Monday, October 24, 2011

Fear and Opportunity- turning the table on bullies



Fear and opportunity... we generally place a negative or defeating connotation on the word "fear." What if fear were a useful element. Perhaps it can be.

A recent conversation between fellow Nemeticists, Daniel Durrant (@ddrrnt), Michael Josefowicz (@ToughLoveForX) and I, led us to question the presence and value of fear in a complex adaptive system that is a school. Fear is rampant in education: fear of failure; fear of consequence; fear of authority; fear of bullying... fear in every case manifested as anxiety and stress. But what of a potential lack of fear... would this be a better state? Let's glare at the issue of bullying for sake of argument. Daniel made a profound statement worth analyzing...
"bullies prepare us for a world that will hurt us, but we want to prepare bullies for a world that will love them."
I know there is no shortage of people who will say this is an unfair and imbalanced trade-off, but I disagree. Every element of a complex adaptive system is engaged in the system in one way or another- that's what makes the system complex... but it's the manner in which these elements (let's just say people) adapt that ultimately determines the sustainability of the system. Fear is a biological condition with a purpose- when exposed to it we make a choice to fight or flee. Either way, the choice we make will determine the quantum direction our action will send us. Both decisions put us in motion. Robert Sylwester describes the reflexive and reflective properties of this process as related as in they're both triggered by fear... fear of imminent threat to survival, and fear of what is unknown, but not an imminent threat. In both contexts it's up to individuals to react as appropriately as possible to mitigate the fear.
Back to Daniel's statement, in the case of bullies who aim to invoke fear in others via their actions, the target of the bullies' behavior has to decide how he will react. Of course there are situations when the victim will have to react reflexively to preserve his own personal safety, and I would think it to be appropriate that bystanders would react reflexively as well in defense of the intended victim. I have to wonder though, is there a context for intended victims to fight back reflectively... I think there is.

A very caring, resourceful and creative bunch of people collaborated on this poster in September. It mirrors Daniel's sentiment about a world that will love bullies understanding that the vast majority of them were first victims themselves.


As I wrote in the original post that sparked the creation of this poster, perhaps reflecting on the pain and hardship that so many bullies share with us in so many aspects of life would provide a glimpse into the story behind the bully's story; the one we need to know if we are to help them deal with their pain so they can stop inflicting it on others. To move toward a more peaceful and accepting society, we have to make the unknown known. We have to enact the reflective properties of our fear to mitigate any escalation of the bully's behavior. We have to try to understand where that behavior is coming from in the first place.

To do otherwise in a complex adaptive system would simply be to accept the complexity of it without any effort to adapt. Pliability is key. Rigid barriers of emotion and cognition will not work if peace is the goal.


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