Friday, June 30, 2017

Social Reflex vs. Understanding vs. (this spot intentionally left blank)

Some years ago I was listening to my cultural anthropology professor talk about how there are core elements that must be addressed by people living together in a society. Her contention was 'culture' is how a particular society addresses those issues. This is a simple but profound concept. The manifestations are different and details change over time, but the core elements are fixed to human social behavior. They have to be addressed. 
 I was trying to frame this  in a way that I could grasp and being both a sci-fi geek and a rebellious in nature, something clicked. “So it’s like Sturgeon’s Law,” I said. 
“I don’t know what that is,” the professor replied. 
“90% of everything is crud.” 
“I don’t understand” 
“There is 10% of issue that must be addressed and the remaining 90% is how a specific society does it” 
She thought about it for a second, before admitting that would work. 
Welcome to throwing the baby out with the bathwater of blind rebellion. The mistaking your 90% for the 10% of traditionalists. And the ‘before you tear down a fence know why it was put up in the first place’ of pragmatists. While we’re at it, welcome to a major problem about the new generation gap...oh and poverty... and being raised dysfunctional ... and...and... 
Yeah, it’s kind of an issue. 
Except it’s like the story of the father who took his 4 year old down to the ocean to see a beached whale. Standing in front of it, the child asked, “Where’s the whale, Daddy?” It was so big, the child literally couldn’t see it. So let me reduce things down a bit. 
Think of an annual event where family and friends come together, everyone exchanges gifts, eats, observes rituals and customs. Name that holiday. Obviously, if you’re American I’m talking about Christmas. Unless you’re Jewish, in which case I’m talking about Hanukkah. Unless you’re Vietnamese, then I’m talking about Tet. Unless you’re Muslim in which case I’m talking about Eid. Unless you’re Chinese then ... 
See it’s not the ‘holiday.’ It’s the behavior. It’s the group coming together, sharing, bonding, remembering, celebrating and committing to each other on a scheduled basis. A sense of goodwill and celebration that extends beyond just the family and goes out into the community. Oh and creating community and fellowship, yeah, that’s kind of important too. This commitment and goodwill is kind of important for us to function and co-exist. Important to the point of every culture has their own version. In fact, you could say it’s a 10% issue ...because it is. 
 Bet you never heard of your holidays described like this before. No need to. Because face it, these traditions/customs are just something you were raise with. To the point of you don’t even think about it. It’s just something you do -- and everyone else does -- in your society. In fact, you could call it ‘social reflexes.’ 
Or putting it another way, you don’t have to understand -- hell even know about -- the need for scheduled reaffirming of commitments. What’s more important is you participate. That’s a 10% issue embedded in the 90% of things that you ‘just do.’ You were raised to do things without question. Things that serve vital purposes. (Even if you think it’s just running around like a chicken with your head cut off in preparation for the damned holiday.)
My point is these customs serve purposes both beyond the surface ‘details’ and any simplistic ‘____ism’ or personal feelings. You may not know it, but by participating in the particular custom you’re doing something much bigger and more important. You are in fact, addressing a 10% issue.
Which brings us to the (this spot intentionally left blank) in the title. 
What if you were raised in a dysfunctional/scattered family where you weren’t allowed to bond? For example, if your mom couldn’t keep a relationship going and you changed ‘families’ every few years? Or you’ve decided you’re so smart and superior that you don’t buy into the crass commercialism of the holidays so you refuse to participate? Or that since you don’t believe in the --often -- religious overtones of an event you act as a little raincloud of resentment? Or because of personal trauma and/or resentment you get depressed and angry about being forced to deal with ‘those people’ and go in expecting trouble? In any of these -- and more -- cases the individual’s personal agenda gets in the way of achieving the goals of the underlying 10%. 
Okay fine and dandy, you don’t want to play. Modern society has enough safety nets that this can work for an individual. Well, let me rephrase that. You’re not going to die if you don’t have a group to bond with. You’ll be as neurotic as a three-legged troll, but unless you choose to suck a bullet you won’t die because of it. Oh, did I not mention that being social primates if we don’t ‘have a group,’ we go nuts? This is kind of a booger because a big problem we face today is how many people have lost the skills necessary to maintain long term relationships. 
And that brings up the problem of how many people were never taught HOW. 
See in rejecting customs we’ve often thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Often in railing and condemning the 90% ‘details’ we’ve failed to recognize the embedded 10%. Which hey, as an individual, that’s okay. You can hurt yourself all you want. The problem is when it becomes generational. 
In our rampaging quest for independence and emphasis-on-self we’ve kind of created a massive untended consequence. Many in the next generation weren’t given the understanding about the need for the 10%. I’m not talking about rejecting the 90% I’m talking a blank spot in their understanding of what it takes to be a functional human being.
I’m not talking malice. I’m not talking selfishness. I’m talking parts missing. 
Now lest people get to hung up on the whole holiday trauma drama idea, let me give you a different example. What does it take to keep a job? 
Seriously. Stop and think about it for a second. Bare bones, what standards do you have to meet in order to stay employed? I’ll give you four: 
1 - Show up 
2- Show up on time 
3 - Do your work 
4- If appropriate, have an acceptable appearance
There are more, but those are pretty basic right? (Como se de se, “10%”?) To keep a job you need to meet these standards. To do that, you need to ‘assign value’ to them. This influences your decision making. (For example you party all night long on your ‘Friday’ instead of when you have to be at work the next day. That way you don’t call in with the round bottle flu.) People who are interested in keeping their jobs, accept and meet these standards. They do it as well... a given. You don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. 
 However, did you know one of the challenges of getting people off generational welfare and out of urban poverty is they have to be trained to assign value to these ideas? To understand why, know this: The skills necessary to keep you alive in poverty are not the skills that will get you out of poverty. (These folks are real good at surviving in that environment.) Followed by: In the urban poverty lifestyle those four standards are not relevant. They don’t understand why it’s important. I cannot stress enough, these are missing parts. It’s not just being told these standards (knowing them). Without the assigning of value to them, those four standards are just noise. 
And the fastest way to ignore them? “That doesn’t make sense.” True. But a big part of it not making sense is you have important parts missing from your world view. You need to have A and B in order for C to make sense. This is a gap that goes beyond just youth and inexperience and into not being given the resources and framework to develop understanding.
This is where we really have to stop and consider the problem of ‘in rejecting the 90% losing the 10%.’ Core elements -- that used to be passed on as social reflex (you did it because ‘that’s just what you do’) -- are no longer being communicated. A big part of why is the people who are not passing them on -- if not outright rejecting and condemning it all -- don’t understand the difference between the 90% and the 10%. 
Remember, the 90% isn’t fixed, it can be changed, adjusted and developed. And quite frankly it happens all the time. But throwing out that 10%, yeeeeeeeah, that’s a problem. It’s also made worse by the fact that there are people who are actively working to trash the current 90% and replace it with their version of how things ‘should be.’ (Take a good hard look at what happened after the French Revolution and the attempts to redesign society... up to and including the Terror.) A big part of that involves tearing down the current 90%, but do they understand that 10% still has to be addressed? Here’s a hint, utopia without the 10% isn’t utopia, it’s hell. 
But attempts to create a perfect society isn’t the main problem. The bigger problem is: What we rejected yesterday is going to bite us on the ass tomorrow, and it’s creeping up on us today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chang Your Fuckin' Zip Code

There's a abyss people can fall in. It’s a dark and evil place filled with monsters. It's got all kinds of nasty, dysfunctional stuff in there, like addiction, betrayal, death wishes, trauma, depression, hatred, violence, abuse, suicide, death, yada, yada, yada. I liken this mental abyss to the Grand Canyon. It's frickin' huge and it’s hell on earth. 
Of those who fall into the Abyss, most never come out. Fast or slow, they die there. Now while this is the biggest and most traumatic thing that has ever happened to the individual, straight up, it’s just another day in the Abyss. Namely because it’s filled with like minded people -- and other things. In fact, there’s worse the further in you get. (Remember my first question about ‘bad’ is “Did the person live?” If yes, I say,“Good, we can do something.” If no, the second question is, “How many parts was the body found in?” Where’d you think I got such a warm and fluffy standard?)
Some people fall into the Abyss and at some level they manage to grab on to something and hang on. They don't get worse, but they don't get better. They’ll stay there for the rest of their lives. Other people try to climb out, slip (or give up) and fall to their deaths. People who’ve never been there don’t understand why this happens. Start with the only guarantee in the Abyss is it sucks. I mean that in both meanings -- but mostly about pulling you down. Oh and while climbing out technically sucks only slightly less, it’s WAY more painful, scary and work. Painful because many of the things that soothes the pain of the Abyss are denied to you at this time. Scary because you have to question your ‘truths’; truths that sent you into the Abyss in the first place. Work because ...well you’re changing your entire life. So depending on the individual, just hanging on can be one hell of an accomplishment.
Still others do manage to climb out. Once you've climbed out, you're pretty well exhausted, torn up and twitchy. I liken this to, at first, just laying on the edge of the canyon panting and hurting. You're alive, but you’re a mess and can't do much. 
It takes time to 'recover.' That’s what really want to talk about. Not just the time, but breaking the Abyss’ domination of your life -- especially after you’ve gotten out. This is important because once you’ve been there, the Abyss never goes away. But there’s a difference between it not going away and controlling the rest of your life.
So there you are exhausted and bloody at the edge. In time you can move enough to set up a camp and take care of business while you heal up some more. Those wounds you took in the Abyss seriously limit you. And while we’re at it, there’s the exhaustion issue. You’ve just shot your wad getting out of that big ass canyon. You’re not going to be able to pop up and do a double time a fifty mile march. This ‘camping’ is very much a part of the recovery process.
Here's what’s interesting about that camp. Even though you're not in the Abyss anymore, it still 'rules your life.' I mean it's RIGHT THERE! A yawning darkness that’s there all the time and still having major influence on everything you do. Its presence limits your options and weighs heavily on your soul and consciousness -- including the high likelihood of falling back in. As long as you’re camped on the edge, it’s still staring you in the face. Oh yeah, take a wrong step and you’re back in it. (Or decide that it’s ‘easier’ back in the Abyss and you deliberately jump back in.) 
So there you are, you’re alive, but just barely. And even though you’re out of it the Abyss is still messing with you. Here is the core message of this piece: You aren't supposed to permanently set up house on the edge of the abyss. Yeah you need to camp for a while, but over-all, the goal is to get the hell away from the edge. Keep that in mind, we’ll come back to it.
That temporary camp on the edge is where you try and make sense of the suffering. Understanding is another process that takes time and work -- and here is what a lot of people don’t get: It’s going to change. Yeah, yeah, your life will change. But I’m talking about your ‘understanding’ of the suffering. There’s an old recovery saying, “When you’re in a toilet all you can see is a bigger toilet.” Well, when you’re camped at the edge trying to make sense of the suffering, the only tools you have to make sense of what happened are the same thoughts that put you in the Abyss in the first place. Your ‘understanding’ of the toilet comes from the toilet. So don’t get married to it. It’s at this time that you have to be careful not to turn into -- or be turned into -- a permavictim. 
See there are alot of people out there who want to help you ‘make sense of the suffering’ and get over the trauma of having been in the Abyss. Often in the form of ‘help’ that really, really makes sense. At least sense to the way of thinking that put you into the Abyss. That’s to say it really sounds good and it’s a much better story about ‘you’ than the one that put you into the Abyss. A lot of people really grab onto these ‘new and improved’ tales about who they are. Once again, put a push pin into this, we’ll come back to it. Back to the Abyss and the camp. In time you’re going to heal up enough that you can start doing stuff. By that I mean doing more than just surviving and -- literally -- healing. You don’t run a sprint after surgery, much less a marathon. Healing of your psyche after getting out of the Abyss is the same thing. It’s not just the original pain that sent you into the Abyss, you picked up a lot more wounds while in the Abyss and on the way out. 
 As you heal and get more ‘energy,’ you come to decision point. What are you going to do now? This is both a bigger question and a weird-assed one than you’d think. See before you fell in, your thinking was dominated by whatever sent you to the Abyss. While you were in it just getting by ate up all your attention. That’s why “What now” is a weird-assed question. You’ve never had to ask it before. There’s another important point that is both contentious and a little ... well squishy: Resources. Contentious because some will argue you never had resources, others take the approach that “yes, you had them -- or at least the potential -- in the past (but, like parts tearing off a satellite that’s lost its orbit, they were stripped away as you were going down in flames.)” Then come assholes like me who point out, “Why does it have to be either/or? Why not both?” That squabble aside, the bottomline is at the ‘camp,’ you don’t have too many resources. To recover and get on with life, you’re going to have to do something about that.
Anyway, resources are also squishy That’s partly because it’s a basket concept. Partly it’s that ‘resources’ are both physical and non-physical. When I say a basket concept, that means there’s lots of topics that go into that basket and not all of them make sense to someone camping on the edge. That’s because not all of them have a physical existence. Sure ‘money’ is physical resource, so too is owning a car. Those are physical resources you can have - or not. With physical resources there’s always a matter of how much and how reliable? (Is your car reliable and can you afford to fix it if it breaks down?) But coping skills, boundary enforcement, self-discipline, people skills and time? Those are not physical; but they are very much resources you need. And to get them, you have to develop them. Something you won’t often hear is gaining resources is a part of the recovery process.
 That’s because resources are a big part of getting away from the edge. But, here’s the catch, as you’re healing some of the most important don’t look all that important. The ones you can see can look insurmountable odds. For example the old quandary: To get a job you need experience, but how do you get experience if you can’t get a job? (The answer to that problem is in some of those non-physical resources.) Putting in terms of this analogy: Resources will be the ‘supplies’ you’ll need to break camp and move on. Move on and away from the Abyss.
Changing tracks for a moment, a guy by the name of Fredrick Nietzsche said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that saying. But I’m going to add a caveat, once you’ve been into the Abyss it’s carved into your psyche like the Grand Canyon is carved into the state of Arizona. When I said, it will never go away, I wasn’t joking. It is now part of you. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t have to be all of you. 
You don’t have to forever stay at the edge of the Abyss. In fact, that kind of defeats the idea of recovery. The idea isn’t just to change your zip code from the Abyss. It’s also to change your zip code from the edge too. The edge of the Abyss is a temporary camp. That’s something a whole lot of ‘survivors’ don’t want to hear, some don’t want others to know it and some folks -- including those supposedly helping survivors -- don’t want survivors knowing either. We’ll come back to this in a bit because it’s important.
To get a different understanding on recovery, we’re going to have to change the analogy slightly. Yes the Abyss is the Grand Canyon in your psyche. It’s huge, in your face and a burden. It’s a horrible pain and is almost overwhelming to your limited consciousness. So become bigger. 
As I like to say, “Become Arizona.” See, as big as the Grand Canyon is, it’s just a tiny section of a much bigger State. Really, it’s off in a deserted corner. The counter to the magnitude of the Abyss and its domination over your life is to become ‘big enough’ to be more than just a survivor of the Abyss. Sure it’s there, but so what? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Using geography, the Grand Canyon is there, but you don’t have to live there. You can spend your time in Flagstaff or Phoenix. Yeah, it’s still part of you, but you spend your life and efforts being more than just a victim. By becoming bigger, you’re not running from it, it’s just a small part of a much larger and -- actually -- healed you.
To do that though, you’re going to need to develop resources. Resources not only to help you get away from the Abyss, but get to those other places. These are the non-physical (soft if you will) resources I was talking about earlier. Soft resources like better coping skills, emotional intelligence, people skills, trust, trustworthiness, reliability and how to grow and maintain stable relationships. Like I said, when you’re at the edge of the Abyss, these don’t sound important for recovery, but they really, really are. (And BTW, odds are it was the lack of these that put you into the Abyss in the first place.) This is how you become bigger than the Abyss. When you do that, both the pain and the pull of the Abyss fades. And that’s what breaks its domination over your life.
The trick of that is you develop these extra resources as you’re growing. It takes time, but you have a ways to go. So yeah, you have the time. You do this so when you ‘get there,’ you have what it takes to stay there. Having ‘soft’ resources means you won’t get pulled back to the edge of the Abyss. It’s not just coming to terms with your past, it’s having the resources to keep surviving the Abyss from ruining your life. It’s about moving on by discovering life is about more than just you (and how only thinking about yourself put you into the Abyss in the first place.) 
In closing I’d like to tell you the reason I came up with this analogy of a temporary camp and moving away from the edge of the Abyss. In case you haven’t figured it out by how I’m talking I have ...a little experience... with the Abyss, crawling out and moving on. It was a lot of work and I had a lot of catching up with people who hadn’t been sidetracked by the Abyss. Okay double duty sucked, but life ain’t fair. But you know what? It was worth it. Those things that made life -- and me --miserable don’t control me anymore. In short, I recovered by becoming more than just what happened to me in my past. All in all, life’s pretty good. 
Having said that, I began to notice a disturbing trend. There are a lot of people who climb out of the Abyss and don’t just camp before moving on. They build a permanent home on the edge. I’m not talking a base camp, I’m talking condos. They make the lip of the Abyss their permanent zip code. This isn’t recovering. This isn’t moving on. They build their identity around the Abyss. At the same time, it’s always about them. Whether it’s what happened or why they can’t control themselves now because of it.. Some not only ennoble it, they brag on it. This to the point of turning it into Victim Olympics of who had a worse time. But a big part of this comes from a disturbing place. Sometimes I see what is being offered as ‘help’ and I have to ask, “How’s that helping the person move onto Phoenix?” 
See, when you’re laying on the edge of the Abyss, you do need help. You’re desperately trying to make sense about what went wrong and how you ended up in the Abyss. And you want to listen to people who can offer you different perspectives to keep you from going back in again. One of the stories that makes sense (for most) people is that of victimization. You are a victim of the Abyss. That becomes your ‘new’ identity. You must embrace the pain and feelings of what happened to you. You are broken and have been wronged. Often to the point of saying you had nothing to do with ending up in the Abyss. 
 Ummm...excuse me?
I’m pretty sure there wasn’t just one thing that ‘put you’ into the Abyss. There were a lot of conscious choices that brought you to the Abyss and even more that put you into it. Now maybe they were bad choices, hell let’s even go so far to say they were fucked up. I’m a big fan of saying, “You didn’t have the coping skills to handle what happened to you and that is what drove you to the Abyss.” But there were lots and lots of conscious choices -- even if they were impulsive. Owning that doesn’t sound too helpful on the edge (in fact, it might even be too much), but it’s critical for moving away from the edge.
What I’m saying is the victim identity is a short term sooth, with long term problems. To fully heal and get on with life, you don’t need to be ‘empowered,’ but you’ll need agency. Don’t take that agency away from people or give it up yourself. Especially don’t let some counselor take your agency away and turn you in into a perma-victim.
 Did you just fight your way out of the Abyss because it sucked so much? So why is this person telling you to embrace the role of a victim and set up house on the edge of the very Abyss you are trying to get the hell away from? This is a really important point. Your goal is to move on with life, not stay stuck as an emotional cripple because of the past. Is it going to be easy? Hell no. Are you going to be able to do things like a ‘normal’ person who didn’t have that past? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. The ability is again something to be found in soft resources. At the same time, often the wounds are so deep that you’re going to have to figure out a different way to get along. That’s okay. It can be done and these alternative can work. Sometimes you just are going to have to suck it up and learn how to deal. (It took me years to be able to relax on the Fourth of July, because there are certain cracking, white flashes in some fireworks that look just like muzzle flashes in the dark. As in what it looks like when someone is shooting at you. Every time I saw them I wanted to dive, roll and come up shooting. I learned to deal because it’s a tradition of the family I married into.) It’s going to take time and practice, but you can do it. It’s part of moving away from the edge of the Abyss. 
But I want you to take a good hard look at people who have turned the edge of the Abyss into their permanent zip code. For many people it’s their carte blanche for their bad behavior. For others, they’re an explosion looking to happen. They’re not looking for a fight, but they are looking to go off on someone...anyone...over the slightest excuse. Other people just ‘can’t help themselves. They feel so ‘strongly’ they just have to act. For others the injustice of what happened to them has becomes their crusade. They mix it with ideology and identity and you get a ‘defender’ of the oppressed who attacks at the drop of a hat. There are a lot of people who have weaponized their victimhood. People who have set up house on the edge of the Abyss come in many forms, but it’s always about what happened to them. They’ve never moved on. The Abyss still rules them. 
 If you really want to heal and move on, you’re going to have to change your zip code. So while that temporary camp is an important step. Don’t listen to people who tell you you can’t move on from there. It can be done. You can do it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Animal’s Guide to Negotiation and Compromise -- Out at the Sharp End.

I was asked the eternal question. Well okay, so it’s not really eternal, but -- because I talk so much about negotiation and compromise -- I get asked it A LOT. “How do you negotiate with such people?”
Such people are the bullies, temper tantrum throwers and “NO COMPROMISE!” idealists (read, pain in the ass fanatics). 
Here’s the thing. Most the people asking this question are ‘nice people.’ Unfortunately nice people translates into “People who have been conditioned to let others do the dirty work about shutting down bad behavior. People who have lost the skillset -- much less the willingness -- to do it themselves.” 
Yeah, about that... 
Here are basic skillsets to help you break the habits that leave you vulnerable to being bullied by ‘such people.’ 
We're going to start by quoting Nietzsche. "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."
Keep that in mind, it will become important later.
Moving on, realize that although I speak long and loud about compromise, it isn't from a warm fluffy kumbaya singing standpoint. As a friend of mine once summed up "Negotiation without the means to back it up is just begging." I'm not much into begging. 
My deep love for negotiation and compromise is rooted in fact that shooting people -- who are shooting back at you -- is rather ... unpleasant. 
(And gawds know there's all that paperwork. But before paperwork there's the whole surviving being shot at issue. Which people who haven't been shot at [or think they have a monopoly on doing the shooting] don't realize is NOT as easy as they think. And of course when your friends and loved ones don't survive, that isn't much fun either.)
Negotiation, compromise and treating with people are the absolute best and effective ways I know of keeping blood off the walls and all over the floor. Yay for them! Love not having to scrub the walls or shampoo the carpet. 'Cause trust me, that shit smells.
Many people fail to understand that compromise has different levels. Not just that compromise works on many levels. (Which BTW is very true, yet often forgotten.) But there are many levels and types of compromise. Yeah there's all kinds of complex, on going negotiations over trade, business, and politics. But it works it way down through different levels until it can get to "You don't make a move. I don't make a move and we both walk away from this situation alive." If it's a one time deal, it's done and over. If there are proximity issues then it gets into a more complex 'to avoid having to shoot each other you stay on your side of the fence and I stay on mine." 
But remember kiddies -- YAY for compromise!
Having said that. Not everyone can be negotiated and compromised with. In fact, some people you're just going to have to shoot in the face. Not just because they're absolutists, but because they'll never agree to 'you stay on your side of the fence and I'll stay on mine.' (Which is ~gasp~ a form of compromise.) Nope. EVERYTHING is their side of the fence and you are on their property.
Make no mistake. These people exist. However, they are radically different than someone who has learned they can get away with not compromising. To the point of it has become their negotiation strategy. And a very successful strategy it has become. These folks are as common as cockroaches. And now for the cold bucket of water over your head. 
This strategy relies on you being a wimp.
But more than that, it relies on you not knowing there are other options than negotiation and compromise. Or you being unwilling to do them (see wimp comment). All you got is trying to compromise (see begging comment). Their hissy fit depends entirely on you not being willing to make NOT compromising too costly. Not in the sense of a screaming argument costly, but a shrug of 'okay, if you insist' before you drop them.
The reason I say they are as common as cockroaches, is like cockroaches they come in all sizes. They can range in size and targeting from a 12 year old being snarky with mom to Khrushchev banging 'his' magical third shoe on the table at the UN. The core strategy is the same, what varies is the degree and who they target. Which basically boils down to who they think can get away with it with.
If you're afraid to stand up to people -- whether because of the person or from fear of institutional reprisal -- that means you. In other words, you aren't negotiating, you're begging -- and THEY know it. Even if you don't.
Which brings us back to not becoming a monster, but first a word about negotiating.
One of best models for negotiation I ever came across is done with two circles. (BTW, I got this from SSgt Grizzly Bear whose MOS is 'Find evil men and shoot them in the face.") Each circle represents the wants and needs of a party. For negotiation to happen there has to be some overlap (Think Venn Diagram). The more overlap -- while still staying distinct -- the easier it is to compromise. The less, the harder and more likely failure. 
Common example, you have something to sell. I want to buy. You have the maximum you want and minimum you'll take. I have maximum I'll pay and the minimum I want to pay. As long as there is overlap, we have something to talk about.
The key point here is everyone gets what they need... not necessarily what they want (there's a difference)... but what they need. This makes compromise a win/win.
If however, there is no agreement (no overlap if you will) we go our separate ways. I do not need THAT particular one. We walk away from each other seeking to get what we need -- if not want. Although not technically accurate think of agreeing to walking away as a lower level of compromise and agreement. We agree to let the other person go about his/her way.
Got this? If everyone plays by these rules we can go about our business of getting what we need -- and maybe even what we want. Cool beans.
Problems occur however, when someone wants their 'circle' to eclipse yours.This is not compromise or negotiation, it's an invasion. Worse, it's not an occupation. It's more like the aliens form Independence Day where they come in, strip the planet and then move on.
We're gonna have to talk about that happy horseshit.
MOST people who do this behavior are El Cucaracha. They're used to getting away with this because most people are afraid to say "Not only no, but HELL no." (Or if you're a Southern girl, "Awww hell no.") When they run into people who are willing to say it ... well, you know what happens with roaches when you flip the light on. (Except unlike real roaches, damn are these people loud as they scurry away.)
The others are the ones you're going to have to evicerate because there's no compromising with them. They're going to try to invade no matter what you do.
The trick is not only to be able to tell the difference, but react accordingly. Even it it means letting the son of a bitch live and walk away because he didn't cross the line. But if he does cross the line... oh well, I'm pretty sure I made it clear what would happen.
I hope the Nietzsche quote has been simmering on the back burner. Because the only thing that separates monsters from those fighting monster is ethics, rules, standards and codes of conduct. Things like letting the cockroaches scuttle to safety -- instead of assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is an extremist and must be shot in the back of the head.
What are your standards about telling people no? What are your ethics about compromise and negotiation? How much do you allow other people to get what they need? Are you playing for a win/win or is your negotiation based on the assumption it's a zero sum game? What are the lines you won’t cross? What are the lines you absolutely won’t allow to be crossed? Under what conditions will you act? When will you start? When will you end? How much time do you spend honing these skills?
You asked how do you negotiate with 'such people'? Well start out with it's not a technique. It's more understanding negotiation and compromise. Then responding on the level and how hard they're coming at you. And, of course, balancing the acceptance that sometimes a situation can't be negotiated (and must be resolved by other means) with not crossing the line and becoming a monster yourself.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Thought on 'Deterrents'

Don't get married to them. By that I mean 
A - don't believe having something that you think will ‘deter others from certain behaviors’ is all you need. 
B - get too convinced that because you have this deterrent someone won't make a run at you.
Those are common traits among people who have deemed an item and/or an attitude as a deterrent. Theirs is an unwarranted confidence. They have mistaken an item/attitude for what makes up actual deterrents -- namely the willingness, knowledge, ability and commitment to act and awareness.
But most of all trust. 
I'll explain that last one in a second, but first, a general thought on the others. It's not an item or an attitude that's 'the deterrent.' In fact, effective deterrence is a combination of factors. Each of these boost the others to make it not a bluff. That is a major problem. See the so-called deterrent many rely on is pure bluff, because they lack willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment.
They want that ‘one thing’ they have invested in to do all the work. That’s all they think they need. They don’t understand it isn’t the one thing. It is willingness et al that are most likely to cause would-be attackers to calculate the odds of success -- and say, "Uhhhh no." 
But know this: That decision is up to him, not you. Sorry for that little reality break, but that’s what-it-is out at the sharp end. But also know a big part of that calculation isn't about you -- it's about his resources and what he can do. Unlike many people in our modern world, the bad guys are looking at other people. But he’s not just looking, he’s ‘reading’ (awareness). If he 'reads' you correctly --as in he figures how far you are willing to go and he’s willing to go farther then -- your 'deterrent' or not, he's going to go. But if during reading you he sees your willingness et al goes as far as his ...well that's not going to be fun. It will be even less fun for him if yours goes farther than his. Around that time -- unless you’ve done something spectacularly obnoxious -- odds are good he’s going to go find another target. 
About that floor show of obnoxiousness...
Funny thing, willingness, awareness, knowledge, ability and commitment aren't loud and showy. In fact, loud and demonstrative are common indicators of their actual absence. (Those two are like chrome, more a plating -- not through and through.) The signs of willingness et al are far more subtle. But you can see them if you look for them -- and unless you're wanting to bleed you better look for them. While cheap ass punks and the young and dumb often don't know the signs, those experienced with violence do. Their lives depend on being able to recognize them. As such, it is the presence of willingness et al that usually cause the heavy hitters to recalculate. 
Which brings us back to that deterrent. See in the comfort and safety of quiet moments or the internet it’s easy to say or think ‘rawr, rawr, deterrent, rawr.’ But you know old Louis L’Amour had a saying, “Adventure is just a romantic name for trouble. It’s swell reading about in the comfort of your recliner, but it’s pure hell when it’s coming at you in a dark and lonely place.” 
I mention this because when trouble is looking them in the face, many people -- who thought that they only needed ‘one thing’ -- suddenly realize it needs a little boosting. Well, it’s always needed the boost of willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment, but until that moment they’ve blown those off. So in the heat of the moment they try to patch it with hostility, threats, insults and truculence. They do this in an attempt to show how scary and serious they are. (“See, how dangerous I am? You better not mess with me!”) 
First, like their deterrent, it’s a bluff. Second, it’s a bad one. Third, this behavior is well known sign among the violent of someone who isn’t able to back it up. Fourth, most of the time it’s obnoxious. (As in Peyton’s, don’t insult, threaten or challenge.) Fifth, which personalizes it. Which now means, the guy has more reasons to attack. Reasons, you haven’t just given him, but like a shovel full of poop, you’ve thrown on him.
What a lot of people don’t realize is that their belligerence to shore up their bluff of a deterrent, is often what is going to tip the scales for the guy to attack. Worse, now because you’ve personalized it, he’s going to be coming in a lot harder than he would have before. Not only because you’ve insulted him, but you’ve also shown him how hard he has to attack you in order to ‘win.’ You’re so-called ‘deterrent?’ It’s not working anymore and -- even if it’s an item -- now you’ve just showed you’re more mouth than commitment. 
Your willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment, are vital elements in helping someone decide to ply their trade elsewhere or find an alternative strategy. But remember I mentioned trust? That’s something that a lot of keyboard commandos don’t understand. Which is a problem in and of itself. However a far bigger problem is how many instructors don’t understand how important trust is either. And how not understanding it, they don’t include it in what they’re teaching. 
See a would-be-attacker hast to trust you. By that I mean he has to know in his heart of hearts that if he continues to do A, you will injure him. However, if he instead chooses to do B, you will not.
Setting aside all the happy horseshit about turning an escape route into a death trap, there’s solid truth to ‘Nothing fights harder than a cornered rat.’ If your behavior puts a person into a corner, you’re going to discover the truth of that. This especially if you’re jumping around, howling and barking, trying to show him how dangerous you are. See you might think you’re telling him not to attack. But are you also telling him that it’s not safe to retreat as well? And that can include you not telling him that he has the option to safely leave. 
All the talk about lying and deception of the bad guy, nobody talks about you have to be trustworthy enough not to shoot him in the back. He doesn’t know you from Adam, why should he turn his back on you? This especially if you’re scared, freaked out and nigh unto panic. You know all the stuff you fear about him doing to you? Yeah, in that state you’re more likely to do it to him. So now you got two violent people stuck in a situation that neither one knows how to get out of safely. And in fact, it looks like ‘the first one to launch’ has the best chances of getting out of that mess intact. 
 Congratulations, in your fear, you just made his best chance to survive is to attack you. That’s why trust is so important. Someone who has the willingness, et al to act, must also be trustworthy. Trustworthy in the sense of if Loverboy acts, the bad will happen. Trustworthy that if he doesn’t, it won’t. 
 Hopefully by now you’ve begun to catch on that ‘deterrence’ is not an end game. It’s more of a calculated strategy to keep things from going to the next level. Often it works, but inherent in it working is having what it takes to take care of business when it doesn’t. And that’s where most people veer off into la-la land. 
First are the people who think all they need is that one thing. We’ve just talked about them, but now we’re going into some flavors. What sets the first set of folks apart is how often they don’t really think about all the things they’re doing that put them into situations where bad things can happen. I’m talking about because they have this ‘talisman of protection’ they can walk home alone from the bar at night. If it fails, they’re either at a complete loss or they try to patch it with belligerence. 
Second are the people who figure it’s going to fail, so why bother? They figure they’re going to be attacked no matter what so they get their ‘self-defense’ in first. Yeah, that’s called “starting it.” These are the folks who usually end up in prison whining about how they’re there for defending themselves. (When in fact they did all kinds of dumb things that took it outside the boundaries of self-defense -- like walking off their property, armed, to confront an obnoxious neighbor.)
Third is a subset I’ve run across in the SD world who both have their own unique definition of self-defense and...well, appear to be itching to unload on someone. I mean they’re looking for an excuse to ‘defend themselves’ against perceived aggression. What they have under their belt isn’t a deterrent, it’s a felony conviction waiting to happen. (These folks often self-identify with comments like “I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6” or “There are no rules in a street fight.”) 
The fourth category are folks who never stopped to think that there was something beyond common sense and a deterrent. This group is by far the largest. I’m talking about the average good person who has a gun, knife, golf club or baseball bat for home defense. They don’t go out of their way to find trouble, nor do they do many things that will raise their chances of trouble finding them -- like walking home alone at night. At night, they’re usually home watching TV or doing the laundry. As their lifestyle doesn’t invite trouble it usually passes them by. When trouble does come a’calling, the greatest danger to them is thinking that the item/attitude is going to do the work for them. All they have to do is display it.
It is this last category of people who really need to understand what deterrence is and isn’t. This especially because most of them do not have the willingness and commitment to use an item. “Wait, me just showing it to you was supposed to stop you!” (The same goes for attitude by the way.) While those who do use the item (or attitude) aren’t acting out of commitment, but fear. Usually that manifests as using it at ‘the wrong time.’ Just so you know, fear is NOT the same as ‘reasonably believes.’ Which going back to something I mentioned earlier, is why so many homeowners are in prison for shooting an intruder in the back. (Remember that trust issue?) 
You really need to sit down and do some thinking about what you think you know about deterrents. Do some research and talk to a few folks who actually have been through situations. You’ll find they often talk about things that instructors don’t mention. Things that are present in the field, but until you’ve been out there you don’t know how important they are. 
I mentioned something earlier you need to know and seriously consider. Too many people think deterrence is the end game. It’s not. It’s more of a useful by-product of the combination of other factors. Factors, that if you’re lucky, you’ll never have to use. It is a huge paradox about us humans that the willingness to use physical violence usually means you don’t have to. That is a good thing. But the key word here is ‘usually.’ There are always going to be circumstances that, try though you might to keep it from going, it will go down. You can do everything right and the other guy decides to jump (especially the young and dumb). That’s where you’ll need to use that willingness, knowledge, awareness, ability and commitment. 
Having said that, the more willingness et al you have, the rarer those times are. Incidentally, when you have these, the bigger trick is to be able to recognize when the other guy has changed his mind and the threat has passed. (“Oh goody, I can go back to drinking my coffee.”)
Unfortunately, many people want the glorious result of deterrence, without the investment of developing willingness et al. At best, they are bluffing. At worst they are putting themselves into high risk situations with nothing but a bluff. 
So in closing let me say: Your attitude isn’t the deterrent. In fact, attitude often gets you into more trouble than it solves. It’s not the weapon that is the deterrent. While we’re at it, you’re not the weapon. If you’re going to do things that increase the likelihood of trouble finding you, you’re going to have to shift mental gears WHILE you’re doing them. (For example, walking home/to your car at night requires a different mindset than you had in the bar or at work. And it certainly isn’t the same when your inside of them.) 
What’s going to cause trouble to steer clear is you being will do whatever you have to to get home to you loved ones. That’s going to change your body language. That’s a message you can’t fake. If you don’t have that willingness and commitment you don’t have a deterrent, you have a tailsman you’re clutching as you walk by the graveyard. In which case you might as well start whistling too -- it’s about that effective.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Musings On Trump's Victory and Hysteria (Oh, and BTW, your bodyguard just got fired.)

Let me first say that no matter who won there was going to be violence. As we're seeing now and we will see more of the same..
Having said that --unless certain things happen-- I think this country has taken a MASSIVE step away from the major shitstorm I was seeing as likely (if Hillary had won). Make no mistake, people are most likely going to die, but I don't think it will be as bad if Clinton had got into the White House.
(It's just going to be different people).
This election had some serious lines crossed. One of which is while it's been a long tradition of supporters of a candidate to hate upon each other, candidates themselves tended to keep their sniping at each other. A new trend is the candidates started talking shit about the other candidate's supporters. To the best of my knowledge, Hillary really had the lead on this. Or at the very least, she REALLY crossed the line. How much would you want someone in the office of President who deemed you "Deplorable?"
Something that most Americans don't even know is that the agencies, departments, etc, they think of as the 'US Government' are under the 'Executive Branch" (There are three branches, President [Executive], Congress and Courts.) So the bureaucracies that run our lives ARE presidential. Every time there are elections not just he heads, but the top echelons of these agencies are swept clean and new political appointees are put in place. You're talking something like 4,000 to 5,000 jobs. This SERIOUSLY affects and effects the direction the agency takes, what they focus on and how they interact with the public (e.g., what laws they enforce and/or how ferociously).
The US media and his supporters have been crowing over the goodness of Obama's presidency. Two points on that. One is generalized. When you talk about the person that is one thing, when you're talking about the Administration, you're talking those 4-5,000 people steering these agencies in the direction the president wants. Two is a little more specific. There were a beau coup bunch of people who were getting sick and tired of what they consider overreach, special interests, waste and downright encroachment and forcing things on them BY THE GOVERNMENT.
On a more personal level, they were both pissed and afraid because -- and arguably with good reason -- of the number of people who would use these conditions (and government) as their 'muscle.' This made average people vulnerable and helpless IF they stayed in the system. Stay in and be helpless or step outside and take all the hassles of that. A whole lot of people were feeling trapped.
An example of this, look at the University of Virginia Rolling Stone Rape case. Not too long ago I ran an article that asked "How involved was the Department of Education in setting up the -- and I don't like this word -- hoax?" (Hoax implies a practical joke, this caused all kinds of damage -- including Rolling Stone is likely going to be sued out of business) In my research I found fragments that indicate there was -- at minimum -- a near conspiracy. It could go up to direct manipulation to create a situation for political and furtherance of an agenda and power consolidation. It -- no lie-- went all the way up to the White House and special task force meetings held there. Once the story broke the Department of Education swooped down on UVA. Once the story fell apart, the DoE disappeared from the situation.
My summation was "Fuck due process, we want a witch hunt." How do you handle a multi-state and government backed 'conspiracy' to invoke lynch mob mentality? But you can't talk about it because you know, rape on campus is such a crisis And even if it was 'a hoax' it started a conversation.
That's just one of the things that happened under this administration's watch. It also shows the influence the political appointees have on bureaucracies and 'The Government." But most of all it is ONE example why a huge section of the population was losing faith in the government under the Obama presidency. The government was forcing it's agenda on the people rather than....
The legitimate concern was that a Hillary presidency would perpetuate the current 'agenda' And as said agenda appears to be hostile to the majority while favoring minority groups (oddly enough not necessarily ethnic BTW) -- this was a matter of concern to many. 
To the point that some folks were gearing up for either armed rebellion or civil war. This is what I think we've avoided with Trump's election. I've long been telling people to consider that the people who were supporting Trump were the ones who were STILL willing to play within the system. A dangerously significant number of them had dropped out. Most of them heavily armed, pissed and not afraid to shoot people.
I'm hoping with Trump's election those people are going to start to stand down. Stand down because the witch hunts they feared would happen under Hillary Administrations won't be happening.
Which incidentally before you buy into the hysteria and tell me about government approved witch hunts that will happen under Trump realize we're talking the difference between a) the continuation and escalation of the polices and interpretations of the last eight years vs. b ) times from 50 to 100 years ago coming back 
Times that ended 1920, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1973 -- and most recently 2015. (Anybody here want to tell women they don't have the right to vote anymore?) Times that most people don't want to bring back. We've become accustomed to these rights.
I tell you all of this because there are some other people who are seriously pissed that Trump won. Okay that's fine. There are other people who are hysterical because they think the new Gestapo is going to round them up and send them to the gas chamber. (We'll come back to this in a second) The majority of people however, have just breathed a sigh of relief that this election is over. In smaller numbers, but still a majority -- or if not a small majority then a plurality--are the number of people who are hoping the government will change directions from it's 'business as usual.'
Which is kinda what they were voting for.
In closing l mentioned the gas chamber crowd. First off, I submit for your consideration that people who believe the worst of everyone else, usually has a double dose of those same traits themselves. Second, and this is really worth considering is how much of their fear is based in they've been using the government to not just enforce their agenda, but as their goon?
"I want this. Go out and intimidate people -- and bust a few heads -- to get it for me."
For example. I have been for gay marriage since the AIDs epidemic. Why? Because as my friends were dying I saw too many people I knew, respected and loved get completely fucked by insurance companies, families of SIGs and the law standby helpless because a couple -- that had been together for decades -- weren't allowed the legal protections of marriage. (Yes, I just said "I was for gay marriage before it was fashionable.")
Am I for forcing religious institutions into performing services? Am I for hundreds of thousands of dollars penalties for not baking a cake? Am I for specialized government agencies to specifically hunt down those who don't want to participate? Not only no, but HELL NO!
Take any cause and you'll find much of the same. Abortion? Yep. For it Birth control? Yep. For it. Demanding others HAVE to pay for it? Nope. Equality? Yep. Special treatment? Nope. Against rape? Yep. Title IX tribunals? Hell NO! Equal opportunity and employee protection? Yep. To the point of where you can't fire an incompetent employee lest you get a charge of ________(fill in the blank)? Nope. The list goes on and on and on. And they all happen under the government being used as a goon. What can be originally a protection can be twisted and weaponized.
The long and short of it is though that I'm betting that a lot of people who are in hysterics right now ... well, it's not just that they've been walking past a fierce dog behind an electric fence and snapping their fingers at it. Many have actively been throwing rocks at the dog. 
Well they've just seen the fence they've been basing their behaviors has been blown down. To further the analogy, they're screaming for it to be put back up before the dog realizes it too.
Will the dog come out and bite them? Probably not. It's got other things on it's mind. Having said that, they'd better realize their rock throwing days are done. The Administration is about to change and along with it, the protection they not only relied on, but hid behind while abusing others. (Speaking as a bodyguard I can tell you about people you're hired to protect talking shit from the safety of being behind you.)
So now that the bodyguard is gone, sure you don't want to change your behavior? Like oh, I don't know, sit down and talk with people of different perspectives instead of insulting, attacking and forcing your agenda down their throat?