We are the only ones with a choice.
There are systems all around us. From the subatomic to the solar, systems function according to immutable principles. Rules like “don’t bump into each other,” “cooperate with your neighbor,” and “stay with the group” keep systems working for the benefit of each component and the whole (video: How Do Schools of Fish Swim In Harmony). None of the different parts of any of those systems ever think about whether or not they should follow those rules because they don’t have a choice. Those rules are built into their survival mechanisms. They are not handed down from a boss or bureaucrat. They do not argue about or compare their rules. They never think one single conscious thought about their rules.
That’s a big difference between human systems and systems made of atoms, cells, organs, animals, plants, geography, climates, planets and galaxies.
We get to choose to follow our natural rules. Or not.
We live, work, and play around other people. Some we know, some we don’t. Some we like, some we’d rather avoid. If we were to map out all the people you are connected to and all the people they are connected to and so on, we would create a map of your social network. Recently, this field of science, called social network theory (it is not the study of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram), has discovered that your behavior and beliefs have a significant influence on the people in your social network. What you eat, wear, and drive, how you feel, spend your time and whether or not you smoke affects the likelihood of your friends, friends, friends doing the same. It is not until three degrees of separation that your influence begins to wane. And it works both ways. It’s only three degrees though so you and Kevin Bacon are not influencing each other. Sorry.
Building a healthy, mutually enjoyable relationship takes longer than a chirpy episode of “Friends.” One report says It takes somewhere around 200 hours. It also takes a bit of emotional/mental muscle work. That’s why there’s a season in relationships called the honeymoon phase. This season ends when the awareness of how much time and work is needed sets in. And the realization that either you or this other person (or both) may be comparable to the hind end of a donkey. It’s not just for newly married couples. It’s also true for friendships, family relationships, neighbors, and work associates.
We spend a great deal of our energy on fitting in. While insecurity and ego are sometimes part of this effort, it’s inappropriate to think of “fitting in” as a weakness or a crutch. The drive to connect is built into the essence of being human. Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk in his (one of the best I’ve read in the last five years) book, “The Body Keeps the Score,” says, “Our culture teaches us to focus on personal uniqueness, but at a deeper level, we barely exist as individual organisms.
The words we use reveal our paradigm. How we talk tells the story we believe. With words we speak truth and tell lies. We encourage or dishearten. We influence those who listen and can dissuade when we mispeak. We’ve known forever that we make our decisions based on our feelings. We’ve experienced the emotion that is brought forth in the beauty of song, poetry, preaching and storytelling. We’ve also experienced the emotion brought forth from criticism, accusation, name calling and bullying. The words we choose and how we use them matters.
Once upon a time there was a little goat named Bartholomew who avoided danger. He was small and soft and timid. He avoided danger because he felt fragile. He stayed under rocks and hid behind trees and never went near the road, or even well traveled paths.
Sometimes we look in, sometimes we look up and sometimes we look at.
These three different places to look comprise the dynamic equilibrium of a fully alive human. When in balance, they produce a state of homeostasis that can be shared with another.
The weapons we have for fighting the long term impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences are a little like fighting a dragon with a wooden sword. While I can imagine some unlikely ways a dragon could be killed with a wooden sword, can we agree that it’s not nearly as effective as say, C4 explosives and some strategically placed duct tape or a Blackhawk helicopter? It just isn’t a good choice of weapons.
But what if that’s all we have?
There’s been a lot of talk about rights lately. While it is important that our governing system acknowledges people as equally valuable both in need and contribution to our society, this kind of talk often misses a vital point. If we rely on a political governing system to represent us, it will never create a society that fairly distributes rights. Especially if our governing system is a competition. A divided people will never produce representation that will lead them to shared ownership. As soon as one side “wins,” the balance of equality tips. The other side blames. Battle ensues until the other side wins and it tips the other way. The process is never going to fix itself.
“Can I get that without mushrooms?”
I hated - was repulsed by mushrooms for 42 years. No picking around, no blending and no amount of “oh, but this is a special kind of mushroom.” It’s obnoxious how people will try to convince you otherwise when they find out you don’t like something. I’m not six. I’m pretty confident as a middle aged man that I know what I don’t like.
But don’t tell me you don’t like coffee...