I don’t think we need more science fiction in our lives, I think we need more science. I want to help with that. In this series, I want to look at excerpts from fiction and contrast it with facts.
While science fiction can be a good escape from reality, it’s not a good map for reality. We need to look at science for that. And when we start looking at science as much as science fiction, life will not be stranger than fiction…it’ll be better.
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
This is the “Litany Against Fear” from Frank Herbert’s DUNE. You’ll see it in used in memes now. But I think most people know as much about fear as they do the Bene Gesserit, a Gom Jabbar, the Kwisatch Hadderrach, and Spice.
I love DUNE but disagree. We must fear because fear is anything but a mind killer. Fear is both a mind and body “saver.” It protects us against the “big death.”
But, like most excerpts of science fiction (or any mythos), there are splinters of truth to be tweezed out. Fear can bring about the autonomic “freeze” response which can halt many other physiological processes. And there are definitely times to freeze…but that’s just one action.
When we’re scared, yes, we must face it, allow ourselves to experience it…in order to act upon it. Maybe we need to rethink the situation or act upon it…even fight.
“Allow yourself to feel fear and act appropriately towards what you fear.”
It’s not very poetic but it’s far more scientific.
“There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.”
This is the Jedi Code from the Space Opera, STAR WARS. I think the code is not meant to be taken as literally as an autistic such as myself would take it. My knee jerk critique would be: There is death, ignorance, passion, chaos, and death. Here’s a less literal interpretation and more scientific reframe I believe the code offers.
When I feel negatively emotional, I think of the action that leads me towards peace.
When I am ignorant, I seek knowledge.
When I am hyper-passionate, I look for serenity.
When there is too much chaos, I work towards order.
When there is death, I think of what precedes…and what proceeds.
“Peace is a lie, there is only passion.
Through passion, I gain strength.
Through strength, I gain power.
Through power, I gain victory.
Through victory, my chains are broken.
The Force shall free me.”
If you recognize that, you’re as big a fan of Star Wars as I am. That is the Code of the Sith. It’s obviously fictional but is there any way we can make it more literal…so that it is more applicable?
Peace, like all things, is temporary…but so is passion.
Passion tells me where I will work to become stronger.
Strength gives me better leverage.
Leverage allows me to make a greater impact.
With a greater impact, I have more options.
With more options, I have more freedom.
Taking away the hyperbole and histrionics, I think this translation informs us as to the Sith’s desirability. And, in reality, who would we rather be: a cloistered ascetic with nothing but obligation or a conquering titan…with more freedom than anyone else? That is the power of the “dark side.”
TO BE CONTINUED….
In most forms of fiction, the most interesting character is the villain. But what’s most interesting is the villain as they are…not as the were. Let me explain.
I think most villains’ backstories are wholly inadequate…with few exceptions (Walter White, anyone?). But there is a recipe for a villain. You take anyone and have them live through certain events and the hero within is destroyed…and the villain is born.
I’m writing about this for one reason. We need far fewer villains and far more heroes. And if we know the recipe for a villain, maybe we can stop making them.
No one is born a blank slate. We all have a slightly different natures. But no matter our natures, very few of us are born villains.
The worst villains we call psychopaths. Those with psychopathic traits only account for about 1% of our population with about .6% of the population having the full blown disorder. But these aren’t the only villains.
There are other psychopathologies with antisocial tendencies. These tendencies are brought to the front through the complement of nature. Nature is where most villains are made.
We are born incomplete. Compared to mammals such as horses or cows, we’re born half baked. Within hours of birth, they’re completely ambulatory and able to do almost everything an adult of their species can do. For us, it takes years to achieve adult level of functioning.
To reach this level of functioning requires nurturing, connection with a caregiver. The caregiver has to connect enough with the child to provide all the things a child needs. And that child needs more than things than to be fed and changed.
A child needs regulation. And that regulation comes in a few forms. And all of those forms come in the form of connection.
The unique viewpoint we offer at THE MOVEMENT is the connection between sensation and action. But these connections aren’t all the way inborn, or embodied. They are something we learn…from our caregivers.
When a child is upset, the caregiver attends. The caregiver figures out what the child is upset about. And the caregiver acts.
The child learns from this interaction. But what does the child learn? Does the child learn his upsets can be quelled…or does he learn that upsets cannot be rectified or are they simply ignored?
When the child learns their feelings don’t matter, the effect is profound. It isn’t just that they learn that their feelings don’t matter to their caregivers. The child doesn’t learn to value their own feelings, either.
We are born so immature, that we are born somewhat disconnected. Caregivers, at their best, teach correct connections. When you feel this way, this action (that I, the caregiver, do for now) makes you feel better. When you feel this way, you’ll eventually be able to do this for yourself.
Conversely, when the caregiver ignores or doesn’t act effectively based on their feelings, misconnection, even disconnection occurs. And any form of “dys-connection” makes up the blueprint of the villain. That villain’s dys-connection can wreak havoc on the rest of us.
Whether it be trauma in the form of neglect of abuse, a dys-connection occurs. The caregiver is dys-connected to the child. And the child is dys-connected to himself.
The child will learn to neglect or abuse himself when he feels a particular way. Maybe he’ll even start to neglect or abuse others. If neglecting or abusing others makes him feel better than he did…the villain starts to emerge.
And disconnecting dys-connection, especially connection that was made at a young age, is a daunting, sometime impossible task. It’s so impossible that we’re content to sequester those dys-connected in cages…guarded under lock and key. And as bad as we are treating dys-connection, we’re almost as bad at preventing it.
If functional, stable, and secure connection doesn’t occur between child and caregiver, all other connections in that child’s life will be disrupted. Those connections include the ones the child has with himself. And it’s all about connections.
While we are born with prosocial tendencies, if these tendencies aren’t wired correctly we can’t connect with them. And when we’re not well connected within ourselves, we can’t feel the positive reinforcement from connection to others. This can start a downward cycle.
When we don’t connect well with others, they lose interest in connecting with us. We lose the opportunity to learn to better connect to others and ourselves. And if we cannot connect with others, it is hard to value others…and makes it easier to act antisocially towards others.
If someone, anyone, makes a connection with us, it can be all the momentum we need. From that momentum, we can more thoroughly connect with ourselves and others. This leaves us with a moral imperative.
For those of us with more connections, we must help those with less connections. If we see someone less connected, it is up to us to succeed where either nature, nurture or both left them dys-connected. This is what heroes do.
That doesn’t mean we have to connect with everyone less connected than ourselves. But if we cannot connect with them, we can help them or find someone else to connect with them. Most villains are made, not born, which means they can be unmade.
They’re villains because they’re dys-connected. They’re dys-connected from others…and themselves. How we make ourselves (and them) a hero is through reconnection.
If caregivers didn’t connect, it falls to the extended family. If the family fails, as well, it falls individuals within the community. The problem of connection is too big for something so big as society or government to address. We, individually, must find a people and a place for everyone…or risk making ourselves the victim of a newly made villain.
That is the the litmus test. It is the measuring stick of all behaviors and thoughts. Did that make me feel better?
Of course, not everything we do is effective at making us feel better…much less everyone else. That leaves us with a simple task. Exchange those thoughts and behaviors for others than make us feel better. Easier said, right?
Let’s say we do something that makes us feel negatively. At some point we become aware of how it’s making us feel. That may lead to a host of other feelings like regret, shame, embarrassment, anger…but we only need to feel enough of any emotion in order to do something different. But what do we do?
If all the world’s a stage, and we’re all actors…what can we do about our next performance? We rehearse. We rehearse how we want to behave.
We imagine the next time we feel the way we were feeling when we did what we didn’t want to do…doing something different. Instead of ruminating on what we did do, we rehearse over and over again until we know we’re going to nail our part. But the way we behave isn’t the only thing that makes us feel negatively.
Sometimes just the way we feel is a function of how and what we think. Pessimism, catastrophization, rumination…there are ways in which our thinking can get us and keep us feeling negatively. We thought our way into negativity and we’re going to have to think our way out of it.
But thinking our way out of it isn’t as simple as charge cancellation. Positive affirmations aren’t likely enough to dispel our negativity. We’re going to need a better tool.
In the face of negative thoughts, we have to replace them with something else that fits. We have to look for another thought, that is as true as what we were thinking. And this new thought won’t likely make us feel positively…but it can make us feel better. And feeling better is how we know our thoughts and actions are effective…and we’ve negated negativity.
There are so many instances in my life where I’m not sure what to do. Perhaps, it’s that I’m not sure what to say. This, of course, is in regards to social situations.
But this feeling isn’t just about my interactions with others…as awkward as those might be. There are also situations I find myself in where I’m at a loss…for what to do with myself. So what do I do?
Like most problems I encounter, I have to simplify things. We all have to go back to the basics. There are manners to follow…even for interactions we have with ourselves.
When I’m not sure what to do, the first thing I do is sharpen my tool. Do you know what I’m referring to? If you have a certain amount of time to cut down a tree, you should use at least half that allotted time to sharpen your saw or axe.
How I sharpen myself is by tuning in to my body. And that tuning is achieved through questions. If I already don’t know what to do, that probably means I’m not feeling my best.
That leads to one of the most important questions of all. What do I need to do to feel better? What kind of intervention do I need?
Do I need food or drink? Do I need social support? Do I need to move?
Perhaps what will help me feel better is the exact opposite of that. Maybe I need to fast. Maybe I need to isolate myself. Maybe I need to lie down.
Somewhere within those mechanical, chemical, and psychological extremes is my answer to feeling better. And once I feel better, once my axe is sharpened, I can back to the business at hand. It’s time for the tree to fall.
Once I feel a little better, clarity can be had. But clarity about what? I already don’t know what to do.
Doing is just one part of the equation. The equation is two-fold. I have to also know how I feel.
And how I feel is a good starting point. If I don’t know what to do, I probably don’t know exactly how I’m feeling. But I do know that how I’m feeling isn’t particularly good.
Getting to an answer is often about refining our questions. We turn, “What should I do?” into a different question…one that incorporates the whole equation.
Words have to transform, as well. “Should” turns into “can.” It doesn’t matter what you should do if you cannot do it.
“What can I do so that I feel better?” is the simplest of questions…and it often is enough provide the right answer. But the deeper problems require more specific questions. “What can I do about feeling like ______ ? With more specific identification of emotions comes the specific answer to…what you can do about it.
One of his recent metaphors was a reframing of negativity and positivity. To him, negativity is defense and positivity is offense. And Gary is all about offense.
We could extend those metaphors and mix them with others. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” “I don’t have defense, I have counter offense.” I, of course, want to look at the roles negativity and positivity play in the practice of BioFeedback.
I am a naturally “negative” person. I can see problems. I can see what’s wrong.
If that were completely negative, that would be an awful predicament. But can’t the same be said for positivity? Positivity is only seeing the good.
If we only see the good, can we ever fix the bad? That, of course, is where the synthesis comes in. Negativity plays one role, positivity another.
Just because something needs change doesn’t mean it can be changed. Negativity is not for finding out everything that should be changed. It’s simply for finding out what can be changed.
That, of course, is where BioFeedback and a scientific posture comes in handy. The application is simple. Can I change this now? If not, move on to the next potential thing to change.
Positivity’s purpose is three-fold. It’s for reframing or taking a new point of view on things that can’t be changed: this can’t be changed yet, but what can be changed? But that’s not the primary purpose of positivity.
Positivity’s primary purpose is enacting whatever level of change can occur. But that doesn’t mean change is easy. Sometimes change on a scale smaller than we would like.
Positivity is about all managing one’s emotional state while change, no matter how small, is occurring. “I’m not stuck, I’m changing…this is good.” But positivity plays an even more important role.
And when that change isn’t occurring yet gets us to the primary purpose of positivity. Just because we can’t change in the moment doesn’t mean we can’t rehearse for when we can change. When we rehearse sufficiently, the change happens bigger and faster than we had even hoped for.
Negativity is for seeing what’s wrong. Positivity is for finding, practicing, and maintaining an effective psychology while doing the most important thing: changing. The artful and scientific use for positivity and negativity make for a strong offense and defense.