Knee-Jerk Actions – Micro-Aggression or Humor: A Choice!

Exclamation MarkLet me be clear, upfront, and personal; I am not here to tell you what to think, how to think when to think, or where to think.  I will not force my opinions and ideas upon you as the global corporate media does.  I will offer ideas and suggestions and how you proceed is your affair.  Your choices will determine your destiny.  I aim to aid you in understanding and viewing the world a little differently to improve your destination.

Action vs. Reaction

Action encapsulates intention, producing accomplishment from organized activity; action is a process of thinking, acting, and becoming.  Only in physics should we ever consider every action having an equal and opposite reaction.  Why; because for humans, any reaction gives control to someone else and removes intentional controls.  A reaction is all about response to stimulus, no thinking, no changing, no intent, no organized activity, and no recovery until we, the human agent, retake control of our action.Paradox

Easy example, consider the toddler throwing a fit.  The toddler is trying to obtain a reaction from the parents favorable to that toddler’s individual desires at that moment.  However, any good parent will not respond to the toddler’s demands and usually provide behavior correction to enforce the thought that the toddler cannot make demands.  To regain control over the stimulus provided, the toddler must correct behavior or will not gain control over the future individual actions without additional parental intervention, an undesirable activity.  Thus, early on, the toddler will realize actions do not bring reactions but decisive action by parental figures, which is generally not the desired outcome.

Action versus reaction is an essential principle with foundations in moral agency, individual agency, and long-term consequences.  However, if the parent reacts to every toddler fit, the toddler gains power over the parental figure, which is an undesirable activity for the parent.  Action versus reaction is not splitting philosophical hairs or linguistic nuance; action is an intention-producing accomplishment; the reaction is an intentionless activity where self-control has been given to others.Calvin & Hobbes - Irony Hurts

Victor Frankl, author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” and Robert Solomon, author of “Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice,” both speak to this action versus reaction principle in a manner easily grasped.  We, as individuals, might not be able to control our every environment nor control the activities of others upon us, but we can control our actions in response.  Retaining control of self, improving who and what we are, and keeping the power of intentional activity.

Knee-Jerk Reactions

The ‘knee-jerk response’ is any reaction that is done automatically, without thought.  The knee-jerk reflex is what’s known as a mono-synaptic response. The impulse only has to jump from one nerve to another once.  Thus, the medical definition for a social activity, a knee-jerk reaction, requires no cognitive thinking, no intention and is the worst form of response to the intentional stimulus of others.

Bait & Switch 2For example, Speaker Pelosi tore up President Trump’s State of the Union speech record on live, national TV as a knee-jerk response to the sitting US President.  Of all the US President’s Speaker Pelosi has experienced, her behavior to President Trump was the most toddler-like, and people quickly excused this behavior as “Trump-Derangement Syndrome (TDS).”  Thus, we can drop the “knee” in knee-jerk responses and describe the activity aptly as being a jerk.  No thought, not intentional activity (even though the action has intention, the brain does not register cognitive effort), and the reaction to the stimulus is mono-synaptic.

Micro-Aggression and Macro-Aggression

Micro-aggression, according to Webster, is “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”  What is missing in this definition; individual perspective.  Micro-aggression is a personal choice to take offense at “a comment or action that” is judged to be “subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally” expressing what is considered by person one to be “a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”

Social Justice WarriorMacro-aggression is the complete opposite and are “obvious, intentional, above-board insults, where there is no chance of a mistake on the part of the transgressor to be provoking, insulting, or otherwise discourteous.”  But, again, the definition does not include the fact that the person claiming another person’s activities are macro-aggressive is a personal choice, a judgment, and a socially powered decision.

Social Justice Warrior 2Micro- and macro-aggression are often claimed to be “triggered” by specific words, colors, foods, waters, fruits, and a host of other items.  Essentially using fear and envy to demand people act differently or the consequences are toddler-like fits and fussing, picketing, rioting, looting, e.g., acting like a terrorist.  Thus, micro- and macro- aggression is nothing but the toddler throwing a temper tantrum because they are not getting what they want at that moment.  While claiming their aggression is on behalf of someone else, and their acts of terrorism are excusable because the aggression was triggered by someone or something else.  This is like the eight-year-old older brother or sister throwing a fit that the toddler was punished and claiming they are behaving irrationally in support of the toddler’s tantrum.  How many parents will buy this logic; I do not!

Humor

cropped-laughing-owlLove them or hate them, comedians have changed since I was a kid sneaking peaks of comic relief on cable while washing dishes late into the night.  Comedians now carefully pick their materials based upon their perceptions of the audience.  Thus, we have classes of comedians, including “Shock Comedians,” who try to be as offensive as possible and still get laughs.  We have political comedians; some come down equally on both sides of the political aisle, others are as cemented to a political agenda as they can be and use their “comedy” as a tool to influence their audiences towards that political agenda.  We have a host of comedians dedicated to helping people laugh and others who see themselves as able to influence, regardless of consequences.

I am not providing marketing to any comedian by giving examples of the statements made above.  You can certainly use a search engine to find these examples for yourself if interested.  You might even be able to think of several instances from history, especially recent history, that fit into the descriptions provided.  As I said in the beginning, you remain empowered to think as you prefer.

Bobblehead DollMy point is that humor, like every other emotion, can be a tool to build or a tool to destroy, and the choice of build or destroy rests in the user, but the consequences rest in the hands of the audience.  Consider this for a moment, how fast would a “Shock” comedian change their tune if the swearing, foul and degrading language, and behaviors manifested on stage did not get a single laugh, or worse, resulted in people standing up and walking out?  Some would change quickly, others it might take a little more pushing, but the result would be the same, a changed comedian.  Why; because capitalism works!

The comedian is the greatest example of capitalism at work in the world.  People will pay money for entertainment, but if the entertainer insults, denigrates, and derides, that entertainer is history and is told to find a different line of work through capitalism.  The pattern of comedians can be witnessed and applied across the spectrum from politicians to judges, from businesses to non-profits, all because capitalism works.

Why?

Why this article; why now?  On Monday this week, I received an email talking about micro-aggression.  The author used greeting cards and their sayings as representations of trigger events for micro-aggression.  We have the US President (Fraudulent or Not) being hostile and aggressive towards unvaccinated people.  But unvaccinated people are not spreading the Delta-Variant COVID virus; vaccinated people are.  We have social unrest in Cuba, where nobody is taking notice because for too long, the social elite has said that Cuba, as a Marxist-Leninist country, is a good thing and cannot stand watching their lies become evident.

Knowledge Check!Like the disc-jockey’s of my youth said, “And the Hits just keep on coming!”  Pick a spot on the globe, and you will find problems, issues, and concerns driven by micro- and macro-aggressive people who refuse to understand the difference between action and reaction—leaving this article as an attempt to aid in making better decisions.  How you choose to respond to the day’s events informs the political leaders and social influencers if they are winning or losing.  Thus, choose better, knowing that the social influencers and political leaders want you to react, not act!  Hence, choose to act.  Choose to use your moral agency and individual agency as a tool to intentionally choose your following action in the process of becoming who you want to be and not what others want you to be for their selfish gain.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Fear – The COVID Tool

Bird of PreyThoreau is quoted as saying, “Nothing is so much to be feared as fear!”  From February 1918 through April 1920, the globe experienced an H1N1 viral infection, which came to be known as “The Spanish Flu.”  Stories abound regarding the Spanish Flu, how healthy people went to bed and woke up dead.  Stories abound about what governments did, how people reacted, and the science involved in this global panic.  The media during this period was not yet a mouthpiece for radicals and tyrants, and elected representatives and unelected representatives of government worked to stabilize their populations, care for the sick, bury the dead, and recover the financial losses.  Eventually, the world will experience the “Roaring 20s” because of the world leaders’ efforts to recover.

What changed in the century between the Spanish Flu and COVID-19; fear!  Fear has become a tradeable good, a tool for beating people, and a method of communicating lies and half-truths as the ultimate word in human communications.  Why was fear allowed to go from being disregarded into something that can control every population across the world, except for a small minority?Why

Fear Defined

From Psychology Today, we find this gem of information regarding fear.  “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger that has been pivotal throughout human evolution, but especially in ancient times when men and women regularly faced life-or-death situations.”  One of the many pathways to fear leads through the badlands of disgust as an emotional response.  Understand something; emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  How to emote correctly in that situation and environment is part of a survival trait and popularity tool to connect to other people (Solomon, 2003).

Social Aspects and Mental Connections

Matthew D. Lieberman (2013) authored “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect.”  This book discusses how and why people connect and also disconnect.  The following quote from philosopher Jeremy Bentham discusses the biggest issue in connecting as social beings, “Pain and pleasure … govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think.”  With the brain wired, hard-wired from birth, towards a lust for pleasure, and avoidance of pain, the third aspect of hard-wired encoding is being social.  We need each other to completely experience pleasure and avoid pain.

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceHowever, it is also clear that emotions are a choice, a cognitive, conscious, and clear-cut choice.  We learn to read social situations as children, and these early experiences teach us about proper emotions in social situations.  Since our emotions are a social construct and choice, the connections to society, pleasure, and pain become our reality if we allow emotions to rule our minds, which is also a choice, with social influences and a judgment for basic survival.  Fear, especially as it applies to COVID-19 and other viral infections, we must understand our brains’ hard-wired coding and social aspects, plus the emotional decisions we consciously make.  If we fail to understand these connections, we miss how every person was manipulated and propagandized into a method of thinking and acting during a viral infection with a 99% survival rate and why COVID reactions were one way, and every other viral outbreak elicited the exact opposite response.

There is an entire branch of science dedicated to studying these connections and responses called social-cognitive neuroscience.  I am barely scratching the surface of these topics to provide the COVID response explanation, and I encourage further research if you doubt or would like more information.  I am not a social-cognitive neuroscientist, simply an industrial and organizational psychologist who works to understand the why in human interactions.Apathy

Lieberman (2013) points out some interesting aspects of fear; in the top ten lists of fears, three categories emerge, fear of physical harm and death (including emotional and mental harm), the death or loss of loved ones, and public speaking.  The hard-wiring of reward and fear, pain and pleasure, and our need to connect are physically exhibited through oxytocin release and the septal regions of the brain.  fMRI’s have reflected this physical connection and hard-wiring in every person’s brain.  When oxytocin is administered, humans show favoritism towards liked groups and strangers but increased hostility towards disliked groups — making the connections to fear being a product of disgust.

Daniel Kahneman (2011) authored “Thinking Fast and Slow.”  In discussing how the brain works, Kahneman (2011) introduces intuitive heuristics.  A heuristic or heuristic technique is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational but is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, short-term goal or approximation.  Intuitive heuristics is problem-solving using intuition.  In the US Military, we called these “WAGs” or “Wild-Arsed Guesses.”Plato 2

In reviewing the literature on the social dynamics of Spanish Flu and COVID-19, we find two main concerns.  The early stages of both health crises show leaders acting with intuitive heuristics, trying to solve the problem, e.g., avoiding pain, through educated guesses and flat-out WAGs.  The second dynamic is the social fear spread by, influenced with, and spurred to new heights by corporate media and politics.  We all remember how Dr. Fauci was first for and then vehemently against hydroxychloroquine, even though Dr. Fauci’s research had reflected the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine since the 1990s against viral SAR-Cov (coronaviruses) viral infections.

Where we are today – Nowhere Good!

VaccineIsrael announced they are planning to re-enter restrictions for wearing a mask inside your home as a government mandate due to a COVID-19 mutation called “Delta.”  The vaccine news continues to discuss whether or not the original vaccine developed will be effective against the new mutations of the coronavirus or if a booster vaccine will be required.  We have a causal relationship between giving children and teenagers the vaccine and a rare heart disease.  There are still doctors worldwide reading Dr. Fauci’s research and trying to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and being thrown in jail or facing ridicule and loss of license to practice medicine.  Worse, we still have doctors who recommend doing nothing if exposed to COVID until you cannot breathe, taking the lackadaisical approach to practicing medicine.

Emtional Investment CycleAll of these stories have a similar root cause, fear!  The politicians fear losing their job, so they overreact.  The media stirs up fear in a populace, for scared people are easier to keep emotionally distracted than logically thinking; hence fear sells advertising, and the media knows how to sell advertising.  Fear drives irrational purchases, like packing your garage full of toilet paper and bottled water.  Fear drives avoidance and acceptance of freedom stealing government mandates.

Question 3Fear drove a recent business interaction, where a person hard of hearing had removed their mask to lip-read during a conversation.  The business leader demanded they both put their masks back on per “company policy.”  Only later was the hearing impairment made known to the business leader.  What has been the company response, investing in transparent and expensive masks.  Fear driving irrational business decisions based upon fear of risks rather than proactive methods for conducting business.

One of the most problematic aspects of COVID has been accepting fear as a valid reason to take action, report your neighbors, and make wrongheaded business decisions.  When COVID-Hysteria finally concludes, how foolish will people feel for blindly following instead of logically thinking and acting?  Worse, what will the fallout be from being made to feel foolish?  Long-term, does the feeling of foolishness and fear change how people listen and follow government mandates in the future?  What laws will change social interactions and societal morals due to the fallout from COVID?

Knowledge Check!Honest questions, to which the answers must be sought and explored before the media decides the populace is too stupid to think for themselves, and they force solutions onto the politicians through shoddy statistical lies.  America and every representative government globally, we the owners of our governments, need to become more proactive before we wake up one morning, and freedom has been lost, rights trampled, and liberty was stolen for the power of politicians and the media.  Not fear-mongering.  Just a concerned citizen looking for answers.

References

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Lieberman, M. D. (2013). Social: Why our brains are wired to connect. NY: Oxford University Press, USA.

Solomon, R. C. (2007). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice. Oxford University Press.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: School Thy Feelings

Calvin & Hobbes - Irony HurtsI know what you’re thinking, not another article on controlling emotions and feelings – well, yes.  However, I wanted to approach this subject from a different tack.  I discuss this topic so often because of the dearth witnessed in choosing proper emotional responses or not choosing an emotional response to the improvement of the environmental conditions in a situation.  Across the globe, we find daily, even hourly, instances where emotional diatribes are ruling common sense, destroying logic, and creating hordes of emotionally charged people hell-bent on destroying.  If I can help just one person understand this cycle of emotional abuse and then choose to correct their behavior, even if that person is only me, I consider these articles successful

Emtional Investment CycleToday’s title comes from Charles W. Penrose (n.d.), who penned the following poem, which has been set to music; the poem is based upon Proverbs 16:32, “One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and one whose temper is controlled than one who captures a city.”

School Thy Feelings

School thy feelings, O my brother,
Train thy warm, impulsive soul,
Do not its emotions smother,
But let wisdom’s voice control.
School thy feelings, there is power
In the cool, collected mind;
Passion shatters reason’s tower,
Makes the clearest vision blind.

School thy feelings; condemnation_
Never pass on friend or foe,
Tho’ the tide of accusation
Like a flood of truth may flow
Hear defense before deciding,
And a ray of light may gleam,
Showing thee what filth is hiding
Underneath the shallow stream.

Should affliction’s acrid vial
Burst o’er thy unsheltered head,
School thy feelings to the trial,
Half its bitterness hath fled
Art thou falsely, basely slandered?
Does the world begin to frown?
Gauge thy wrath by wisdom’s standard;
Keep thy rising anger down.

Rest thyself on this assurance:
Time’s a friend to innocense,
And the patient, calm endurance
Wins respect and aids defense.
Noblest minds have finest feelings,
Quiv’ring strings a breath can move,
And the Gospel’s sweet revealings,
Tune them with the key of love.

Hearts so sensitively molded,
Strongly fortified should be,
Train’d to firmness and enfolded
In a calm tranquility.
Wound not willfully another;
Conquer haste with reason’s might;
School thy feelings, sister, brother,
Train them in the path of right.

Knowledge Check!Consider with me these words for a moment.  Controlling emotion is hard, I understand completely.  However, how often do we try to control emotion?  I have been driving, stuck in restricted traffic, and becoming a raving lunatic through choice because of how someone else drove.  My feelings caused them no harm but embarrassed me.  I witnessed road rage, where a 30-car pileup at 45 mph was narrowly avoided.  These two gentlemen would speed up, get around the other, then brake check, hindering and hampering the smooth flow of traffic due to selfish emotional choices.

Besides traffic, where else do we frequently witness unchecked emotional interactions?  Politics, the news, sports arenas, the supermarket, but worst of all is social media, and especially in the emotional controls social media companies exert upon those wishing to use the service.  Consider LinkedIn, they have policies in place to police thought, and curb conversation between professionals, solely because another person complained.  Facebook banned President Trump, using false pretenses and sophistry when the reality is that the media giant always wanted to exert control and thwart free and open communication.Foghorn Leghorn - Medication

Speaking of President Trump, what about the behaviors excused under the banner, “Trump Derangement Syndrome?”  The behaviors of these adults, acting worse than a spoiled toddler, was beyond deplorable, detestable, and needed public shaming.  Instead, their behavior got excused, tolerated, and America is worse for having emotional behavior justified in this manner.

Semper GumbyAs a kid, if my parents did not like another child’s behavior, I was refused the opportunity to play with that child for fear the child’s emotional behaviors would rub off on me, and I would begin to act like a nincompoop!  Yet, as an adult, I can witness rampant emotionally charged conduct, and I have to tolerate nonsense due to helicopter parents, political choices, and the media; I think not!  I firmly support Robert Solomon’s claim that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social construct.  In supporting this line of reasoning, I affirm I am not perfect in choosing better emotions, choosing the proper emotion, or even judging social situations properly to emote at all.  However, now that I have been made aware, I am actively striving to emote less and know the why behind my emotions to empower better decision-making down the road.

There is a piece of golden advice given to commanders in the military, choose when to become angry as a method of commanding performance improvement.  I had a commander who understood this principle well and many an officer who had no clue.  I met non-commissioned officers who understood this principle well and others who had been promoted above their level of incompetence, who chose not to understand the value of controlling emotional outbursts.  I have worked with managers across America in a myriad of positions who could learn this lesson, and I have met some amazing people who know this lesson all too well and apply it perfectly.Plato 2

Consider well the words from Charles Penrose, and believe you can choose to emote or not to emote, when to emote, where, and how to emote, as tools for improving communication, performance in yourself and others, and in making better decisions.  Runaway emotions hinder, not help, performance.  Emotional hyperbole thwarts and hurts everyone, everything, and everywhere it is found.  How embarrassing to you is it when you witness emotional meltdowns?  Be it a toddler, teenager, or adult; the sight is truly embarrassing when emotions run away.

Image - Eagle & FlagThus, on this Memorial Weekend, let us firmly recommit to living life with more controlled emotions where we are choosing our emotional states more precisely.  Selecting our emotions more carefully and allowing the emotions of others to have less hold upon our minds and bodies.  As I continue to make strides in not allowing myself to be hooked into other people’s emotions, I do not lose anything, and the control gained improves how I feel mentally and physically.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

NO MORE BS: Indifference

Sympathy v Empathy v ApathyMilitary commanders are taught there are two great sins in planning operations; one is waiting, and predictability and the other is indifference.  Today, business leaders are instructed well by academics about the problems with waiting to make a decision, failing to act, and the costs of blown opportunities from taking too long to make a decision.  But few have ever considered the costs of indifference.  I intend to close this gap in education, using some recent examples and some history to reflect why indifference is a corrosive acid on the souls of men.

Indifference

Indifference is all about a lack of interest, not having or showing concern, and refusing sympathy.  Webster has also referred to indifference as unimportant.  When discussing the sympathetic aspects of indifference, please remember, sympathy is part of the emotions of ruination.  Many people continue to become lost in showing empathy and sympathy when choosing not to emote or become involved in the feelings of others is a better course of action.  Lacking sympathy might not be a terrible thing in a particular circumstance and does not reflect indifference.

What is the distinction between choosing not to emote and indifference?

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceLet’s take Robert Solomon’s position that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and a social event. Indifference is not distinguishable from other emotions and remains a choice, a judgment, or a social event.  Except one is not left trying to distinguish between indifference as emotion and indifference as lacking interest or caring.  More to the point, if indifference was simply an emotion to choose, then indifference is apathy, and apathy is another emotion on the path to ruination.

Hence, there must be more to the concept of indifference to make the separation between indifference as emotion and indifference as an action.  Let us pause here for a moment mentally and keep one principle firmly in mind, indifference, or the activities that reflect indifference, are a choice, a decision, and judgment about the social situation.  Choices have natural consequences that cannot be escaped.  The consequences of choosing indifference cannot always be controlled or directly understood as lines of congruence from the choice of indifference to the consequences of indifference.  These principles remain valid for all emotional choices expressed by humans.  Worse, the valuation of the consequences can vary wildly from person to person, creating additional consequences that snowball into major social events quickly.

Emtional Investment CycleSolomon makes a classic point in tying indifference to defensive mechanisms used in choosing emotional interactions for social situations.  Indifference can reflect envy, resentment, hate, disdain, and the “opposite” of these emotions: love and respect—indifference embodying the individual’s psyche through emotional choices.  When angry, frustrated, or time-pressured, how many times has the words “I don’t care” slipped out as the position when at another time the decision would not have been indifferent?  Is the defensive aspect clear?

Please note, when using the term opposite, I am trying to be easily understood.  The problem when discussing emotions is that there are no clear-cut opposites to emotions.  For example, the opposite of light is dark; but light shades include darkness to set emotional states or moods.  Opposite always depends upon the context, e.g., the social situation of human interactions.  Another aspect of emotions is the transformation from one to another, the speed of transformation, and the social context forcing a change.  Thus, making distinctions between emotions remains ambiguous and always will depend upon context and the social environment.Apathy

Finally, please remember that positive and negative are valuations of consequences, not emotional choices.  The emotional choice will have consequences, and the social situation, the judgment, and the choice will be reflected in the consequences experienced.  The emotion itself cannot be judged without the consequences, and the valuation of the consequences is deeply personal.  Hence trying to characterize an emotion is simpleminded and detrimental to all aspects of emotional valuation.  The emotion cannot be evaluated or valued, but the consequences from that emotional choice must be considered and given value.  Does this make sense?

People seeking to control social situations employ emotional sophistry to plasticize the emotion and the consequence into weapons to force those they select to either come closer or move further away.  Where indifference is concerned, the aspects of defense remain the most influential aspect of emotional choices leading to action.  The cost and constraint of emotion are all found in the consequences of that emotional choice and social environment.  Defense mechanisms work to protect, but as the axiom goes, a good defense is supported by a good offense.  The best defensive drivers drive offensively and defensively, balancing the offense and defense to protect themselves, as a continuous string of decisions while driving.Plato 3

I realize this was a long explanation, but understanding the consequences of choosing to emote, choosing to be indifferent as a defensive position, and employing other emotions in social environments to judge others, are all connected emotionally speaking.  Remaining interconnected and the failure to describe these relationships does not produce the understanding for evaluating the situations around us properly.  Let me be clear, the difference between choosing to emote and indifference is the defensive aspect of indifference when applied to a social situation.

Indifference in Action

Consider the teenager who, when given a choice, screams, “I don’t care.”  When they calm down, who will care a great deal but are stuck inside their choice and consequence cycle because they chose to defend when they needed a different emotional response to a particular situation?  My wife, when we got married, discussed how to decorate the home.  I decided that the home looks and the decorations making a house a home were beyond my purview, realizing I have no taste in furnishings and am happy with bare essentials.  This decision has aggravated and grated on my wife for our entire marriage (20+ years), but I refuse to budge.Plato 2

I am not indifferent to what the house looks like, but I have no interest in the minutia of decorations and decorating.  Hence, my simplicity is not indifference, as my wife has judged, but a recognition that there are more important aspects to life than choosing colors and styles of curtains, where furniture goes, or how to light a room.  My consequence has been that sometimes I might not like her ideas but live with them due to the consequences of my choice to stay out of decorating decisions entirely.  I have also had to move furniture I did not particularly like because she prefers a style and shape.  My decision has also led to a host of other consequences.  Since I refuse to budge on helping to decorate, I remain indifferent to how the house looks and push all credit onto her while accepting the blame for anything out of place or undesired in her home.

WhyPublic examples of indifference abound; one of the most obvious was the Beer Summit.  President Obama’s indifference to police officers during the Henry Louis Gates arrest debacle in July 2009 reflected poorly in a socially political aspect for all his faults and all his other decisions.  Thus the “Beer Summit” was held to improve the appearances of indifference towards police by the sitting US President.  Except, the “Beer Summit” was as empty as the calories of the beer consumed for the next time a police controversy arose, the sitting US President went out of his way to blame police before all the facts were known.  Leading to the question, what is President Obama defending by showing indifference to police officers?

Another aspect of indifference has been the Federal Response to individual states legalizing cannabis, a trend that took off under President Obama.  The executive in charge, the sitting US President, reflected indifference towards states broadening the “state-approved legal” use of cannabis.  Was the sitting president indifferent due to a defensive position due to his history of drug use?  Are the stories true that President Obama smoked cannabis in the White House?  Is there a connection between indifference showed by the US President and the rise of states legalizing cannabis?

Question 3President Trump was criticized for caring too much about war zones and problems outside the United States, while the infrastructure crumbled and the poor suffered.  President Obama was criticized for his refusals to enforce “Red Lines” being crossed with impunity and where internationally illegal weapons of mass destruction were employed.  Which one was a reflection of indifference?  Why?  I am not getting into political discussions here; the topic is indifference, and recognizing indifference and the consequence from indifferent actions remains crucial to improving decision-making.  Both presidents inherited situations where American Troops were in harm’s way, and these troop conditions rightly took priority in decision-making short and long-term.  Yet, which president was indifferent?  Why?  Does indifference change solely because of political leanings?  Why?

President Biden was criticized for being indifferent to National Guard Troops sleeping in parking garages during his ascension and confirmation as US President in January and February 2021.  When the political appearances could no longer be sidestepped, token measures were taken to improve troop comforts.  What is President Biden defending where US Troops in the US Capitol are concerned?

Knowledge Check!Indifference surrounds us in every social situation, every day.  Do we understand the role indifference is currently playing in obstructing development, hampering growth, and destroying lives?  Since Feb. 2020, the globe has witnessed governments running away with stealing freedoms and liberties from the citizenry, issuing mandates and restrictions without due process, all because of a “health emergency.”  The indifference to science by the politicians stealing liberty has been deafening.  The indifference to the citizenry and the judiciary has also been deafening.  To fight indifference, we must first understand what we are witnessing and then address that indifference at the source.  We must realize our own indifference and determine why before we can begin to understand the larger applications of indifference and force change.

Reference

Solomon, R. C. (2007). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice [Kindle 6]. Buy your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Not-Passions-Slave-Emotions-Passionate/dp/0195179781

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

For Those Confused: The Emotional Intelligence Farce!

Logo 3A colleague and I were recently discussing how emotional intelligence has taken over as a phrase with power but lacking definition, clarity, organization, and foundational logic.  Included below is my answer to my colleague and some thoughts on avoiding the constant maelstrom of business jargon passed around as useful tools for management.

In the world of business today, many people remain confused by current ‘buzz words,’ ‘jargon,’ and flat out misnomers fulfilling Rand’s description of “mental disintegration” (Locke, 2005, p. 430).  One of the most popular ‘buzz words’ in today’s business environment is ‘Emotional Intelligence (EI).’  Which in itself is both a misnomer and a confusion generator, where even professional researchers cannot pin down a definitive definition of ‘EI.’  Many of the descriptions about EI dwell upon variables that cannot be controlled by an individual, namely, the emotions of those people surrounding the problem.  The definitions purport the claim that a prediction of other people’s emotional reactions can occur through knowing one’s own emotional responses.

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceMany of the explanations for EI support the claim that improved leadership occurs as a result of conquering one’s emotional decisions.  Several of the definitions go so far as to promote that improved emotional control mitigates problems.  Concluding that if everyone were trained in emotional understanding, the world would be more productive.  What all of these definitions have in common is the assertion that emotions can be chosen (Solomon, 2003).  All the while castigating, Solomon (2003) who insisted that emotions are a choice, a judgment, and connected to social variables based upon historical interactions.  What is missing is the value of choosing emotions as a logical process in evaluating the problem socially and the consequences of acting emotionally when logic would be preferred.

Locke (2005) reported the continuing shift of researchers developing a new definitive definition for the same biological process of emotionally reviewing a problem, analyzing the variables, making decisions based upon the data discovered, and calling this emotional intelligence.  Thus, the question arises, what does emotional intelligence mean?  More specifically, can EI be measured and quantified without a definitive definition?  Finally, is emotional intelligence even worth studying, or learning, when, as a misnomer, the biological process of intelligence works best without emotion to clutter the mental landscape required to consider variables and make decisions rationally in a social context like employment situations?

ToolsHence the conclusion that emotional intelligence is a misnomer and the process currently labeled as ‘emotional intelligence’ is nothing more than intelligence being confused with emotions (Antonakis, Ashkanasy, & Dasborough 2005; Locke, 2005).  Antonakis, et al. (2009) and Locke (2005), both of whom supported the claim that emotional intelligence is a confusion of intelligence with emotions that creates chaos when applied together, supports the conclusion that emotional intelligence does not work as a concept. Thus, in employees’ identity transformation, using any emotional intelligence model remains wasted time and energy for the business leader already stretched thin on resources.

Breaking down the term emotional intelligence is key to understanding why Locke (2005) aptly calls emotional intelligence a misnomer. Emotion is a choice an individual makes as a response to social situations, their relationship to the environment, and a conscious decision for a response, as Solomon (2003) detailed.  The author described the mental and emotional choice relationship extensively, and Solomon (2003) is highly recommended for the business leader to read and understand. Smollan and Parry (2011) enhanced the emotion as a choice discussion in elaborating upon followers’ emotional responses to leaders in change management.  Inherent to the research of Smollan and Parry (2011) is that emotions do not affect intelligence.

Empathy v ApathyLewis (2000) and Van Kleef, Homan, Beersma, and van Knippenberg (2010) completed research where emotions of a negative type were selected and employed, then measuring the motivation and influence upon the team members were measured.  The study reflects similar conclusions and supports Solomon’s (2003) position that emotions are a choice and that emotional inclusion in a situation does not influence the intelligence of those involved, even though the followers’ emotional decisions are recognized as pieces to the social environment and relationship in small teams.  Neither Lewis (2000) or Van Kleef, et al. (2010) investigated the social connections between follower’s emotional response choices and the emotions in the situation, even though social interactions do influence emotional choices (Solomon, 2003).

Before discussing intelligence, Yalom (1980) adds a key variable to the discussion of the transformation of identity and small group development, individual agency, or the power of an agent to choose cognizantly, their response to external and internal stimuli, and environments. Boler (1968), regarded as the seminal authority on the understanding and application of agency, concluded that agency is a concept, and the need for people to have choices free of external influences and agency’s motivational power without control to spur production to greater heights. When people feel their choices are honored, that person, acting as an agent, will work harder to reflect their desires to be of worth to another entity.  Essentially, when I, as a leader, provide members of teams the ability to choose, they work harder and smarter as an extension of their agentic choices.  Naturally, they will decide that which empowers them and the team, and the team builds cohesion faster, all because of individual agency, not emotional intelligence mine or theirs.  Thus, the second part of this discussion becomes apparent; there is no need for an emotional intelligence model or emotional intelligence competency in the identity transformation process when agents are provided the ability to choose, without undue influence, the direction they individually want to travel.

Emotional OutburstAccording to APA.org (2018), intelligence is nothing other than the functioning of the intellect an individual possesses.  APA.org (2018) discusses how to compete more effectively through proper sleep, diet, education, etc., in intelligent functions; apparently, feeding the brain improves how the brain functions, thus increasing intelligence opportunities and competitive skills against others on an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) standardized test.  Locke (2005) explored the intelligence side of the misnomer emotional intelligence, further supporting that an individual’s intelligence, even if focused just on emotional responses, cannot and should not measure the intelligence of the individuals involved in a situation.  Finally, Joseph (2016) imported that understanding the leader-member exchange (LMX) and working to improve the LMX remains more important than being, whatever definition is currently accepted for, emotionally intelligent.

Thus, I conclude that agency in employment situations is more critical to building team member identities than a false claim of emotional intelligence.  That emotional intelligence remains not just a misnomer, but a complete fallacy is supported by research.  Even if all a person currently knows is their emotional choices as they respond to environmental stimuli, their potential to learn and become more intelligent remains independent of their individual emotional choices.  Locke (2005) mentioned the final reason for emotional intelligence being a misnomer, echoed by Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2004) among many others, emotional intelligence remains defined by each individual researcher, and the power to influence emotional intelligence remains in the popularity of the researchers, not sound science.  Hence, it would behoove every leader to flush emotional intelligence as a current business “buzz word” from their vocabulary and return to describing emotions as a choice separate from an individuals’ intelligence potential.

Plastic Words (The Tyranny of a Modular Language)Poerksen (1995) argued that plastic words provide no strengths within any field of endeavor, only weakness in word application, weakness in logic, and produce weaknesses in the audience to think and reason.  Poerksen (1995) analogized the plasticity of words as “Legos,” a building block system designed to thwart the audience’s intellect, instead of building the audience to understanding.  Poerksen (1995) remains adamant that stopping the practice of plasticizing words is not pessimistic or optimistic, merely a need to transmit messages of context and content, not flavor-of-the-month plastic words and phrases.  Words have meanings, and these meanings need to be grounded in a foundation of accepted definitions.  Thus, the researcher who would succeed should focus on employing words properly.  Finally, it should be realized that intelligence has morphed into one of those plastic words that everyone knows, no one can define, and every researcher, and practitioner, will plasticize for their own benefit.  A working definition of intelligence that I prefer is “The ability to acquire and use knowledge and skills, to continue learning and growing; through the manipulation of the environments surrounding the seeker of intelligence;” while not scientifically supported, this is my definition as based upon fundamental research.  The problem is that many researchers will have a different definition, and more practitioners even more definitions; hence the example of plastic words is demonstrated (QED), and the futility of emotional intelligence debunked.

How should a business leader avoid the maelstrom of buzz words, jargon, and popular beliefs?  The business leader wanting to avoid the vortex would first never stop learning.  Read a book.  Read peer-reviewed articles and decide upon their veracity by watching the effect on people, as individuals in your organization.  Engage in a debate with loyal oppositionists.  One of the best leaders I know has the most violent debates in the boardroom.  But, his team of C-Level leaders are friends, they are tight socially, and they all possess confidence and independence to act.  One would think the opposite was true, but in debating ideas, the team has grown to trust the others’ logic in which they work. This trust is communicated down through the business organization and is reflected in motivated employees of all levels and responsibilities.

Leadership CartoonEmotional Intelligence will die as a concept when the researcher’s and practitioner’s social popularity begins to subside.  What will not disappear is the continued use of plastic words to describe, detail, stretch, contort, and deceive people.  Hence, the third suggestion to avoid calamity brought about by jargon unleashed is to recognize plastic words, and if in doubt, refer to the first suggestion, read a book!

References

Antonakis, J., Ashkanasy, N. M., & Dasborough, M. T. (2009). Does leadership need emotional intelligence? The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 247-261. doi: 10.1016/j.leaqua.2009.01.006

APA.org. (2018). Psychology topics: Intelligence. Retrieved April 16, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/topics/intelligence/index.aspx

Boler, J. (1968). Agency. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 29(2), 165-181. doi: 10.2307/2105850.

Daus, C. S., & Ashkanasy, N. M. (2005). The case for the ability-based model of emotional intelligence in organizational behavior. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26(4), 453-466. doi:10.1002/job.321

Joseph, T. (2016). Developing the leader-follower relationship: Perceptions of leaders and followers. Journal of Leadership, Accountability and Ethics, 13(1), 132.

Lewis, K. M. (2000). When leaders display emotion: How followers respond to negative emotional expression of male and female leaders. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 21(2), 221-234. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1099-1379(200003)21:2<221::AID-JOB36>3.0.CO;2-0

Lievens, F., & Chan, D. (2017). Practical intelligence, emotional intelligence, and social intelligence. In Handbook of employee selection (pp. 342-364). Routledge.

Locke, E. A. (2005). Why emotional intelligence is an invalid concept. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 26, 425-431. doi: 10.1002/job.318

Mayer, J., Salovey, P., Caruso, D., & Sitarenios, G. (2003). Measuring emotional

intelligence with the MSCEIT™ v2.0. Emotion, 3(1), 95-105.

Poerksen, U. (1995). Plastic words: The tyranny of modular language (J. Mason, & D. Cayley, Trans.). University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press

Smollan, R., & Parry, K. (2011). Follower perceptions of the emotional intelligence of change leaders: A qualitative study. Leadership, 7(4), 435-462. doi: 10.1177/1742715011416890

Solomon, R. C. (2003). Not passion’s slave: Emotions and choice [Kindle 6.10 version].

Van Kleef, G. A., Homan, A. C., Beersma, B., &van Knippenberg, D. (2010). On angry leaders and agreeable followers: How leaders’ emotions and followers’ personalities shape motivation and team performance. Psychological Science, 21(12), 1827-1834

Yalom, I. D. (1980). Existential psychotherapy. Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d05e/ba9b468ea6cdfa15b882ff3ed0977369562c.

© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.

Apathy, Empathy, and Sympathy: The Emotions of Ruination

Of all the titles I have been branded as a professional, one that holds the most truth is that I am heartless.  I do not share your emotional choices; thus, to you, I am heartless, and I will not invest my time to dissuade you otherwise.  Emotional outbursts have somehow become popular, and it is my intent to reduce the amount of emotional blather found in the workplace, as an extension of real emotional intelligence.

Empathy v ApathyApathy is all about a lack of enthused concern.  Being apathetic is a choice to show no concern, emotional connection to an issue, or interest.  The choice to be apathetic is personal and does not indicate that a person is heartless; simply, that the person being apathetic is making different choices where emotion is concerned on a topic.

Empathy, of all the emotional pitfalls empathy, is the most devious of the emotional tools on this list.  Empathy is all about acting like you understand the emotions of another person, and you have a personal desire to share in those emotions.  Empathy is fake; empathy is a choice one exercises in an attempt to control a person or situation through emotion.  Being empathetic is a skill set learned as a manner of defense or, for the more nefarious, to control others.  Empathy is nothing more than faking concern, justifying the emoter’s emotional responses.

Sympathy is a process of coming to a common feeling.  The emotional pathway journeyed by people or groups, to feel the same sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.  Sympathy is the most dangerous of the emotional tools on this list, not for the one experiencing the sorrow or misfortune, but for those who jump in with the person feeling the sorrow or experiencing misfortune.  Understand, the sympathetic person attracts other sympathetic people, like moths to a flame, or lemmings to a cliff.

Sympathy v Empathy v ApathyHere is the problem with all three emotional tools above, they are emotional responses to external situations.  Jean-Paul Sartre is quoted thus:

For the idea which I have never ceased to develop is that in the end one is always responsible for what is made of one.  Even if one can do nothing else besides assume this responsibility.”

Robert Solomon made Sartre’s quote above more meaningful when a person considers that, “Emotions involve social narratives as well as physical responses, and an analysis of emotions is an account of our being-in-the-world.”  The freedom to “make of one” does not include showing no emotion, nor does it mean that one must partake of every emotional current that swirls and eddies around a person during a typical day.  Solomon continued by empathetically stating, and supporting that, “Emotions are not occurrences and do not happen to us… emotions are rational and purposive rather than irrational and disruptive, are very much like actions, and that we choose an emotion as we choose a course of action” [Emphasis mine].

Therein is the crux of the entire argument, the summum bonum (the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system) if you will where apathy, empathy, and sympathy are concerned; emotions are as easily selected.  Emotions are as purposefully chosen as the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and every other course of action undertaken.  Emotional selection is always cognitive, and represents a system of beliefs and personal desires, which includes appetites, hopes, expectations of reward, behavioral standard programming, and has as a core an object to emote about.

Girls ListeningConsider the announcement that someone’s cat has died.  What does society say one should do in this situation; take visual cues and match the emotions of the person whose cat died to the environmental situation, and respond in a similar manner.  Feel sad the cat died; why it was not your cat that died.  What if the owner is feeling relief because the cat had suffered from health or physical defects; do we still emote sadness?  What if the owner inherited the cat and is relieved they never have to clean the cat box again, step in wet hairballs, or take as much allergy medicine; do we emote sadness when the owner emotes joy?  Thus, one can more easily see, and understand that emotions are a choice, and empathy and sympathy are emotional traps.

Carrying the dead cat analogy one step further, what if the owner is only reporting their cat died to gain attention?  Emotional responses from others in the social environment feed the control this person now has over the group.  If the cat owner reporting a cat has died uses the situation to get out of mundane tasks, is this acceptable, warranted, or allowed; if so, the control through emotional responses is complete, and the behavior will repeat.  Hence the danger and deviousness of empathy and sympathy as emotional tools in social settings.  Solomon reports on this topic that the cognitive nature of emotions allows for pride to remain intact.  Thus, we conclude that emotions are formed around beliefs and judgments, just like the atomic particle must have neutrons, protons, and electrons.

By comparing emotional creation to the atomic particle, it is not reducing the human emotion to a mathematical formula, nor does it demean any true emotional response to a situation.  The comparison is simply acknowledging the complex nature and elements that are required when the emotion is selected.

Pride 2Pride, is an interesting element of emotional response and centers around self-elevation and enmity (being actively opposed or hostile to someone). The proud person will say, I am better than someone else and be violently opposed to any influencers who are perceived to threaten the superiority of the person emoting pride.  The proud person will always use emotions as a tool for controlling others, which is one of the most compelling arguments against the current business fad, emotional intelligence.  Pride, with its underlying core of enmity, is the root of the common conception of, and popularity for, emotional intelligence. Real emotional intelligence recognizes the cognitive, judgmental, and social aspects of emotions, and works to control oneself.

My best friend has no appreciation for jokes, puns, wordplay, etc.; in fact, my best friend has such an interesting sense of humor, one can often ask why they laughed and receive a logical and cognitively reasoned response.  Yet, my best friend has never been called heartless, unemotional, or the reverse emotional, apathetic, empathetic, or sympathetic.  People interact with my friend and always leave knowing they were listened to, cared for, and appreciated for the good they perform in the world.  My friend has spoken with governors and politicians, homeless people, the sick and afflicted, the whole and happy, and all are treated equally.  How does my friend do this; buy not taking the easy road of emotional connection, but forming a truer relationship through logic, as a cognitive choice.

CourageConsider the anger people chose over the death of Rayshard Brooks earlier this year in Georgia.  Many people chose to be angry and then expressed that anger in burning down a Wendy’s restaurant franchise, rioting, lootings, clogging traffic, stopping commerce, and other actions considered acceptable expressions of anger by the media who reported the events.

In no specific order, the following must be recognized in the Rayshard Brooks event.  First, the expressions of anger were chosen and were considered acceptable by a third party in a social environment.  Second, the actions (visible signs of anger) were an outward display of an inner emotion that was also chosen cognitively as a response to a situation (Rayshard Brooks being shot).  Third, the third-party involved, the media, expected to see these types of actions to justify their time in reporting the incident.  By being a vocal third-party, cheerleaders, if you will, the third-party fed the expected response.  This accelerated and expanded the violence and other deprivations, the same as what occurs in any sports contest where fans are invited to watch and participate vicariously through cheering their team on.

The problem with using my friend’s pattern of living, where the same anger could have been communicated but without all the violence, looting, theft, destruction of private property, and a better community would have ensued, is that of control.  The media would not have reported this event because they could not be a vocal and invested third-party feeding the emotional actions and receiving a return on their investment of time and other resources.  Thus, added to the emotional atomic particle analogy, are the elements of social acceptance, social expectation, and a vocal third-party to justify the actions taken in the name of the emotion granting those actions acceptability.

On a smaller, and thus more socially acceptable scale, the same can be witnessed every day, where the justification for emotional responses, is granted by a third-party expressing sympathy or empathy for those emoting.  Leading to a question, what does the third-party gain from justifying another person’s emotional responses; the power to control.  The emoting person will return to the third-party for justification after each emotional outburst for approval until the third-party deems the actions are no longer acceptable at that given period.

Emotional OutburstFurther emotional outbursts and increased levels of emotional criminology might occur later.  Still, at the moment, those actions have reached the limit of justification and the emoter will choose differently to gain favor and approval from the third-party.  As witnessed in the Missouri riots that spawned the political group “Black Lives Matter (BLM).”  Further, the third-party that controls the justification can turn-on and turn-off those emoting at will, by telling them how they should be responding to a given situation.  The third-party possesses considerable power through the justification of emotional outbursts, the same influence as exerted by an owner or a league over a sports team.

Thus, the paths and dangers of emotion.  Hence one can see the connections between emotions as a choice, a judgment, and a tool.  The sword of emotions is more dangerous to the wielder than to those affected by the emotional outburst, for those wielding emotions are never free of the control-justification cycle, and will remain subservient until they individually cognitively choose different emotions and emotional responses to social situations.

The danger in America right now is that of a vocal and invested third-party, and the justified actions of the minority by the third-party for political ends.  The overabundance of emotions, emotional responses, which include apathy, empathy, and sympathy, and the deprecation of logic and reasoned responses, are doing significant harm to the society called America.  Too much emotion is driving road rage incidents, mobs, destruction of private property, looting, theft, and so much more.  The solution is two-fold, not in any particular order of priority:

  1. Hold the vocal third-party accountable for the actions their minions are taking.
  2. Recognize the cognitive power in choosing emotional responses differently as an individual.

America can heal from these events and be stronger for it, provided we first capture our emotional responses, and eradicate the cheerleading section who grants justification for emotional outbursts not tolerated in children.

Not Passion's Slave - Emotions and ChoiceFor more on the connection between emotion and choice, please read Solomon’s book, “Not Passion’s Slave: Emotions and Choice.”  It is a masterpiece of logic and aids the cognitive person in choosing their emotions more purposefully and intentionally.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein, the pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the pictures.
All rights reserved.  For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/.