“No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” – P.J. O’Rourke
This quote inspired me to write today.
It also inspired me to confess something: I watched an episode of The Real Housewives of Orange County last week.
I’m not proud okay? If you’re a frequent reader you may have picked up on the fact that I abhor these shows and equally fear what they are doing to us as a society. I will admit however, that it got me thinking. Why do people act this way? Why do grown adults scream and belligerently fight with each other over the silliest things? They slander each other behind each others backs and then face-to-face act as though everything is dandy, until it explodes into a ridiculous mess of immaturity and embarrassment. Why do people thrive for constant drama in their lives? Have you nothing better to do than make other people miserable and therefore resent and lose respect for you? That’s not the way you solve things, that’s not how mature, decent people act. I’m afraid that the majority of ‘reality’ shows today have led people to believe that this is the way to solve your problems, that this is now ‘the norm’.
I’m no saint, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had stupid, pointless fights, I’ve screamed in people’s faces and called people names in a pathetically desperate attempt to make myself feel better. I was wrong, and immature. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not afraid to admit it either. The question is: Why? Why do we act this way?
Because it’s easy.
I did a little research (and by research I mean I Googled “fight or flight” and chose to view the first option that wasn’t Wikipedia) and I found an article on the Fight or Flight response and how the human body reacts during it. Although this human instinct is primarily in response to situations where the attack is more physical or life-threatening, I firmly believe it comes out during any personal attack- be it emotional, mentally or spiritually.
“When our fight or flight response is activated, sequences of nerve cell firing occur and chemicals like adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. These patterns of nerve cell firing and chemical release cause our body to undergo a series of very dramatic changes…. When our fight or flight system is activated, we tend to perceive everything in our environment as a possible threat to our survival. By its very nature, the fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exist—and moves us into “attack” mode…. We may overreact to the slightest comment. Our fear is exaggerated. Our thinking is distorted. We see everything through the filter of possible danger. We narrow our focus to those things that can harm us…. Our heart is not open. Our rational mind is disengaged. Our consciousness is focused on fear, not love. Making clear choices and recognizing the consequences of those choices is unfeasible. We are focused on short-term survival, not the long-term consequences of our beliefs and choices.” – Neil F. Neimark, M.D
With all of these things going on in our brains and bodies, the easiest thing to do is thoughtlessly attack by screaming, name calling and throwing drinks in people’s faces. You don’t think about the consequences, you don’t think about the future of yourself, that other person and your relationship. Your defenses are up and you will react as quickly as possible to protect your own.
But we don’t have to act this way. We have the choice, when put in such a situation, to fight or to take flight. The automatic interpretation of ‘take flight’ is to run away from your problems, but that is not what I mean in this situation- please give me a moment to explain. If someone is attacking you (and for the purposes of this argument- physical attacks are not included) it most likely means that their fight or flight system has already been activated, and they’ve opted to fight. Due to the fact they are in fight-mode, I think it’s safe to assume all logical reasoning is out the window by now. It also means that all of those crazy things that are triggered in your body and brain during this response (the distorted thinking, exaggerated fear), have also been occurring in theirs.
So now the ball is in your court. Do you chose to fight back by stooping to their level with screaming and name calling? Do you try to take the high-road of fighting and attempt to reason? How often does that work out? These are how problems are dealt with in reality shows. Even if you’re attempting to reason with someone who’s yelling at you, you’re still yelling in their face to try to get them to be quiet and listen to what you have to say and this gets you no where. Should you take flight instead by stepping away from the situation and making it a point to discuss it rationally when you’re both at equal levels of calmness and maturity? That’s harder, isn’t it-and the results are no where close to immediate. Nevertheless, this is a way that you can be strong, loyal, honest and still stand up for what you believe in without acting like a complete jerk about it… it’s also called acting like an adult.
Still, we chose to fight...why? It’s easy to blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-al-cohol, I don’t doubt that a great portion of needless fights are brought on by it. But that’s just an excuse, and a poor one at that, because sometimes you feel so passionate about something or you were hurt so badly by someone that you can be completely sober and still want to fight. This beautifully brings us back to the original quote of this post. I’ll give you a moment to go re-read it…
… it’s good, right? Does it mean that everyone who fights is an ignorant, greedy, power-craving idiot? No. Does it mean that we are all guilty of being one or more of these things at times and we bring unfortunate things upon ourselves by indulging in these qualities? I think so. I also think that jealously and immaturity can easily be added to that list. People do crazy things over jealously, that’s made painfully apparent on reality shows- and in grade school.
I’d like to think that I’m past that point in my life now, that I’ve grown and developed into a mature person. I’m not saying I don’t get mad and upset about things, I am human after all. I say “I’d like to think” because I don’t know for sure, and everybody makes mistakes. Fortunately for me, I haven’t been confronted with an intense situation in quite some time. Am I saying I’ll never have a fight, ever again in my life? No, there’s a fat chance of that happening. I believe enough in myself to know I’ll try my best to act like a mature adult and make the right decisions because I don’t want to be like those silly housewives. That’s not how I want to act and live, it’s certainly not how I want my children to act (Which makes me think of another show, Dance Moms, those women scream and swear at each other in front of their daughters- ahhh!! Don’t you realize what you’re doing?).
Of course it’s easy to say I’ll make the right choices but when you’re in a situation head-on it’s hard to pull yourself back, it’s definitely possible though. All we can do as humans is learn from our mistakes, learn humility and shame and how to admit that you’re wrong, because no one is right all of the time, and if you seriously think you are (housewives and dance moms) then not only are you guilty of all four qualities above- you’re delusional to boot. Admitting you’re wrong isn’t easy- if it were easy everyone would do it. It’s embarrassing and really hard sometimes to admit you’re wrong, no one likes to hurt their pride, but everyone has to grow up at some point…right?
So come on guys, I know it’s not as entertaining as a screaming match resulting in a thrown drink, but next time you’re faced with a confrontation take the chance to improve your character by refusing to give into immaturity by fighting, and instead take flight.
I promise my next rant will not involve reality television and it’s impact on our society…actually, I can’t promise that.