Making It Happen

The only thing I disagree with my Quaker friends on is the slogan speaking truth to power.  First of all, power already knows the truth; they don’t have to hear it from us; it’s a waste of time and the wrong audience. (ii)

The Huffington Post says that we can no longer afford to practice a “nonchalant type of acceptance” (i).  But if tolerance is not good enough, then what else can we do?  I thought I’d share what the sociologist Aldon Morris says from a recent article in Scientific American.  His message is quite different from what we hear from conservatives in which they often ridicule protest and subversion.

There are three ways of conceptualizing the tactics and strategies employed by social activists attempting to make a change in the culture.  Aldon Morris is endorsing the third theory of social change.  If there is evidence that his theory works, then why do conservatives protest about protesting?  I can come up with several hypotheses, but it is best framed as a struggle for power.

Whichever tactics are employed, the ultimate goal is to disrupt the society sufficiently that power holders capitulate to the movement’s demands in exchange for restoration of social order. [1]


Verbatim from “From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter” found in Scientific American

  1. influential resource mobilization theory: It argued that the mobilization of money, organization, and leadership was more important than the existence of grievances in launching and sustaining movements—and marginalized peoples depended on the largesse of more affluent groups to provide these resources.
  2. political process theory: It argues that social movements are struggles for power—the power to change oppressive social conditions. Because marginalized groups cannot effectively access normal political processes such as elections, lobbying or courts, they must employ “unruly” tactics to realize their interests. As such, movements are insurgencies that engage in conflict with the authorities to pursue social change; effective organization and innovative strategy to outmaneuver repression are key to success.
  3. indigenous perspective theory: It argues that the agency of movements emanates from
    1. within oppressed communities—from their institutions, culture, and creativity. Outside factors such as court rulings are important, but they are usually set in motion and implemented by the community’s actions.
    2. Movements are generated by grassroots organizers and leaders—the CRM had thousands of them in multiple centers dispersed across the South—and are products of meticulous planning and strategizing.
    3. This also frames social movements as struggles for power, which movements gain by preventing power holders from conducting economic, political, and social business as usual.
      1. Tactics of disruption may range from nonviolent measures such as strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, marches and courting mass arrest to more destructive ones, including looting, urban rebellions, and violence.

In order for movements to develop, a people must first see themselves as being oppressed. This awareness is far from automatic: many of those subjected to perpetual subordination come to believe their situation is natural and inevitable. This mindset precludes protest.


References

[1] Morris, Aldon.  “From Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter”.  Scientific American


Notes

(I). “Americans who are poor, female, of color, queer, disabled, or not Christian cannot afford to practice the nonchalant type of acceptance-of-any-and-all-opinions when the opinion of many hardline social conservatives is that it would be preferable to exclude these people from the conversation altogether.”  Huffington Post

ii). This quote is from Noam Chomsky.  This quote is applicable to anyone that has power or control over you as it’s the perception that they give off.  I’m not a radical that is endorsing overthrowing the government, so please don’t misinterpret this.

The Anger Trap

Who here is sensitive to criticism?  It’s human nature to be, so this is rhetorical.  Here I will review Dr. Les Carter’s book titled “The Anger Trap” which is about how we have a need to preserve our self-worth by defending ourselves when we feel criticized or disrespected.  He says the obvious that it is not wrong to feel hurt or angry, but it’s how we respond to the criticism that matters.

Those that may have a sensitive disposition, such as HSP (highly sensitive person), have unstable self-esteem, or have a history of being criticized or picked on will be at high risk for overreacting towards a perceived slight, especially those done with impunity.  The problem here is that Carter is ignoring one huge factor at play that makes us susceptible to anger in social situations.

Dr. Carter is mostly correct below, but his solution to prevent us from going on the offense is completely asinine for a subset of people.  Putting aside the plain fact that we vary based on genetics to how hurt and angry we may feel once criticized, we must not forget that our past experiences on how others have treated us affects our neurochemistry in uncanny and permanent ways.

I have counseled with hundreds of people trying to make sense of their anger, and there is always something more that feeds the anger than what is observed on the surface. Angry people may appear strong, willful, or certain, but be assured that beneath the veneer are fear and loneliness and insecurity and pain. Especially, there is pain. [1]


Why Do We Have Anger?

At the heart of most anger is a cry for respect:  The very real threat of not being heard, though, caused you to go overboard in defending your dignity, and the pattern seems to have remained the same throughout your lifetime.

The purpose of anger in social contexts is to preserve our self-worth.  It no doubt has other purposes depending on the situation, and it of course is rooted in a more fundamental emotion namely fear.  The fear in interpersonal interactions includes the following concerns [1].  Anger is critical to our survival and, socially, it is a response to a “perceived threat or invalidation.” [1]

You need to understand that I matter.

Who do you think you are?

I’m not going to let you get away with ill treatment toward me.

Write down what comes to mind next time you get angry at someone treating you unfairly or when someone snubs you at a party as it will boil down to something above.  We want to believe that we have something to offer and that we matter.  When we are thwarted from getting the due respect we think we deserve, then we can either get hurt feelings or anger that results in resentment.

Why do we need to think that we matter?  If we didn’t matter and became insignificant to others, our chances of cooperating and advancing in life would be diminished.  Without cooperating and competing, then our chances of reproduction and survival would be nil.  So anger, as stated above, is a way to preserve our own worth which is determined by how well we are received in our milieu.


What Is Our Social Goal?

Is perfect interaction your goal,” I asked, “or is your goal to be emotionally healthy? I’m encouraging you to consider how to manage your anger best, knowing that you can’t expect life to play out in a completely wonderful fashion.

The above is in response to a patient of Carter’s that claimed that he can’t tolerate being disrespected and must show his muscle when it occurs.  Carter responds by saying that we can’t control the reactions of others and it is but an illusion to think that we can.  My response to this is that Carter is partially correct because we can influence people although not control unless we are bullies.

 

 

 

Angry people, however, tend to do themselves no favors because the legitimate message of self-preservation can be communicated so distastefully that the receiver of the message hears nothing good.

 

 

 

 

 


Therapists Can’t Get It

When you feel angry, there is a strong probability of something legitimate driving the emotion. Even anger that is managed poorly can have a reasonable message at its base. Those who remain trapped by their own anger are unable to articulate the message in a manner that allows them to maintain positive relations.

I say therapists “can’t” get it and not “don’t” get it because a certain subset of the population will always be susceptible to being criticized.  Therapists can’t tell us this because they would lose their client base.  Let’s call a subset of the population the “undesirables” that seem angry and discontent most of their life.  This category of people has undesirable characteristics.

Dr. Les Carter does not even mention this because it would come across as judgemental and arrogant.  He instead puts personal responsibility on those that get angry and defend themselves in “unproductive” ways.  He believes that everything is just a matter of self-control and learning the proper techniques to respond to criticism gracefully such that we can become competent adults.

I agree that we can learn techniques that can allow us to assert our anger instead of becoming aggressive and sabotaging the relationship.  But ignoring the biological aspects of what happens to someone that gets criticized, used and abused most of their life, which most chronically angry people have been, is inexplicable.  The problem is mainly neurochemical and not learned. (i)


Don’t Ignore The Situation

They become more sensitive to criticism or rejection, which generates a spiraling cycle characterized by an increasing intensity of anger or resentment that makes them feel unfairly treated or victimized. This is described as rejection sensitivity. [2]

This doesn’t just apply to undesirables because anger is complex.  There is, however, evidence from humans and other primates that some will get picked on more than others.  When this happens, we know what occurs in the mind as a result.  This phenomenon is known as subordination.  The mind actually goes through neurophysiological changes when we are criticized or berated.

The mind downregulates 5-HT1A serotonin receptor sites and increases cortisol circulation.  By contrast, dominant individuals will have high densities of 5-HT1A sites and a high density of D2 sites.  When we get criticized, our body goes through a stress reaction that is incomparable to most stressors [3].  If this happens repeatedly, then we become subordinated and susceptible to depression.

In other words, the more we are criticized and chastised then the more we enter a state of hyper-vigalence, which is social anxiety,


Notes:

i). I am not debating whether or not the behavior is an innate competency or something that we learned, although I favor the former.  I am mainly trying to point out that changes happen in the mind that illustrates the destructiveness of hostility and   and bullying.

ii)

 


References:

[1] Carter, Les. “The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life.”

[2] Gilbert, Paul. Subordination and Defeat: An Evolutionary Approach To Mood Disorders and Their Therapy.

[3] Tracy, Jessica.  The Self-Conscious Emotions. Guilford Publication.