The January 6th violence in Washington D.C. leaves many of us scratching our heads while we wonder “How did we get here?” The source of violence can be traced to two things: fear and egocentrism.
In particular, the fear of loss can trigger violence…especially when fears are affirmed repeatedly over a period of time. Fear of loss was the driving force behind the January 6th invasion of the Capitol. This largely white group fear that their values, interests, and wishes are being lost to those who hold different values, interests and wishes. They feel that they aren’t being heard and, consequently, they feel that violent revolt is the only option available to them.
Yet, the fear of loss doesn’t typically trigger violence. Most people experiencing the fear of loss become despondent, possibly embittered, but rarely violent. It’s when their fears are affirmed repeatedly over long periods of times, months or years, that their fear of loss becomes so intense that they feel they must lash out against those they feel are “stealing” what is rightfully theirs.
There is another element necessary for their fears to fester and become toxically violent. That is egocentrism.
The fear of loss can’t be sustained without the singular focus of “what I want, what’s good for me, what I believe.” People who are focused on the welfare of others don’t fear loss. They see others as people from whom they can learn, grow and prosper. They want to reciprocate by being someone who can enrich others’ lives as well. They don’t view what they share as a loss, to them it’s an investment in a brighter future for all.
Conversely, the most egocentric among us (and we all are to some degree), view life as a zero-sum game where someone must lose for another to gain. Because we all, at times, feel that our values are being challenged, our interests being ignored, our wishes going unheard, we must learn to recognize when these feelings are surfacing, then remind ourselves that nurturing them could lead us to continued anguish and possibly acting violently. Recognition prevents us from seeking affirmation of our fears. Instead, we look for ways to make our case more effectively…with an eye to benefitting all.
In those instances when you fear that others don’t share your values, that opportunities (your interests) are slipping away, that your wishes are being ignored, stop. Recognize that you are becoming egocentric.
As much as I’d like to say that I don’t experience these feelings, I can’t do so. My humanity prevents me from being exempt from these emotions. As human beings we are destined to experience these feelings, but we don’t have to nurture them.
We are blessed with the ability to set aside these emotions, remind ourselves that our welfare is directly related to the welfare of others. In doing so, we find it easy to seek solutions to benefit all. Any fear that we may have experienced dissipates like fog with the rising sun.
In the previous blog post I talked about how to deal with people whose fear and egocentrism have reached such fervor that they can’t be deterred from frustration, anger and potentially violent thoughts. It’s extremely difficult to change the attitudes of people in this emotional state. If you haven’t read this post, here’s the link.
Your mission is to prevent yourself from reaching the levels of fear and egocentrism that trigger violence. By taking the steps listed above:
- Recognizing that you’re becoming fearful and egocentric.
- Reminding yourself that your welfare is directly related to the welfare of others.
- Seeking solutions that benefit all.
- Employing these solutions.
you’ll replace your fear with optimism and your egocentrism with the joy of enriching both your life and the lives of others. As you encounter others in whom you find the early elements of fear rising, share with them the lessons of this message. Help them see that it is within their power to find and employ solutions that benefit all.
It’s through this combined effort of helping yourself and others avoid violence that you make this world a safer place.
For our kids
As you observe your kids becoming frustrated and angry, feeling like they are victims, ask them “Whose interests are you considering now? What do you think the other party is thinking and feeling? Is there a way to satisfy everyone’s interests?”
This approach will shift them from their emotional state into a more objective analysis including an examination of the validity that exists in the opposing position. As they consider all parties, they avoid the us vs. them mentality that can lead to violence.
In order for this approach to be effective, you must live the message. Kids resist what we say when it isn’t congruent with what we do. It’s disheartening when they remind us that we’re not walking the talk. Conversely, when you life the message, they emulate your behaviors which benefit all.
Feel free to share this blog with those whom you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”
I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, share your thoughts below in a comment.
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