|arts & leisure|
Y2K ReactivityBy Andrea Maloney-Schara of ideastoaction.com
If there is ever a doubt about the importance of factual information in the role of increasing emotionality, the Y2K adventure shows again and again how humans must rely on facts or become highly emotionally reactive to the state of not knowing.
The brain goes into fear states very fast. Immediate rough, archetypal information is processed by the amygdala. The body reacts in alarm and then the mind tries to process the details of the perceived threat. If there is better information, then higher centers of the brain can be used to calm the amygdala's early responses. Emotional flooding takes place in those people who can not settle down after a threat.
Males are more prone to this reaction that females. Females tend to talk about emotional issues and raise the reactivity in the males. This can be reversed when the male knows more about a threat such as the Y2K situation. Males can talk too much and spike fear responses in females. We are all limited in our ability to respond to the needs of the relationship system when in a fear-state.
Due to the overall importance of perception and memory in information processing, one could divide people into two bell shaped curves. The first one represents those who have had parents who could and who did carry out parental duties without seriously disappointing their children. There is conflict and disappointment in any marriage and in any family -- but difficulties that seriously impact people's ability to function occurs in a minority of families.
In general, those individuals who are disappointed by the actions of their parents are more likely to have issues around trusting authorities. The government and big business can be seen as authority figures. "They" issue the reminders that "they're" taking care of Y2K problems. Now comes the reactivity and the willingness or the hope, faith of the people who read and listen to those they are forced to trust. This occurs whenever people have no way to gather first hand information from the source, in this case the government, the electric or water companies.
The second bell-shaped curve is made up of people who know they have been disappointed by their parents. How does an individual's negative early experience interact with reports from the authorities? There's little doubt that families carry a multigenerational history that prepares individuals to be more fear averse or too overreactive to certain stimuli.
Humorously, let's take the extremes. People who are very disappointed by authority figures can either decide that they should get guns and shoot the people who come after their hard-won beans and butter -- or they can have learned that they can survive the mistakes of others who are important to them.
The adaptive ones will be prudent in preparing: The beans and butter will be bought ahead of time. In addition, they'll annoy people who are the unbelievers by telling them over and over about the possibility of problems, but in the end they'll share the stored goodies rather than shoot people. Game theory has proven over and over that cooperation is a far better strategy than selfishness. But it also says we have to have selfish people around to keep the compassionate ones from being too nice and making us all too lazy to adapt to changing conditions.
These issues, when they come to rest, often appear in a marriage. One person may work in the Y2K area or at least read about it, and then begin to discuss it with an important other. This is when the fact that opposites tend to attract becomes a problem. Tensions can increase as one tries to calm the other or begins to think that the loved other is crazy. The other can be crazy in talking or in ignoring, but the degree to which the couple has a different take on the Y2K opinions will alter their comfort in relating to one another over time. There are many things that can be done to deal with this issue, but certainly the effect on a marriage is one of the bigger Y2K issues.
How do we understand the differences among the reactions to Y2K in the population? One formula that insurance companies use is that 20 percent of people will have serious problems, 20 percent will have few accidents, tragedies and serious illness to contend with, while the middle 40 percent will dip in and out of challenges and difficulties. Therefore the majority is well able to pay for the minority, and thereby protect themselves from random events.
The numbers of endangered minority increase during a war or other serious disruption in society. These numbers may also increase when there is serious economic dislocation. We have seen that the numbers of serious crimes in this country decreased as the economy has increased.
Both families and societies are good at generating fear states. Only individuals can alter their vulnerability to over- or under-react. It is the individual who must be prepared to deal with the shifting tide of non-fact based opinions. The facts will only emerge slowly. In the meantime, each person has to decide what is a prudent position to take.
Common Decision Making Errors (Abstracted from Michael Mauboussin, Frontiers of Finance, March 12, 1997, Credit Suisse, First Boston, NY, NY)
1) Escalating commitment: Weigh the cost and benefits of actions and
write them down. Create a special budget for a prudent plan and use advisors
before escalating commitments.
1) I am a part of the problem.
Below is a story about a World War II hero, one man who tried to stop the Holocaust. It may serve as a useful reminder about the process of thinking the unthinkable.
From E. Thomas Woods book on the life and times of Stanislaw Jankowski's Karski.
"The Supreme Court justice sat opposite Karski, looking into his eyes.
"Mr. Karski," Frankfurter asked, "do you know that I am a Jew?"
"There are so many conflicting reports about what is happening to the Jews in your country," Frankfurter said. "Please tell me exactly what you have seen."
Jan spent half an hour patiently explaining how his missions to the Ghetto and the camp had come about and precisely, in gruesome detail, what he had witnessed. When Karski finished, he waited for the visitor to make the next move.
Frankfurter silently got up from his chair. For a few moments, he paced back and forth in front of Karski and the ambassador, who looked on in puzzlement. Then, just as quietly, he took his seat again.
"Mr. Karski," Frankfurter said after a further pause, "a man like me talking to a man like you must be totally frank. So I must say: I am unable to believe you."
Ciechanowski flew from his seat. "Felix, you don't mean it!" he cried. "How can you call him a liar to his face! The authority of my government is behind him. You know who he is!"
Frankfurter replied, in a soft voice filled with resignation, "Mr.
Ambassador, I did not say this young man is lying. I said I am unable to
believe him. There is a difference."
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