There are impossibly complex and complicated ways of looking at a situation or a human response (culture, psychology, physiology, philosophy, religion, nationality, race, gender, and on and on forever) but there are also simple ways. And that true, if you stay in the simplicity, you miss the complex and complicated factors. But if you stay in the complexity, you miss the simple answer.
For instance: all organisms attempt to move away from pain and toward pleasure. Are there exceptions? I’m sure. And the chances of such organisms surviving to reproduce as successfully as those that avoid pain are small. Think of it as evolution in action.
Are there apparent exceptions among human beings? Even healthy ones? You betcha. Anyone who leaves the comfort of his couch to work out, or avoids the tastiest foods to eat the healthiest ones is APPARENTLY choosing suffering over comfort, unless they are one of the fortunate folks with a natural body-hunger for exercise and salad. The others have future-paced enough to know that if they DON’T exercise and control their eating, they will have massive pain down the road. When the pain overwhelms the momentary pleasure, their behaviors shift.
This is what makes the Dalai Lama’s “The purpose of life is to be happy” comment both valuable and problematic. But also makes that comment a perfect starting place for a philosophical discussion. It is not “fool proof” because, as they say, fools are so ingenious.
What is another one? There are two primary emotions: love and fear. All other emotions connect to these, one way or another.
Take that another step: Negative emotions like anger, greed, anxiety, guilt, moral outrage and so forth are all versions of fear, all “fear wearing another mask.”
These are both statements that cannot be ultimately “proven” the way you can “prove” that 1+1=2. But they are both statements that I am 100% sincere about, act on, and live my life by. And I am prepared to defend them at any time against any challenge.
This doesn’t mean I’m correct–it means I’m prepared to live and die by them. Different things.
In other words, if there is no underlying fear, there is nothing to create anger, and anger dissolves. And any violence based upon anger, once the fear is gone, will dissolve.
This, of course, leaves violence based upon love–in other words, the sheer joy of predation. Or the urge to protect. I have no reason to believe the pure predation response is is anything but a tiny minority of the violence we see in the world. YMMV, of course.
The very best NLP technique I’ve ever come across, the only one I’ve ever seen that had a moral root, is the “Core Transformation” technique by Connierae Andreas out of NLP Comprehensive in Denver. Brilliant stuff. It says that the core of any behavior, no matter how corrupt, violent, evil, or damaging, is spiritual. It is the attempt to connect with God, or the Divine, or the sense of peace we experienced floating in the womb or in our mother’s arms in infancy.
As absurd as this can sound, I’ve watched it play out countless times, with countless people, directly and by inference. You can speak to the most violent offender or damaged human being. And if you create a safe space where they do not feel judged for what they are saying, and keep asking “why did you do that? What did you hope to gain from it? What is the emotion you hoped to experience? If you had that positive result, fully and completely, what then..?”
Then no matter where you begin, no matter how horrendous the action, eventually you get to wanting to feel safe, and loved, and at peace. Every single time. I’ve used this technique countless times with clients–you have to relax them first, otherwise you’re just talking to their ego fear barriers. But below that? All of them seek peace and love. Some see violence as the only way to be safe. That they must achieve dominance to be safe. Or have possessions to feel adequate. Or have power over others, lest others have power over them. Or have money to get sex. (and sex to feel intimacy. And intimacy to drop barriers. And losing their shell to experience the joy of life and connection…)
So far, in every case (and I don’t doubt there’s someone out there where this wouldn’t work. They would be pretty alien, I suspect), the chain of perception leads to wishing to feel at peace, and connected to love.
By the way: this presents a solution: simply help them achieve the core emotion (connectedness and love) and then show them ways to achieve more of it, more efficiently and effectively than their old strategies, in alignment with social norms and positive values. Have them START with the emotion they used to pursue negative behaviors in hope of achieving.
Works with healthy people too: why do you think the “Secret Formula” insists that you live your life with Gratitude? Gratitude is an antidote for fear and anxiety. It opens the door to love. Love opens the door to living stress-free, and that allows you to happily achieve, rather than achieving to be happy.
If you haven’t experienced such a process, this may seem incredible to you, and I don’t doubt it. I wouldn’t believe it either, if I hadn’t seen it and didn’t have enough underlying experience to understand how this works in life. So I have no interest in trying to “convince” anyone of it, because, if I’m correct, I’m only talking to the ego/fear barriers. They CAN’T believe what I’m saying without perceived loss.
But for those who can sense that it might be true, you can try them in your own life and see. This isn’t a logic thing. Logic can only chew over the information you put in the hopper. Emotions will filter it before it gets there. Garbage In, Garbage Out.
You either try it for yourself, or you’ll never know whether or not it is truth.
So here are the positions I invite you to consider, asking “what would be true, if this were true? What difference would it make in my perception of the world, and of myself?”
- Fear is the primary emotion, anger secondary. “Anger is just a mask over fear.”
- All behaviors have a positive intent. Follow them far enough and there is nothing other than a desire to escape pain, gain pleasure, and ultimately experience deep spiritual or emotional peace.
A few caveats:
- understanding the humanity or intent behind a negative behavior does NOT mean condoning or accepting it. You have the right to be safe, and to protect yourself. You can use force to defend yourself without the slightest antipathy.
- “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions” is a very good thing to remember. Because someone had a positive intent doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be shunned, arrested, or, um, “brought to justice” as both Batman and The Punisher say. Ahem.
- If what I’m saying is true, then there are very very good reasons some people will never be able to admit it, or will experience real existential pain admitting that it is true. They might have look at themselves differently, or society differently. Adjust their nature-nurture equation or politics or personal relationships. Release anger or self-justification.
- If you have been abused, or oppressed, or are in deep fear, it will be difficult to see the humanity of the people who hurt you. This is why it takes a Jesus, an MLK, a Gandhi to see beyond the negative emotions and actions to the shared humanity. IT IS TOUGH. This may be the hardest thing a human being can do. I do not expect everyone to be strong enough to do it. Seriously.
Of course, I might be wrong. I can admit that.
But…what if I’m right? What would that mean? What would it suggest about an answer to the difficulties in your own life? In society? In the world? Just live in the possibility for a moment. And if you can’t? If you can’t even dream of the possibility long enough to engage without argument?
Then, I suggest, you are being controlled by fear so deep, so pervasive, that it is the water in which you swim. And as we know…fish have a hard time seeing water.
I might be wrong, sure. But…what if I’m right? What then?