Protecting Yourself in a World Gone Mad
Avoid the false drama, fabricated news, and the deceitful agenda of those who promote hostility and conflict.
Episode 44 - Protecting Yourself in a World Gone Mad
I think the best way to start this episode is to give you a little history –not the kind you learned in school when you had to memorize dates and events and why they were important, but by taking a brief glimpse into something that happened to me many years ago that will make the subject of this episode a little easier to understand. I’m also hoping that it will give you a better interpretation of what’s going on around us – because it might just give you the advantage you need to live a longer, safer, life.
Hey, welcome back. This is roger reid, with another episode of successpoint360.
There were about sixty of us sitting in the room, waiting for the start of a graduate-level psychology class that was specifically designed to teach interactive counseling techniques.
A few minutes later, the professor took his place at the front of the room and began to briefly outline the course content. After suggesting some additional reading sources, he asked each of us to think about why we were there, and what we hoped to learn as a bunch of soon-to-be therapists.
Then he made a statement that rattled a few, pissed off a few more, and left the rest of us wondering if he was right . . .
“The reason you’re in this class is because you’re broken. In fact, the reason most of you have chosen to pursue a career in psychological counseling is to give you’re the opportunity to establish control over others. The long and the short of it is this: you’re looking for a way to validate your power, and you’ve chosen to establish your value as a human being by suggesting you know how to “fix” other people’s problems.”
He went on to explain that the classic therapy model was designed to place the therapist in control. The therapist must project and assume the role of the expert, the professional, the one with all the answers. And patients readily accept that premise. Otherwise, they wouldn’t pay for the experience. Someone looking for help isn’t going to shell out a couple of hundred dollars an hour to talk to a stranger on the bus.
I thought about that professor’s statement for a long time.
Maybe the professor’s rationale for teaching a bunch of wanna-be therapists originated from his own lack of personal confidence or identity, but the reason I was in that class was based on far more than the need to exercise power over others.
I was searching for a better way . . . better than violent physical exchanges, senseless confrontations, and the visceral bullying I witnessed on a regular basis during my childhood and teen years.
I wanted to know why so many people seemed obsessed with violence, as if they were predisposed to intentionally behave in ways that would harm others. And I especially wanted to know why their cruelties often targeted the innocent. In short, I simply wanted to know why bad things happened to good people.
Thing like . . .
Why a random stranger decided to attack my twenty-three-year-old sister during her work shift by breaking a Coke bottle over her head and then stabbing her with a commercial meat fork, then left her on the floor, bleeding and close to death.
I wanted to know why a fourth-grade teacher took such obvious pleasure in grabbing her nine-year-old students and shaking them with such force that their heads violently jack-knifed back and forth, and then she’d walk away, leaving them sprawled on the ground, disoriented and holding their heads in pain. Mostly, I wondered why none of the other teachers tried to stop her.
I wondered why a thirty-something man who frequented my dad’s grocery store had the overwhelming need to brag about the fights he’d been in over the weekend, and how he had left his victims bloodied and broken.
So, I had plenty of my own reasons for being in that psychology class.
My search for answers initially started with self-help authors, people like Wayne Dyer and Jim Rohn, both of which promoted the value in taking a more objective view of the world—and my place within it.
And, believing I’d found a way to experience the peaceful acceptance of what I could not change, I took up residence in the neighboring houses of psychology and philosophy, resolving to learn everything I could from these new masters.
I earned over sixty hours of graduate-level psychology credit. (which, I would later throw away to change majors) I completed the est training taught by the man himself – Werner Earhart. Then I sat through the PSI World training, and later, LifeSpring.
I became a poster boy for seminar junkies.
But the agenda-driven gurus who promised to change my life in exchange for five hundred dollars grew old and repetitive, so I spent a year of solid study with Rene Pfaltzgraff, Richard Bandler, and Don Aspermonte, earning credentials in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
That was thirty years ago.
And much of that education was based on the premise that the vast majority of people—in spite of their ego-centered posturing and intimidating façade—would jump at the chance to be the better person, to do the right thing.
And maybe thirty years ago, that was a relatively safe assumption.
But since then, I’ve learned – many times the hard way – that not everyone plays by the same rules. And trying to generalize the motivations or make assumptions about the behavior and intentions of others can put you into extremely difficult situations.
And in the worst of circumstances, it can get you killed.
I’m talking about everything from physical altercations on airplanes to random, indiscriminate attacks that we commonly call mass shootings.
We’ve always lived with the possibility of violence. In a sense, we’ve come to expect it, but we’ve typically thought of violence as something that happened to those living on the fringe—living in society’s “failure zone.” We told ourselves that it was inherent to criminal activity. Or the unfortunate outcome of those pushed too far by despair and misery.
We also tried to rationalize the effects of violence on the innocent, those who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. And while it did little to change anything, we told ourselves that it was an unfortunate liability of living in a society where malevolent inclinations and predispositions are never questioned until after the fact – when it’s too late.
So, from a big picture perspective, we’ve told ourselves that violence affects only a small part of the population – so small, that the chances of becoming personally involved in the crossfire are simply too small to worry about.
That’s the premise many of us have grown up with. It was what I told myself as I tried to rationalize the violent acts I witnessed while growing up in what we’ll call the “less desirable” part of my hometown.
I often told myself, “If we lived in a nicer neighborhood, it wouldn’t be as dangerous.”
I told myself other things, too. That, in time, things would improve. Educational standards would rise. Productivity would increase to the point that no one would suffer from hunger, lack of shelter, or the scarcity of basic life necessities. And I wasn’t the only one. Economists had charts and graphs that indicated we were on the right path.
In many ways, it gave me hope.
I began to believe that in another couple of decades, the “need” for violence would diminish to the point that physical confrontations would become a rare anomaly.
But those future decades are history now. And the accuracy of those predictions? Well, let’s just call them sadly inaccurate.
Today, the concepts of compromise, cooperation, and negotiation are much too often replaced with confrontation, intentional baiting and bullying, and outright violence. An unintentional mistake is now often interpreted as an intentional attack, requiring immediate retaliatory action.
It’s as if the population’s collective tempers have been set just below a boil, your smallest, unintended infraction can place you in physical danger.
I know there may be some of you who may think I’m exaggerating the issue, trying to make the situation far worse than it really is. Listen to these statistics:
This country saw at least 200 mass shootings in the first 132 days of this year. That’s from a report by the Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit research group. https://www.reuters.com/world/us/two-dead-more-than-20-injured-florida-shooting-2021-05-30/
A survey by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) claims nearly 40 percent of Republicans believe political violence is justifiable and may be necessary in the immediate future. Their logic was based on the statement: “If elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.”
On the other side of the fence, twenty-two percentage of democrats and thirty-five percent of independents indicated they supported violence as a viable method of “retaining traditional American values and way of life.
And then there’s the escalating rate of racially motivated violence, and while that’s something that desperately needs legal and cultural action to protect the rights of people of color, some of the rhetoric that’s coming from people who we would otherwise consider as intelligent and rational is becoming extremely disturbing. For example, In April of this year, Dr. Aruna Khilanani, a New York psychiatrist told a crowd at Yale University that she has “fantasies of unloading a revolver into the head of any white person that got in my way, burying their body, and wiping my bloody hands as I walked away relatively guiltless with a bounce in my step—like I did the world a fucking favor.” (She made this comment during a public lecture titled “The Psychopathic Problem of the White Mind,” presented at the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center on April 6.)
When someone with this amount of education and influence – someone we would look to for their leadership – makes a statement like this, it can change minds and attitudes, and even worse, it can give those on the fence a reason to take sides.
If you want to see evidence of this kind of mindset, take a look at the increase in gun sales.
There were over two million guns sold in January of this year. That’s an eighty percent increase over the same time period a year ago. (www.washingtonpost.com/business/2021/02/03/gun-sales-january-background-checks)
And last year, I’m talking about 2020, set new records for the number of guns sold, nearly 23 million, which is a 64 percent increase over the previous year.
And if you look at public transportation, and specifically airlines, the number of passengers involved in onboard altercations in the first five months of this year, and these are situations that are considered to be violent and dangerous rose from well under 200 in 2019 and 2020 to nearly 400 in those same five months.
While doing the research for this episode, I found more negative stats that I could stomach – and frankly, the numbers were making me very depressed, so I’ll save you any more of the analytic argument because when you hear about all these numbers, it makes you wonder…..
Is your neighbor getting ready to gun you down because you voted contrary to his choice of candidate??
Compared to a year ago, are you facing an even greater likelihood of being targeted as undesirable because of your race, or country of origin?
Is victory at any price the philosophy of the new American mindset?
What happened to patience? Or reason? Or perspective? Why is there such a rush to respond with anger and hatred, expressed as an immediate show of violence
There’s another casualty that comes from this spreading mindset: And that’s the constant stress and worry over the possibility of becoming a target. And that’s changing us. It’s turning us into a nation of suspicious and guarded individuals . . . . We see a woman standing by the road pointing to a car with the hood up. Do we stop and offer to help. Or is the risk too great?
Here’s the point, thirty years ago, I believed there were times when you needed to draw a line in the sand. Instead of telling yourself to calm down, or consider the big picture, or put yourself in the other person’s shoes, you needed to get up, arm yourself with the truth, and make it absolutely clear you would no longer tolerate unacceptable behavior from others. I promoted the idea that expressing yourself with emotional congruency may be exactly what’s needed to extinguish the fire others are hurling at you. If it meant pounding your fist to convey your message, then pound like hell.
And no, back then, I wasn’t telling anyone to arm themselves to the teeth, and then go looking for trouble. I was saying that there are too many people who just want to see how far they can push you –to determine what they can get away with. And if you never say, “THAT’S ENOUGH,” they won’t stop until they’ve bled you for every drop of sadistic contrition they can get.
But today, that advice has a very limited value, especially in a world where respect, authority, and the right to express personal choice, have been replaced by extremism, the summary rejection of compromise, and the need to eradicate those who look, think, or act differently than the standards created by those who believe they know what’s best for all of us.
But we all need guidelines. We need a personal policy that helps us determine what to do under situations of stress and difficulty. I wish I could provide you with a set of suggestions that have a high degree of probable success. But my situation and my experiences are no doubt very different from yours. So from that perspective, I can only share with you six basic recommendations that I use for everything from replying to an insulting know-it-all, arrogant, entitled, ass-holes who subscribe to the idea that the world belongs to them, and they can take what they want from it.
- Choose your battles carefully. Don’t threaten to escalate your actions unless the cost of that escalation is still a price you’re willing to pay – based on what you have to gain or lose.
- When possible, and that’s usually about 99 percent of the time, use a measured response. When it’s necessary to defend yourself in a verbal or legal confrontation, address the specific issues that are in dispute and avoid enlarging your counter-attack to other areas that are not specific to resolving the situation. That means avoiding the temptation to insult the intelligence, experience, or character of your opponent.
- Before you take any kind of retaliatory action, determine the long-term advantage as well as the danger or risk in walking away verse escalating the situation to a point of confrontation. Yeah, I know principles are important. But when your opponent fails to recognize them or refuses to acknowledge them, you must decide what’s best for you in the long term.
- Realize that some things are worth fighting for and others are not. There’s a huge difference between arguing over a missing dime from the change you receive at the store, and defending yourself in a physical attack.
- Avoid taking sides. Certainly, support the causes and organizations you believe in, just realize that not everyone is going to agree that your priorities are well placed. You can deliver the most intelligent, logical argument to prove your point, but if the opposition is driven by illogical or non-sensual motivations, you might as well try reasoning with a charging rhino.
- Avoid openly proclaiming your opinions to strangers. Yes, you’re entitled to them. And certainly, in the appropriate setting, with others who are receptive to the discussion, you’re welcome to explain and if necessary, defend your ideas, beliefs, and motivations. But strangers are likely to consider a differing viewpoint as a personal attack. Those who don’t know you, but ask you to reveal who or what you support, are separating the allies from the enemy. Don’t fall into their trap. Walk around it by letting others voice their opinions without expressing your support or opposition.
After you’ve done this a few times, you’ll get a sense of being above the common need to have others agree with you to validate your own general You’re not going to change their minds, and after Those who have an overt need to convince others to think the same way, to validate their beliefs, do so because they’re not sure, and they need that confirmation from others that there is strength in numbers, especially for those who can’t think for themselves.
I’ll leave you with this:
As our world becomes more diversified, and our sense of a shared history, traditions, and culture becomes less of a commonality, we can no longer make assumptions about shared attitudes, biases, and preferences. For example, fifty years ago, asking an American if they were a patriot, the overwhelming majority would say “yes.” Today, you’ll get the same answer, but that doesn’t mean they support the current administration, domestic policy, or for that matter, the constitution.
So I hope you’ll make up your own mind. I hope you won’t be swayed by false drama, fabricated news, or the deceitful agenda of those who seek to mislead others into supporting hostility and conflict by using the dictatorial strategy of divide and conquer. Most of all, I hope you stay safe while maintaining control over your own destiny.
Hey, that’s it for this episode. If you any questions about this or any episode, you can shoot me a voice mail by going to the website, (www.successpoint360.com) and clicking on the voicemail tab, or you can send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.
© 2021, Roger A. Reid, All Rights Reserved
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