Wednesday, January 10, 2018

What We Are About

This is Sarah Silverman.  If you don't know her, she's a comedienne, actress, producer and writer who used to work on Saturday Night Live before making her own shows for Comedy Central.

I was reading her exchange with a Twitter poster and it really resonated with me, since a conversation last night with a close friend covered some of the same ground.

In summary, a guy posted a single word on her Twitter feed, "C@nt".  He seemed to be trolling for a response.  Instead of just reacting with vitriol of her own, she did a bit of digging and responded with compassion and concern for his situation, the motivations for why he would post like that.  She uncovered his history of childhood abuse, his painful medical problems, and his anger at not being able to do more.  His comments were a self-destructive cry for help.

The result?  A deeper connection with this new fan, and some outside help that may get him the support he needs to turn his life around.  It's a beautiful story, sorely needed in this modern world where all too often people react with contempt for each other.

We need more love and compassion.  We need more empathy and kindness.  We need to learn to let go of fear.

My conversation with my friend last night was about what I called "The Fear Equation".  Very often, people react from fear.  Fear causes us to lash out in a classic "fight or flight" response.  This fear reaction often causes the situation to escalate further.  This sometimes becomes the catalyst that triggers a violent encounter --- words are exchanged, physical space is violated (finger pointing/shoving), punches are thrown, police and ambulance are called...the damage is done.

I use the term "equation" because there are two sides involved.  When someone engages us with a fear-based action (verbal or physical), we respond in kind (or worse).  This ladder effect goads each side to continue to up the ante until something bad happens.  It can occur between strangers, but often happens with our partners and family members as well.  We say or do unintended things, which cause harm that may have lasting negative consequences.  In many cases this can and should be avoided.

The first step to breaking out of this cycle is to recognize that we own our responses to what other people say and do.  We can choose.  Rather than just instinctively striking back, we can choose to let go of our fear and ego and try to connect instead.  We can try to turn a negative situation into a positive one.  People have emotional power over us only when we give it to them. If undeserved, we can take that power back and no longer be subject to their judgments or emotional manipulation.  We don't automatically have to fight fire with fire.

It is important to consider interactions from the standpoint of our own fear response and how it is an integral part of the Fear Equation, adding negative energy and fueling the fear of others.  This is a bomb we can choose to defuse instead of trigger.

Martial Arts training is also about building self-confidence and self-esteem.  As we grow, we are less likely to be afraid of the words and actions of others.  This minimizes the need to react from fear and hopefully frees us to respond with empathy and compassion.  With support from our peers we can train to recognize and explore our fears - understanding them so we can finally let them go and be free.  This is what I really want.

Let's try to make 2018 "The Year of Empathy".  This world needs it.  WE need it.

Thank you, Sarah.  You are beautiful.

1 comment:

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