Posts Tagged 'moderation'

Conservation of Energy

conservationofenerty

In physics, the law of energy conservation states that the total energy of an isolated system remains constant. It can’t be created or destroyed; rather, it transforms from one form to another. Our understanding of the universe relies on this principle.

It often (not always) applies to people and relationships, too.

If you escalate (cut off in traffic, angry at the gate agent, frustrated at your boss), you’ve just added (negative) energy to a conversation.

If you escalate (enthusiasm, a hug, encouraging words), you’ve just added (positive) energy to a conversation.

Once the energy is added, it has to go somewhere. Often, the person you’re engaging with throws it right back, or even increases it. The problem with taking offense is that it’s really hard to figure out what to do with it after you’re done using it. Better to just leave it on the table and walk away. Umbrage untaken quietly disappears. A talented, mature person might take your negative energy and de-escalate it, or even swallow it and permit the conversation to calm down or end. But don’t count on it.

You can ‘win’ a conversation by overwhelming your opponent with energy they can’t handle. But of course, they’re not your opponent and you don’t really win. Being aware of the energy you add or take from interactions is a sophisticated technique that radically changes the outcomes of the conversations that fill your day. Add the good stuff, absorb the bad stuff and focus on the outcomes, not the bravado. Winning isn’t the point.

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Happiness, Part xx6, The Chemistry

Parts xx1, xx2, xx3, xx4, xx5. Part xx6 will unfold over a series of related posts.

We’re animals with bodies wired to respond to stimuli in ways that increase our chances of survival. While we have certain physical vulnerabilities, we overcome them by having been graced with a complex array of genetic tools that make us adept at learning and cooperation. We’re social. We work well in groups, and need them. We respond to what we call feelings, which help to facilitate this cooperative, social behavior. Our feelings have chemical underpinnings. There are two primary kinds: Selfless and Selfish. The selfish ones produce good feelings when we accomplish things for ourselves, while the selfless ones are oriented more toward the feelings we get in cooperation with others.

The primary selfish ones are:

Endorphins – Associated with the runner’s high. Their job is to mask physical pain. To help give us the will to push through when we’re tired or injured. But they serve other purposes as well. When we laugh they are released, which can mitigate anxiety. An example might be a comedic moment in a horror movie. We feel better even after the laughing stops.

Dopamine – Responsible for the feeling of satisfaction we get when accomplishing something. The bigger the accomplishment the more dopamine we get. We even get a little along the way to start us up and keep us going. It’s a part of what makes us goal oriented. Eating food produces dopamine, which is one reason why we like to eat (too much). In fact, dopamine is a major factor any many different types of addictions. This includes not only food or drugs, but things like checking e-mail or Facebook. That little bit of intrigue when there is something new releases dopamine. We like it. We want more. We can’t put our phones down for want of it.

There are some others in this category that are a little less important for feelings, though more important for action, such as Noradrenaline and Adrenaline.

The primary selfless ones are:

SeratoninSerotonin – Our warm feelings when others support and approve of us, or we support others, are linked to serotonin. Getting likes on Facebook or feeling like you have followers or loyal friends triggers the release of this chemical. The feeling of respect from others triggers it, and so it helps us to organize around being a good team member or leader. Because of this chemical we feel the weight of responsibility toward others – not just results (that would be dopamine), but the people, especially when they are counting on us in some way. It helps make us want to do right by people, or to make them proud.

Oxytocin – Known as the love chemical, oxytocin helps to produce a feeling of closeness or intimacy with others. It is often, but not necessarily triggered by physical contact. It helps to reinforce a bond between people, whether friends, siblings, or parent and child. It’s why others showing support of our endeavors makes us feel better about them, and why we feel better about ourselves and them when we offer that support. It triggers feelings of empathy and the strongest bonds of trust and friendship. Unlike dopamine, which is fast and temporary, oxytocin lasts and strengthens relationships over time. It produces a feeling of warmth and security that allows us to reveal our vulnerabilities.

Try to find ways to laugh or seek other enjoyment to trigger endorphins, especially when times are tough. Easier said than done. Try to find healthy (as in not too frivolous) measures of accomplishment to achieve. Dopamine will help you once you set up some clearly defined goals. Show up (or come through) and do something to help someone else or make them feel good for a little boost of serotonin. And for oxytocin, reveal your vulnerability and show yourself. Strive to get close.

In other words, fake it ’til you make it. It’s not easy, but your body will respond by chemically helping you…if you can just find a way to get started. Each day.

Black & White

BlackWhite

What issues or concerns are truly black and white? Of those, which ones do we actually treat as such? Some people tell me many things are cut and dried, and we humans mess it up by introducing our own gray areas through weakness and a lack of morality, not to mention basic subjectivity. That may be true, but I am hard pressed to find anything so cut and dried that upon careful examination doesn’t need some room for a medium shade according to context and circumstances. Commonly the black and white crowd (at least the ones I know) are conservative Christians, or at least look to that set of beliefs as their guidance in life. Let’s look at an example.

  • Conservative Christian doctrine posits that marriage is the requirement for ethical sex.
  • Progressives tend to believe that consent is a required element. But they don’t hold that it is always sufficient.

When pushed on the issue, conservatives struggle with the stance that consent is vital and is considered required by progressives. They feel it ignores or at least de-emphasizes the marriage aspect they feel is so important. This highlights one of the faults of the black and white thinking, as much of the world ends up being viewed through that type of binary prism. To conservatives marriage is the key component, and because of the black/white, right/wrong mindset it is often considered sufficient when pushed in the context of doctrine.

Many others struggle with the conservative Christian views in part because they don’t necessarily treat consent as a vital component. Conservatives don’t always recognize a major difference between any type of sexual act that falls outside of the basic criteria of marriage. All those acts are deemed wrong, and to some they are equally so. Adultery is in some ways not different from raping a child. If the issue is black and white then there is by definition no room for any moderation or qualification.

But it’s more than just that. Conservatives often do not agree with the progressive’s consent criteria because the default understanding through doctrine is that there is only the one simple black and white choice. Since conservative doctrine bases it all on marriage then they incorrectly may assume that the consent camp bases it all on consent. The black and white thinking produces a lack of understanding of the nuance that there are multiple criteria, each of which is important, but maybe not equally important, which means there can be a range of how bad of an offense it is to falter. Progressives may hold consent AND marriage as important, but with the greater focus on consent the misunderstandings are exacerbated.

The notion that things are black and white stems in part from the pressure that the text mustn’t be questioned. The rules are laid out, if unclearly at times, and faith promotes a semi-blind following of them that contributes to the fundamental chasm of mindsets and ways to interpret things.

Now at most practical levels I’m aware of in the conservative Christian community (people I know) something like child molestation isn’t seriously considered to be the same as adultery (although a sin is a sin, no?). They seem willing to allow some room for interpretation. Adultery between consenting adults being wrong because it is outside of marriage. Raping a child being wrong because…(of something more?).

So Christians take a black and white doctrine and then apply certain interpretations to it, with the result being to make it less than absolutely black and white. And in some cases making it or allowing it to be uniquely personal. Is it up to the individual to believe in his/her interpretation of the bible, or should he/she follow the letter of the law? How much grace or deviation is allowable? How much comfort and forgiveness permissible? This gives rise to so many subtly different and potentially incongruent beliefs based on all of the interpretations that it seems almost laughable to me that one would cling tightly to any absolute bad/good, right/wrong view of the world. And yet a black and white attitude is often taken after having applied the very judgement, context, and often some personal perceptions to it that render it no longer absolute, if it ever was.

This is just one of the ways religion, as it is commonly practiced in our culture, fails us.

Definitely not saying anything goes here (that would be another kind of black and white). Best to acknowledge that it’s all shades of gray, and you’re just trying to figure out which shades you want to believe and live by. Don’t expect others to see it the same way, considering they weren’t part of the same programming you experienced.

Finally…because of the potentially volatile nature of a post like this I feel I should make it clear to any conservative Christian acquaintances of mine that I am not poo-pooing their beliefs or way of life, or even their thinking. I grew up in church and know the story. I have written about things like this before. I advocate tolerance and open mindedness, allowing room that we’re all flawed, and none of us lives in a house so rigid we can’t be wrong. Feel free to read back through this blog and you will see that there are other views presented from time to time. Because I don’t have it all figured out either.

MODERATION!!!

“MODERATION”

In politics we continually are subjected to the screamers on the far right and left. Rarely has this been more the case than with the highly publicized Supreme Court ruling on “ObamaCare.” The blogosphere, twitter, and Facebook have all gone crazy with references to “unconstitutional” (including images of the constitution being burned), all the way to references to Hitler! First, regardless of whether the outcome is constitutional there can be little doubt that the process that led to it was, so anyone who doesn’t like that outcome is free to cast a vote at the appropriate time.

Still it’s difficult to listen to all the rhetoric, from both sides. The most vocal participants tend to be the most biased. When was the last time anyone stood up and screamed, “MODERATION!?” The moderate, reasonable, and well grounded views are swallowed up and drowned in a sea of hyperbole and screaming.

And we wonder why young people aren’t more engaged.



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