sadness. Any mutually respectful relationship then becomes stymied as the authority’s power role becomes prominent. This may ensure that further aggression is provoked by both sides of the relationship.
Is this social dynamic healthy and functional for either the authority or the subordinate? I submit that it is not. Negative impressions and emotions destroy our potential for positive interaction, and life loses its meaning for those whose hearts thrive on social harmony.
So what is the alternative? Is there an effortless solution which works for all? There is. Simply maintaining your basic respect preserves the warm emotional climate. Simply explaining the difficult position that you are in compels empathy. Simply explaining the balance of needs serves to educate and enlist help in getting along.
Authoritarian – A strict approach which expresses aggressive control as in, “Do as I say or else!” The following are common reactions:
- Passive Response – It becomes hard to express or “find” oneself.
- Rebellion Response – Confidence snowballs in defensive righteousness.
- Conversion Response – A coercive approach to interactions is learned.
Permissive – A hands-off approach which basically says, “Do whatever you want – you’re free to make your own decisions in life.” Future behavior will then depend upon life’s many role models and one’s unique growth of personal values.
Love and Reason – A warm approach which teaches lessons in an calm and rational way, such as saying, “That is a real person, who really matters, same as you and me. Why don’t we all try to calm down and get along?”
“Authority vs. Leadership”
To rule with an iron fist is tyranny, despite the valid concerns of the enforcer. The attempt to stamp out evil through punishment, rather than helping to foster peace through a positive emotional climate, instills the emotional trappings of a dictatorship – fear, anger, and sadness.
True leadership is about setting a tone of caring and rationality which brings out the best in those within its sphere of influence. Focusing on the better natures of one’s subordinates, peers, and higher-ups, we speak and act from a respect which nips conflict in the bud. It’s simple. Try it, and witness the harmony which may naturally emerge.
“The Story of Sensible Sam”
Sensible Sam wanted to live a long and happy life. When good things were possible, Sam worked to make them happen. And when bad things like Danger threatened, he made sure to avoid them.
Sam was young, though, and didn’t know what all was dangerous in the world. He had to trust Mom and Dad to know and to teach him at the natural pace of life.
Sam was very curious to know their reasons, of course, and often asked “why” when Mom or Dad pointed out Danger. They often made him promise to avoid it, once they had explained just how it was so dangerous.
Once, Sam pain them no mind and started to do something Mom knew was Very Dangerous. He did not know it was so dangerous, but when Mom shouted his name in fear, one look from her frightened face let him know for sure that stopping was the wisest thing to do.
Mom hugged her child in relief. “We’re going to have a talk about this thing and staying safe. You have to trust me, Sam. I’ve been around for long enough to know.”
Sam trusted Mom and felt badly for scaring her. “I just want you to be safe,” Mom said with a kiss to her son’s forehead. Sam was happy to be safe and loved, and so were Mom and Dad.
Sensible Sam made sure to play it safer and safer with each lesson and trust in the wisdom which Mom and Dad taught and lived as an example of sensible living.
“The Path to Meaning”
(One’s cares for those whose moral worth one perceives)
(Conscientious goals which one may help to bring about)
(Fulfillment of one’s purpose, granting profound pleasure)