When are people going to get real?

When society reads in the newspaper or catches on local news channels the headlines: Murder-Suicide, Domestic Abuse Homicide, or Workplace Violence, they are intrigued out of the common interest that everyone has been frustrated in a relationship at home, work, and within their communities. It is from this realization people find themselves captivated in their wonder of why: “Why would a person go to such extremes as to purposefully destroy a life, family, or organization?”

In their ignorance, people don’t realize there is no answer to “why,” for “why” requires proof and justification to the reasoning behind such instances of violence. Indeed, there is no “proof” to substantiate such transgressions, nor is there reasoning to support “justification,” there is only human distress and in its wake insurmountable misery.

For example, a person at work experiences an incident of humiliation and self-denigration. Seemingly unable to do anything about his or her distress, the person mentally beats him or herself up over the unfairness, while for some they become very quiet and for others explosive in isolation. Miraculously the day ends without incident, at least on the surface. Driving home in a 4ooo pound machine the mental masturbation, or the beating up on oneself mentally continues: “Who do they think they are…? I don’t need this shit!” Experiencing the exhilarating power and control of the machine, maybe the person feels a bit empowered, “Look at that asshole driving so smug, I’ll show him!” He or she speeds up and cuts the person off. Continuing the drive, thoughts go from, “Screw them, I’ll quit…, to …supper better be ready when I get home.” Gets home, supper is not ready, seeks out the person who will cower the most and all hell breaks loose. Screaming at the objectified pawn (e.g., person) he or she yells, “Why did you make me do that?”

Why did “you make me” do that? With this scenario in mind, really, can anyone state with confidence “why” this person forced him or herself upon his or her partner? If you think you can, go ahead and try. But rest assured–I will prove you wrong. I will prove you wrong because you are looking for proof and justification where there is none to be found. Actually, in your best attempt, you are just pointing your finger and speculating. Of course there are influences, but you cannot point your finger as to “why.” By the way, most revealing of this scenario is that last statement: “Why did you make me do that!”

No there is no proof or justification as to “why” a man would sit alone in his living room and wait for his wife and three children to fall asleep. Then, as they slept, one by one strangle them to death. There is no answer to “why” a woman would position herself outside the door of her place of work, wait, think, and feel only to shoot a bullet into the face of her co-worker. Nor is there reason as to why a person would beat his or her partner to death and then take his or her own life. What you could state with a high level of confidence is that in each of these instances, the perpetrators all validated the wrong thoughts, but “why” they thought the way they did, there is no proof or justification.

People cannot look upon an incident after the fact and state with accuracy “why” a person did what was done. People who represent that they can are stroking their own egos. No, there is no proof or justification; there is only the human condition. Rather than asking why, the better question is, “What possibly could motivate another to destroy life?” To understand “what,” we all must be educated upon the human condition.

Human condition
Human motivation is the drive behind the human condition we all share. The human condition is the want to minimize experienced emotional conflict with the goal to maximize personal competence. As strange as this may read, this is the human condition. The human condition is wanting. People are never satisfied, and as never satisfied, we all can relate to frustration in our wanting. We all can relate to the struggle of realizing our wants. What we can’t relate to is the human condition escalated to need. Needs are dictated by demands, and conversely, wants are dictated by preferences. It is from this division of wants and needs that we experience frustration, and from frustration comes the extreme of rage.

Rage is the heightened form of frustration; it is the feeling of desperation driven by the physical emotion of avoidance and discomfort. Frustration escalates to rage by the unique expectations people embrace as their needs in protection of their comfort zones. Comfort zones are intrapersonal expectations in relation to others and the world lived. We all have a sense of who we think we are in relations to others, and it is these relationships that constitute our zones of comfort, or our expectations. By the way, if the idea of rageaholic pops into your head, dismiss it. There is no such experienced outcome as “rageaholic.” What there is, is an incessant overwhelming demand that people conform, live up to their expectations, comply with their “self” developed fixated superior zones of comfort, superior in their own perspectives of centrality and deservedness. In life, these zones of comfort are necessitated in the games people play. However, fixated superior zones of comfort are no game, they are interpersonal traps.

The games people play
Recall as a child the times you played games to entertain yourself, well as a child, this is what you did to nurture your comfort zones. You were too young to formulate expectations as to how you fit into the world and how the world was supposed to relate to you. Nonetheless, this is what you knew, and as you grew, as you experienced life, what you knew became more complicated as your life experience and expectations became more complicated. Even so, no two people experience life as the same, nor for that matter no two people share the same expectations. As John Locke once said: You cannot put your foot in a flowing stream twice in the same spot. The point here is people operate, behave from what they know, and what people know constitutes their comfort zones. It is for this reason that different situations affect people differently. I take this one step further: The uniqueness of comfort zones is in the matters of perspective relative to a person’s insignificance, inferiority, inadequacy, and insecurity, what I call Ingroup-protected. When faced with any given situation, it is from comfort zones that people seek to maintain control, to protect their Ingroup. In varying degrees, we all do this for the practical reasoning that we all experience matters of perspective relative to our Ingroup; in other words, we are motivated through our human condition to maximize comfort.

The ideal of comfort is relational. It is the interplay between who I think I am in relation to how I want the world to respond to me. In order to maximize this potential, we all then interact with the goal of teaching others how to treat us. For some, when we are treated badly, zones of comfort or expectations are threatened, and they are driven to maximize competence, or at least a sense thereof. This is a matter of perspective that is unique to the individual involved as pebbles on a beach. By our very nature, we all are in conflict with our sense of self in relationship to other people and the world we live. In short, our sense of self is always the experience of inadequacy, inferiority, insignificance, and insecurity, and no one openly admits their Ingroup. If you find fault in this, then I challenge you to listen to that internal critique that exists in your head when faced with conflict. Your critique, as in all peoples critique is that voice of influence protecting you from taking those calculated risks that are outside of your comfort zones, the very zones protecting your relational Ingroup.

Get real, think about it, you are not adequate, significant, or secure in all aspect of your life. If you were, you would not be wanting of any other life-way or goal. Reflect, review over your life, are you absolutely satisfied in all areas, aspects, and achievements? If you answer yes, you are only fooling yourself, for you would have to be a finished product. As a finished product, there would be no room for goals, and a life without goals is a life lived in stagnant water where nothing grows. I call this life-way: Sitting In The Shit ( SITS ).

Matters of perspective: How you see the world
As long as a people behave in context with what they know, their matters of perspective are in control. Matters of perspective are played out in workplaces, homes, and in communities all over the world. In any given situation at home, work, or in community, once perspectives are threatened, people are motivated to regain control, and if that conflict is a threat to perceived control, frustration is escalated to rage. A few words on what I mean by a “threat.”

A “threat” is a relative word. In the context that I use the word, a threat is any situation that triggers conflict. Now conflict is a part of life. Actually the first experience of all life was indeed conflict. It is conflict to go from 98.6 degrees warm, floating in an embryonic sack, to a cold, hard, dark world of say 72 degrees. From this point, all of life is a ball role bouncing from comfort to discomfort. For example, the bills we receive are a threat to our credit. The longer we hold off on paying our bills, the greater the threat. Of course this is at one end of a spectrum; at the other end is the threat to well-being. In this context, wanting to pay bills on time is a mild threat; however needing to pay bills on time is a greater threat. When control is threatened and competence is demanded, mental masturbation follows, events are taken personal and blown out of proportion, and when the threat is perceived as external, rage is projected to intimidate and eliminate the threat. But how does frustration from getting a bill become rage toward another person?

Only two emotional experiences
Think of all the words you can to describe a feeling. Now, think for a moment, do those feelings actually exist, or are they mere words we as humans ascribe to what we “think” we are experiencing emotionally? Right now, as I write, I feel good. All this basically means is there is no physical emotional experience going on within me. But what if my computer crashed? Here, I think you can relate to the point that I would then be experiencing a threat to the loss of my work. This threat is discomfort, and in all discomfort, I am motivated to avoid, eliminate the threat that I “think” or attribute as the cause. In order to do so, I immediately go to what I know and put all of my behaviors into action. Alternatively, let me say while correcting this document, I discovered by left clicking my mouse three times I can highlight a word, and by clicking four times I can highlight a paragraph. This makes correcting easier, or in my strange world, comforting. Now, as I go about correcting, I am motivated to approach the necessary correcting task at-hand with more enthusiasm. Wow, I discovered something new: Yeah! Of course emotion is much more complicated than this; however the practicality of this makes perfect sense. After all, the body can only produce what the body can produce.

Fact: indeed the body can only produce that which the body can produce, and the body does not, cannot produce fifty or so unique different feelings.

Fact: the body does produce two unique emotional responses to events, and those are comfort or discomfort.

Given these fact, we are driven by our innate need of competence to both approach and maximize what we evaluate as comforting, or avoid and minimize what is discomforting. With this fact, we as humans then immediately evaluate, assess, and think about what we are emotionally experiencing. I call this thinking about emotion: Select Emotional Alternatives, which produces a “SEA” of feelings to validate or ignore. In a nutshell, Select Emotional Alternatives, or the thinking about what is being experienced emotionally is the habitual perspective of responding to what a person perceives, evaluates as comforting or discomforting. For example, the behavioral outcome of “rageaholic,” which is just another human contrived word to explain, makes sense of a pattern of responding to situational distress or discomfort. What do we call a habituated patter of responding to situation comfort: “loveaholic?” The point is, we all create networks of automaticity whereby given any event that comes close to the learned experience, is in fact experienced with similar intensity, duration, and frequency. The difference is whether we evaluate the situation as a threat or not. It is not rage, anger, frustration, annoyance, or disappointment that is the problem, for these are varying degrees of intensity born of a perceived threat that triggers discomfort. It is however the automatic thought processing—what one knows—which gives emotional rise to rage. In this context, why don’t we call it “rageism!” There is no emotional experience as rageism, but what the heck, psychology needs more titles and diagnoses to fill the cracks of those who fall through.

So, as you sit, you are void of emotion. Someone comes running into the room yelling and screaming, you immediately perceive a threat, and your first response is a physical emotional experience. Immediately you evaluate: “Get out, avoid, you are in emotional distress, discomfort, you need to minimize the threat.” Simultaneously, you are further evaluating the threat based upon what you know. It is through this evaluation process that you either validate or ignore. Any validation will produce feelings, and as pointed out, feelings are thoughts about what you are physically emotionally experiencing. In one case you may be mildly upset for being bothered, or thankful for being warned. Alternatively, your thoughts maybe of self-denial, degradation, and destruction, and as you catastrophize, emotional intensity increases, without realizing, you physically alter the chemistry of your brain. All of your perspectives of the threat are processed through this higher level of intense ordering of distress. You go into a red-out, filled with intense emotion, you lash out. What are you lashing out at? Impulsively you distress over whatever options are available to you. At this point, you are not rational or logical, you do what is available. If this were a situation where you were physically trapped in a building, this emotional intensity could possibly save your life. However, if this were a situation where you were mentally trapped, this emotional intensity could possibly destroy a life, a life not your own.

Do you have any idea of how many people, by their own choice, are seemingly “locked,” in unfulfilling relationships and jobs? Millions! How many of these millions do you think realize whatever they are experiencing they are allowing happening, and from this platform, they continue to go about teaching people how to treat them. What if the person being taught did not listen, missed the lesson, or didn’t care…? Given what I have shared, do you have any idea of the potential threats that are out there just waiting to happen behind closed doors, at work, or in your local grocery store in the quick-check-out-isle? Ever hear of the proverbial straw. Well, it is time to go beyond “why” and start addressing, educating upon, developing the necessary skills, that is right: SKILLS, to functionally manage oneself emotionally, physically, and of course mentally. After all, the way out is the way in: Select Emotional Alternatives Application-Processing. You can reach Peter at: www.MyDiscover.org

Author's Bio: 

Peter is an expert in the field of anger-based lost control, intimate partner violence, and addiction. Unlike students and practitioners of general counseling psychology, for the past 20 years, his study and practice has been specific to compensatory cycles of emotional and behavioral lost control. Beginning with his graduate research, he had as his case study the life-spans of individuals who committed intimate partner homicide in contrast to individuals who violently offended within their communities while under the influence of alcohol and other drugs of abuse. As a result of this in depth contrast study, he gained unprecedented and unparallel insight into the acquisition, actuation, and maintenance to cycles of emotional distress expressed through Anger-Based Aggression, Domestic Abuse, and Addictive Behaviors. Peter holds a Master of Arts Degree from Norwich University, Vermont. His concentration of study was Counseling Psychology specific to Addiction Theory and Intervention Applications. He is a Certified Personal Fitness Trainer specializing in stress management through the National Federation of Professional Trainers. He is a Certified Anger Resolution Therapist and Staff Consultant for the Anger Management Training Institute, and a Certified Addiction Specialist with the American Academy of Health Care Providers in the Addictive Disorders. In addition, Peter is Rostered by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services as an Alternative Provider, member of the National Association of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselors, the International Society for Mental Health Online, and CEO/President and Managing Director to MyDiscover, Inc., a New Hampshire based nonprofit organization, where he can be reached directly at: peterstone@MyDiscover.org.