Monday, May 18, 2009

A Society In Regression

Picture a woman turning a corner and clipping the edge of a stopped car and then proceeding on the down the street. Several people were watching the event and were surprised at her driving off. The hit car belongs to a teenager who jumps out and runs after the hit-and-run driver and catches up at a red light. He reaches in and takes her keys and says "we need to call the police." She screams out, "You hit my car, you hit my car!" He realizes just how nutty she is, gives the keys back and begins to drive off. She jumps out in front of him waving wildly to stop him and he swerves to miss her and continues down the street while noticing in the rear view mirror that she is sitting in the middle of the street beating her chest! Two or three months go by and one day the police arraign the teenager for 'hitting the jaw of the woman' when he reached in to take her keys. At the trial the judge opines he has never seen so many witnesses come forward to testify for the defendant and he reprimands the woman and all "the monkey business" she created.

How did this situation get this far? This woman had persistently gone to the court and whined week after week and the person who decided if a charge should levied finally gave in (against her better judgment I may add) and let this farce of a charge go to trial…just to be rid of her. This decision cost the teenager time off work, money on court costs, and emotional exasperation of the fallible system.

Societal regression is an emotional process that societies go through when at least five characteristics are seen at all levels of the society (freely adapted from Edwin Friedman's writings):

  1. Emotional Reactivity: the vicious cycle of intense reactions of people to events and to each other
  2. The Herd Mentality: the process through which the energy for togetherness (read, sameness) overcomes the energy for individuality…and everyone moves to adapt to the least mature people.
  3. The Blame Game: the emotional state in which family members focus on forces that victimized them rather than taking responsibility for their own being and destiny
  4. Quick-fix mentality: the emotional state that has no or little tolerance for pain and constantly seeks relief than fundamental change
  5. Lack of Clearly Defined Leadership: Is a failure of leadership seen when the leader is instinctual driven rather than regulating her emotions, adapts to group weakness, fearful to take any convictional stand, and is constantly putting out fires…this type of "leadership" is both a product of and contributes to 1 – 4.

Societal regression is profoundly more than just going backward! This regression is a likened to "devolution" and an increasing in immaturity rather than increased maturity in people who are learning to emotionally self regulate. We can have great 'progress' with technology and even with economics and at the same time 'go backward' emotionally.

Fundamental change can only occur when individuals pay attention to themselves and their reactions to what goes on around them (the emotional processes that govern our lives), so today I am placing behind me the folly of trying to will others to change and will continue to increase my tolerance for discomfort and focus on the moment!

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