Masks of Fear 5: Tribal Masks

“Tribalism is a product of fear, and fear is the dominant emotion of any person, culture or society that rejects man’s power of survival: reason.” – Ayn Rand

Tribalism is the state of being organized by, or advocating for, tribes. Human evolution has primarily occurred in such groups, and humans naturally maintain a social network. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt says that our minds have even evolved “for tribal warfare and us/them thinking.” And, certain factors can “turn on ancient tribal circuits, preparing people for battle.” We are hardwired to be tribal.

According to a study by Robin Dunbar at the University of Liverpool, social group size is limited because we can only mentally track around 150 individuals as fully developed, complex people. Once that limit is surpassed, we resort to mental short-hand like hierarchical schemes, stereotypes, and other simplistic thinking – some of the stuff of tribal boundaries.

Fear Makes People More Tribal

When people feel fear, they close ranks with their tribe, becoming insular, defensive, and punitive. They tend to organize their thinking into us-versus-them categories. Observing the effects of this, author Andrew Sullivan wrote “One of the great attractions of tribalism is that you don’t actually have to think very much. All you need to know on any given subject is which side you’re on.” In 1893, Gustave Le Bon, commented on the same subject: “From the moment that they form part of a crowd the learned man and the ignoramus are equally incapable of observation.”

But Le Bon was wrong. It’s actually worse than that. Not only does tribalism makes people stupid, the smarter they were to begin with, the stupider it makes them. Not just relative to where they began, but literally stupider than people less intelligent than themselves. This is because, as social psychologists have shown, people resolve factual ambiguities in ways supportive of their defining values. They do this both to escape dissonance (more on this later), and to protect their connection to their in-group. This is self-defensive cognition rather than true facts-following rationality.

Tribalism Makes People More Stupid

Dan Kahan, the professor of law at Yale, says that our proficiency in critical reasoning can have a perverse effect effect on our interpretation of data. Essentially, the better we understand data collection and analysis the better-equipped we are to commit self-delusion by ferreting-out and presenting support for the position of our tribal in-group. He explains this in a short talk:

It’s important to understand that credible science is non-partisan, and that understanding science requires work. It’s most important to understand that tribalism impairs the ability to do that work, and that the smarter you are the more your tribal membership costs you in knowledge and truth.

About these effects, Le Bon wrote that crowds have “the double character of being very simple and very exaggerated”, and that “a throng knows neither doubt nor uncertainty”. He observed the radicalizing effect of belonging, writing “an individual in a crowd resembles [a] primitive being”, that can be “ready to sacrifice themselves for the ideal with which they have been inspired”.

Tribalism Makes People More Aggressive

The basic commandment of all such groups, which takes precedence over any other rules, is: loyalty to the group – not to ideas, but to people; – Ayn Rand

As tribalism increases across a society, we become increasingly defined not by our friends but our tribal enemies. Because their beliefs and cognitive processing are also skewed by their social alliances, interacting with them means having to exert mental effort, and that can make outsiders seem threatening, giving rise to posturing, or even violence. One signals tribal loyalty through hostility toward the right targets, with the right intensity, and sufficient commitment.

Amy Chua observed: “At different times in the past both the American Left and the American Right have stood for group-transcending values. Neither does today.” These forces lead to support for authoritarian laws and heavy-handed enforcement of them.

In an authoritarian state or organization information has an entirely different function than in a democratic society: In the democratic organization, any statement is part of discourse. Challenge and dissent are understood as core features of an ongoing process towards progress. In the authoritarian state or organization, all expression is about signaling loyalty. Whether it is fact-based or not is irrelevant. Agreement expresses loyalty, while fact-checking, challenging, or dissenting is disloyalty.

Members of tribes use symbols to signal their beliefs and loyalties. At present, a mask is often seen as the uniform of the “lefty libtard democrat social justice sheeple” who seek to oppress everyone else with forced inclusiveness, mandatory consideration, and compulsory safety measures like masks and perhaps even vaccinations and mark-of-the-beast microchips.

Likewise, the naked face is the uniform of the republican conservative Christian: “Pro-life” (only for the unborn), and who demands “respect for the flag”, but menaces anyone who dares to exercise the liberties it’s supposed to symbolize. People who un-ironically put a “thin blue line” bumper sticker on their truck – right next to the Gadsden flag sticker. This is the ultimate triumph of symbols over substance, reminding me that George Carlin said to “… leave symbols to the symbol-minded.”

In functional reality, viruses can’t see bumper stickers, and are apolitical enemies to all. In Le Bon’s observations on crowds, he even observed the way membership impaired cognitive processes about disease in his own time: “The epidemic of influenza, which caused the death but a few years ago of five thousand persons in Paris alone, made very little impression on the popular imagination. The reason was that this veritable hecatomb was not embodied in any visible image, but was only learnt from statistical information furnished weekly.”

Even before Le Bon’s time, the first two presidents of the United States each tried to warn us in their own ways about the toxicity and dulling effects of partisanship:

George Washington, in his farewell address, described the “spirit of party” as democracy’s “worst enemy.” He said it “agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.”

John Adams wrote that the “greatest political evil” to be feared under a democratic constitution was the emergence of “two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”

Political Tribes Are Cults

People never seem to realize they’re joining a cult at the time they’re joining it. And, once in it, they certainly won’t recognize the fact – because no cult calls itself a cult. Have you noticed the platforms of political parties always contain massive hypocritical inconsistencies with regard to their claimed values systems and/or the facts of the measurable world?

This is by design, to impose cognitive dissonance that cannot be reconciled through classical moral frameworks or valid logic. The only path to relief of the psychological stress is to abandon reason and subjugate one’s morality and judgment to the tribe (to the rulers of it).

If an action is unwise, destructive, or immoral – being done by your tribe’s guy can’t make it wise, constructive, or virtuous. But, those under the spell of tribal membership will find a way to paint it that way. Tribe is all that matters because the tribalist is profoundly antimoral.

This is the structure of a cult, and one of the primary brain-washing methods they all use. Once people have joined, they are seldom able – or willing – to do what’s necessary to escape. Once personal moral agency is surrendered, it can only be recovered at the cost of tribal membership, of significant labor to unravel the snarled logic, and also a sense of shame for having abdicated one’s morality in the first place.

Escaping Coercive Relationships

Escaping one coercive relationship is like escaping any other: A person has to retrieve their individuality, starting by reconnecting to their morality.

Who are you, morally?

Do an experiment: jot down a few notes answering that question.

Can you answer without referencing your tribe?

Does what you’ve written contain party talking points?

If so, then as someone recently said: “It is what it is …”

It Can’t Happen to Me (or Here)

Most people believe that sort of thing about accidents, disasters, diseases, etc – because there’s a human cognitive bias to the idea. It’s even got a name: “optimism bias”. We often also don’t believe something bad will happen to someone we care for – both because of the optimism bias and because of denial (covered in the previous post in this series).

But, what if it did?

What’s the worst guilt you’ve ever suffered?

How does a person live with having hurt someone they care for – and perhaps the shame of it having been easily prevented?

Connecting With Core Morality

It’s easiest to do by taking a break from the stories of the tribe and writing your own for a few minutes: Game out your possible choices. The question of mask-wearing is like Pascal’s wager: What if you choose to stay home, socially distance, and wear a mask when you go out? What’s the worst that will happen?

Will you feel short of breath?

Will you feel anxious about admitting you’re not invincible?

Will members of your tribe mock you as “afraid”, or “a sheep”, or “weak”?

What if you choose to take risks to fit in with your tribe? You go out, stand close, and don’t wear a mask. What’s the worst that will happen?

You die?

You survive, but have organ damage and become an actual weakling for the rest of your life – unable to provide and protect your loved ones?

What if you bring it home to them – and THEY die? Or, they don’t die – and you get to drive them dialysis every week for the rest of their (much shorter and less happy) lives?

How will the tribal members provide support and absolution for your decision to buckle under their threat of mocking and exclusion – at the expense of your family member?

What are the personal moral consequences of … being a follower of the tribe (of being exactly the kind of sheep they would have mocked you for)?

Disease Always Brings Grief

Even if we are personally unharmed, the disease is killing people. A study out of Princeton University has found that for each person killed by COVID there will be “8.91 surviving individuals having experienced the death of a grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, or child. For example, under this scenario, for every 100,000 White and Black Americans who die due to COVID-19, ?891,000 surviving White and Black Americans will be left grieving the death of at least one grandparent, parent, sibling, spouse, or child.”

With best estimates (as of this writing) projecting around 300,000 Americans will have perished by December 1, that means over two and a half million Americans (2,673,000+) will be spending this Christmas grieving the loss of a close family member.

For them it will be Christmas without a grandma, father, brother, wife, or child. And, every additional death means an average of more than 8 people who will never again see, hear, or hold someone who was everything to them.

“The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has left, and will continue to leave, hundreds of thousands of bereft family members in its wake. These deaths are unlike others in recent history. Unprecedented conditions—massive numbers of casualties; forced separations during a patient’s final days; and denial of physical touch, final goodbyes, and traditional mourning rituals—pose threats to bereaved family members’ mental health, leaving them vulnerable to intense and enduring psychological distress.” – Wendy G. Lichtenthal, PhD FD, writing for the Annals of Internal Medicine

The number of people who will face long-term major depression, and suicide will be a second catastrophe, even after COVID itself is conquered. The people who contributed to the deaths of their loved ones, whether through carelessness or not, are going to have a hard road ahead of them …

Breaking Free of Tribal Cults

Start by burning your team jersey. Just take it off. You look ridiculous. And, you can’t be free of a tribal group if you’re still wearing their uniform. Bumper stickers? Scrape them. Hats or T-shirts? Throw them.

Yes, it’s the only way. And, feeling like you can’t – or don’t want to – is a warning sign. It’s like the smoker who says they want to quit, but keeps that “last pack” stashed somewhere behind the coffee can on the top shelf. If you won’t trade a stupid-looking team jersey for real mental freedom then you’ve already traded your mental freedom for a stupid-looking jersey.

Once you’re jersey-free, who are you, morally?

Yes, I asked this before.

Who are you, morally WITHOUT the party talking points?

If you can admit you’re not fully sure, then you’re making huge progress: Spend some self-time and make some notes to explore it. And yes, being fully YOU is more work than being just another “one of them”.

If you want to REALLY be free – and help repair the broken political system, join the “crash the party” movement: Pick a political office you want to hold accountable and always register in the party of the person holding that office. (This lets you vote in every primary, so you get two chances to upgrade that office for every election.) And, you get to tell them you’re registered party member when you call to tell them to do their job.

If you can’t trade a worthless label to get more democratic voice, then you’ve already traded your democratic voice for a worthless label. If you want to be free, get on-line and re-register. Then, stay on their ass to do their job. This is a really cheap price for mental freedom – and restoration of some IQ’s…

Be a good family member and a good neighbor: Wear a mask; distance; stay home; and wash hands and surfaces. Stay healthy so you can help the people who are going to need it – both now and for years to come as the birthdays and anniversaries and Christmases roll by for those who will be lonely, who will grieve their lost ones, and who will need your support.

Saving Others from Tribal Cults

Reason is less useful than reaching out to their core identity and original morality.

Are the kind of person who drives drunk?

How would they feel if they ran over a dog – or a child?

Are they the kind of person who will call others “sheep” – but who themselves can’t possibly stand aside from their name-calling “friends”?

What kind of self-respect does someone like that really have?

The best support for someone ready to escape a tribal cult is someone who already has. Be there for them – when they’re finally ready.

Stay healthy, my Friends – and take care of those around you.


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Masks of Fear 4: Mask-ulinity

You should refuse to wear a “face condom”. And, it’s easy to explain because you can use the same lame excuses:

“I’m too big” – you can’t find a mask big enough to cover your enormous, chiseled, masculine jaw.

“I’m clean” – you wash your hands … sometimes … and you aren’t “diseased” – which anyone can clearly see by the ripple of your biceps. (flex a few times, they’ll get it)

Masks are just not … “manly”. Imagine Kirk Douglas in a mask: You can’t see his chin cleft, his perfectly formed dimples, his majestic jaw line. The mask fairly erases his Douglasness, leaving mere crumbs of manhood – things like integrity, intelligence, actual courage. What kind of masculine identity can a person have if they have to stop posing and posturing long enough to do things?

Research by Middlesex University and the Mathematical Science Research Institute in Berkeley found that men are less likely than women to wear protective masks because they view them as embarrassing: “shameful, not cool, a sign of weakness and a stigma”. According to Dr Valerio Capraro, Senior Lecturer in Economics, “men have higher levels of negative emotion” while wearing a mask.

Men are having EMOTION…

I get that it’s a woman making the claim, so maybe it’s projection. Just the same, it’s a little scary. Besides, masks are effeminate. Maybe we should just say “NO” to the “virus burqua”?

Shock jock Joe Rogan, pied piper of masculine culture, said only “bitches” wear masks.

Aubrey Huff, former baseball player and self-described “protector of toxic masculinity” tweeted:

Boris Johnson’s decision to continue shaking hands worked out well for him. He became infected, required hospitalization, and later said he was sick enough “things could have gone either way”. (CNN quote)

Jair Bolsonaro claimed his athleticism would prevent him from getting a virus, and besides, he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected. He trashed efforts to contain the disease in his country – at present the worst-faring in the world, measured in deaths per capita.

That’s similar to the USA – which has floundered under the “leadership” of the posing “masculinity” of a performer-in-chief – another anti-science, anti-mask president – the builder not of great walls protecting a nation from foreign hordes but of fences protecting said malignant poser from his own disaffected people – the savior not of humans but of profits for billionaires – fiddler to the biggest economic crash in the history of the Republic.

Declining the mask is an attempt at social signaling – a performative flaunting of the naked face in the way a porn star might flaunt an erection. But, in this case, who is the audience, and how are they supposed to benefit?

This performance hearkens back to primary school, when the dull boys tried feebly to conceal their dullness behind braggadocio, bluster, and bullying. It’s ironic that these same man-boys, now middle-aged, seem to think they’re manifesting an ideal of the rugged, individual, when mask refusal really traces in part to a fear of what other people will think of them.

Their callous recklessness toward others is an advertisement of character – just not the one they seem to imagine projecting. They’re manifesting the posturing of insecure adolescent boys, engaging in hijinks, trying to impress adolescent girls. It’s a juvenile context in which concern for safety reflects weakness.

These things arise from “precarious masculinity” – a culture where “manhood” is not inborn, but must be achieved, often by enduring painful initiation rituals. It can also be lost – by behaving as Rogan so poetically put it “like a bitch”.

Arlo Kinsey, an 18 year old high school graduate working at RJ’s Bob-Be-Que Shack in Mission, KS was greeting customers. In his own words:

“I’m working in a minimum-wage job just to save up for college, and then I’ve got to tell this dude to wear a mask because, that’s, you know, what I’m required to do by law,” (referring to Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s order to help slow the spread of COVID-19.)

The “Dude” – a middle-aged man twice the size of the skinny high school graduate – pulled a gun on the kid, implying he would murder him for conveying the message.

“And he’s going to shoot me because of that? We could have taken your order outside if you didn’t want to. But you go into an air conditioned area without a mask on, and if I tell you to wear one, you’re going to shoot me?”

A pathetically precarious masculinity indeed…

Researchers have found that men respond to challenges of their man-status with behaviors like supporting hierarchy, espousing homophobic beliefs, supporting aggression, and choosing physical tasks over intellectual ones. We might say the spectrum of behaviors often called “toxic masculinity” are actually symptoms of fragile masculinity, or precarious male status.

A man in public without a mask is willfully endangering people around him by refusing to contain his spit and the viruses it could contain. That’s toddler-like, or adolescent at best – certainly not “manly”. This is literally-toxic masculinity – displaying the social responsibility of a drunken driver. It’s a pathetic attempt to portray a character of strength when the opposite is what’s really there.

“People are not who they say but rather who their actions reveal them to be.” – Ziad K. Abdelnour

Truly masculine men are protective, not preening and posing – and then demanding some privilege. Truly masculine men would not risk bringing home something to harm their wives and children.

Real Men Aren’t Dullards:

Dullness isn’t masculine; it’s the opposite. Because, literally dying of stupidity – or harming your family because you’re thick – these are the fates of a mental weakling, not a strong protector and provider. The main qualities of homo sapiens (Latin for wise man) that let us take over the planet are intelligence and adaptability, not brawn and obstinance. It doesn’t matter how burly you are. If you’re too stupid to avoid infection, you get thrown out of the gene pool.

Real Men Know Masks Work

Here’s a demonstration to appeal to the adolescent boy in any of us, showing HOW masks work:

For those who like to read (or can), here’s some writing on the science.

Masculine Men Wear Protective Equipment:

Anyone who is doing anything truly adventurous or out on the edge is wearing some kind of protective gear – from gloves, to a helmet, to a mask of some kind.

Lumberjacks wear gloves and leg guards – because there’s no thigh of any tough-guy that’s any match for a chainsaw chain. Firefighters wear protective gear – including breathing apparatus – because even though firefighters are really pretty tough guys, there’s no fire-proof humans.

Police? Body armor.

Fishermen? Flotation and survival suits.

Even recreational adventurers wear protective gear. Paraglider pilots wear gloves and helmets – and carry reserve parachutes.

The only “masculine men” who don’t wear protective equipment of some kind aren’t doing anything real: they’re posers.

What other smart, masculine men wear protective equipment?

The ones who “got the girl”. You know I’m talking about those smart-masculine guys – the dentists and surgeons and people who work in clean-rooms with microscopes and technical equipment.

Those people have to protect their environment FROM THEMSELVES. Their breath could infect the insides of the person they’re doing surgery on – or contaminate a scientific sample or a space probe. They’re careful to protect others.

Who doesn’t wear masks?

Posers. Guys who blow cigar smoke and shit-talk surgeons and blather about how responsible, smart, science-literate, pro-social, taking-care-of-your-people smartly – you know, everything you saw John Wayne portray on screen – is “being a bitch”.

Maybe, the problem for posers is the mask isn’t enough of a sacrifice. Maybe if it made them bleed every time they put it on, it would be a useful prop for their posturing and whining.

Your Masculinity Might Be Fragile If:

  • The idea of safety equipment offends you.
  • You are offended by people being smarter than yourself.
  • You feel a need to pose without safety equipment.
  • You advertise masculinity or act abusively rather than in a truly masculine (protective) way toward others.
  • Your behavior is obnoxious, adolescent, and endangering to others rather than smart, thoughtful, and protective of others.
  • You are self-centered, self-involved, and protective of your vanity rather than concerned for others and protective of their safety.
  • You are offended by people being different from yourself.
  • You are offended by being shown an opportunity to be protective rather than obnoxious and reckless.

Save Your Masculinity:

Start by giving yourself a break: It’s OK to have mistakenly followed the prophets of fake masculinity who are in fact neurotic betas. The good news is being truly masculine isn’t that hard.

Understand that masculine isn’t a “status”. It isn’t static, but an ongoing behavior: You are never more masculine than the last time you looked out for those weaker than you – those a real masculine man would protect.

That’s the main difference: Self-centered versus taking care of others. Whiny bitches are always on about their own comfort, status, and entitlement. Masculine men are secure about themselves, so they’re busy taking care of others. And, they’re not angry about it: Anger is just a big insecurity zit, erupting. Masculinity is calm, not threatened by people asking the strong to take care with the lives and safety of others. Real masculinity welcomes every opportunity to protect – however that can be done.

It’s OK to be uncertain, awkward, or even anxious.

The difference is in how they react to it. They don’t bullshit, bluster, or bully. They don’t pose or whine. They don’t hide behind delusional denials of reality. They don’t fall down conspiracy theory rabbit holes (sure sign of a timid beta) to blame others. When they’re wrong they want to know FAST, so they can change course to being RIGHT. They don’t let dim-witted neurotic posers talk them into dying (or killing) of stupidity.

Arnold Schwarzenegger wears a mask, and encourages other real men to do likewise.


Jamaal Bowman is rockin’ the Wu Tang Clan mask.

They’re not afraid of seeming weak because they’re secure with their manhood. Being protective of others won’t shrivel their penis. Follow their lead: Show some real mask-ulinity by protecting your community.

Helping Others:

Fragile masculinity is more delicate than a snowflake. You can’t install masculinity into someone who is insecure or narcissistic.

If you’re their parent, you can model real masculinity. You can point to it. You can perhaps gently (so you don’t melt them) encourage in the right direction. You can consider getting them involved with an activity where there are positively masculine adult males they can respect and emulate – and who will help bring them along.

Sadly, if they’re already of an adult age, my experience suggests a conversion from toxically fragile to a positive and resilient version of masculinity is a rare one. So, if you’re dealing with a fragile adult (age) male, “social distancing” may be the best choice for you. Above all, keep yourself safe, both physically and mentally.

Posted in Cultivating Character, Dealing with Fear, Dealing with Shame, Decision-Making, How to Be Happier, Self Esteem | Comments Off on Masks of Fear 4: Mask-ulinity

Masks of Fear 3: Implausible Denial

When faced with shocking or emotionally painful information, one of the most common reflexive responses is “no” – or “you’re kidding me”. It’s a way of stepping back from the initial impact.

This response (called “denial”) is the first of the five stages of grief™ – a standard psychological defense mechanism. It is among the most primitive defense mechanisms, mimicking behaviors created in early childhood. We naturally use denial to initially cope with things that make us feel vulnerable or without control – such as illness, addiction, violence, financial problems, or even impending natural disaster.

Features of denial include refusing to acknowledge a difficult situation; trying not to face the facts of a problem; or downplaying possible consequences of the issue. These things may be OK for managing an initial shock, but clinging to them might prevent someone from getting help, such as medical treatment or counseling, or dealing with problems that can spiral out of control. Overdosing on any remedy can result in a bad outcome, as it did for Tony Green.

“Folks tend to look at what has happened elsewhere and then they make up some kind of magical reason why it’s not going to happen to them.” – Jennifer Nuzzo, epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

From denial to denialISM

Denialism is a systematic avoidance of painful reality. It’s a vision where nothing and no one can be trusted. If you believe you are being constantly lied to, paradoxically you are in danger of accepting untruths just because they confirm your suspicions.

Denialism is a mix of corrosive doubt and corrosive credulity.

Denialist ideas overlap: Climate science deniers are likely to be COVID deniers and also to deny the facts of systemic racism, and often also to deny the holocaust and even evolution science. The need of denialists to explain-away evidence of these things leads to the overlap between denialists and conspiracists. So, climate science deniers often believe in conspiracies by the world’s scientists and windmill salesmen. COVID deniers often cite a “plandemic” conspiracy theory ostensibly to unseat President Trump. Deniers of systemic racism talk about a reverse racism or liberal takeover conspiracy to enslave white people. Etc.


Ironically, believers in COVID conspiracy theories are themselves dupes of an actual conspiracy where confusion is the message …

Military strategist John Boyd wrote about impairing an enemy’s ability to orient themselves to reality by introducing uncertainty and novelty, and triggering stress. So, disinformation campaigns are used to promote unfounded conspiracy theories that sow confusion and division within an opposition.

For example, during the 1980’s the KGB ran a disinformation campaign spreading the idea that US scientists created the HIV virus that causes AIDS to exterminate gays and certain minorities. It was called Operation INFEKTION.

And, the Bill Gates corona virus conspiracy launched from a website run by Russia’s Defense Ministry to promote the idea that Bill Gates helped create the virus. It claims that only people of “the Mongoloid race” can contract COVID-19.

Agnieszka Legucka from the Polish Institute of International Affairs says “Since the beginning of 2020, [Russians] have also been spreading disinformation about the coronavirus with the aim of inducing distrust in public institutions and aggravating the public health crisis in the EU.” She says one of the sources of such fake news is the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a Russian troll farm owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin.

Observers from the EU Commission have analyzed over 80 different reports containing false or misleading information about coronavirus published by official Russian state media sites and platforms and authors with close ties to the Kremlin.

In a recent article, EUvsDisinfo explained the pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets are not attempting to “sell an idea”, but rather to confuse the audience. For instance, The Oriental Review, an e-journal with ties to the Kremlin, wrote “When the panic is over, COVID-19 will have killed less people than a normal flu.” – arguing that current fears are unfounded. But, Geopolitica, another Russian e-journal claims the opposite, writing that when the virus finishes its “victory march across the planet” it will have destroyed the existing world order.

Meantime, US State department officials tasked with combating Russian disinformation told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that false personas were being used on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to advance Russian talking points. Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia said: “Russia’s intent is to sow discord and undermine US institutions and alliances from within, including through covert and coercive malign influence campaigns,”

COVID denialists who are fans of virus-related conspiracy theories, anti-mask theories, and the like are themselves actual participants in a real conspiracy for which there is actual evidence. And, with their help, it’s succeeding at harming their neighbors and their country.

Alan Moore said: “Conspiracy theorists actually believe in a conspiracy because that is more comforting. The truth of the world is that it is chaotic. The truth is that it is not the Jewish banking conspiracy, or the gray aliens, or the 12 foot reptiloids from another dimension that are in control. The truth is far more frightening. Nobody is in control. The world is rudderless.”

A scary conspiracy is less scary than scary chaos.

People would rather an evil genius be in control than have nobody in control. The need for certainty and a sense of control is inescapable. Losing these induces panic, anger, and age regression. When we see people acting “childishly”, it’s because they have been regressed into child-like patterns. They are seeing simplistic answers; engaging in magical fairy-tale thinking; believing in monster-like things; having wild emotional swings; and engaging in literal tantrums. They are not behaving “like” a child, but literally “AS” a child.

They’ve just succumbed to the emotionally torturous circumstances sooner than others will. And, here’s where others are vulnerable to their own denial – that they could or would ever wind up in the same place – having child-like meltdown in the grocery store. The reality is that it can happen to anyone.

As we accept the reality of loss or difficulty we can begin to find resources and take actions that will address it in the real world. We begin a process of progress that makes us stronger and more capable. As we proceed, the feelings we were using denial to shelter from will begin to resurface. And, their initial return can be challenging as we move forward into managing reality. We will also regain our mature, adult patterns of understanding, emoting, and interacting.


Know that it’s OK to need an emotional rest and say, “I just can’t think about this right now.” Then, keep in mind to do it safely, and remember that denial should always be a temporary thing. It won’t change the reality: Just catch your breath and come back to dealing with the problem. It isn’t always easy to tell if denial is holding you back. If you feel stuck or if someone you trust suggests you’re in denial, try these strategies:

  • Open up to a trusted friend or loved one and express your fears and emotions.
  • Honestly examine what you fear. How much do you really understand it? Who are the real experts, and what do most of them say?
  • Think about the actions you can take, and engage in doing some of them.
  • Participate in a support group.

On our own, we want to manage our intake of “news” and social media – things that can corrode our sense of certainty and control. Those things can trigger regression that makes us more vulnerable rather than less vulnerable to denial, conspiracy theories, and bad choices.

It’s also useful to avoid conspiracy-theory rabbit holes. Conspiracy theories lack public, objective and verifiable proof. If an idea can’t be tested, and if you can’t think of any evidence that would disprove it, you’re probably in a conspiracy theory. Because real science builds theories specifically to be tested and challenged.

Past those defensive actions, it’s helpful to engage in self-care like mindfulness practices, exercise, and keeping a regular schedule even if you’re in lock-down. And, if we are in lock-down, it’s a good time to learn a new skill or advance an old one. This occupies the mind and curiosity with useful information, and gives us positive action to take.

In any survival situation, an important thing to do is make a list of available resources. This has both practical and emotional benefits. Make a list of resources for yourself, and review it. This can include financial resources, first aid supplies, tools, even friends.

This brings us to socializing and emotional support. Get in touch with friends regularly, but do it safely. Video calls or phone calls are preferable during the pandemic. Make some notes of topics OTHER THAN the pandemic or frightening political issues to talk about. Things you can take action on are most useful. Ideally, share some creative work of some kind because creativity is one of the best ways to experience focus and control.

If you can’t make progress dealing with a stressful situation on your own – if you’re stuck in the denial phase – consider talking to a mental health professional. They can help you find healthy ways to cope with the situation rather than trying to pretend it doesn’t exist or sliding into a conspiracy mindset.

Helping Others:

Give them space, speak in a calm and reassuring, rather than angry or demanding tone. Don’t shame them for being stupid – that’s likely to worsen their response.

If you aren’t experiencing these kinds of problems, try to be understanding of others who are using denial to try to cope. Understand that age regression is real and a natural response to these circumstances. Reassure people as you would a child but without talking down to them. Realize they are unaware of their age regression (that they’re behaving AS a child).

Share with them the things you’re doing for your own health and sanity. This focuses on actions and control, which should be helpful.

In conversation, talk about the things that are certain and provable with evidence. Talk about the things that remain within their control. If they’re in a store without a mask, they might like to know they can get curb-side service (often free), or even doorstep delivery. They might like to know about outdoor places they can breathe freely without a mask.

If they are grasping at conspiracy theories to try to explain things, and those theories are leading them to unsafe behaviors, do not let them endanger you. Confronting the nonsense head-on isn’t usually the best strategy, and unwinding it can be very sticky. You might consider asking two kinds of questions:

1. If the scientist has a theory, what evidence would prove it wrong?

Let them explain it. Then:

2. What evidence would prove the conspiracy theory wrong?

If there’s no possible or practical way to disprove it, then it’s obvious that the reasoning is different. And, that may be a point on which to begin loosening the death-grip on the nonsense. As a person emerges from denialism, they will regain emotional maturity and the ability to process and evaluate evidence.

In the end, if they are burrowed too far into denial and conspiracy theories to maintain basic infection control measures – or if their proselytizing of conspiracy are intolerable, you may have to manage your interaction with them. Above all, keep yourself safe, both physically and mentally.

Posted in Anger Management, Coping with Sadness, Cultivating Character, Dealing with Fear, Dealing with Shame, Decision-Making, Get Rid of Anxiety, How to Be Happier, How to Stop Worrying, Procrastination, Relationships, Self Esteem, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Masks of Fear 3: Implausible Denial

Masks of Fear 2: FOF

If seeing other people in masks brings anxious (or angry) feelings, you may be having a very normal human reaction to loss of FOF signals. To understand and find relief, keep reading.

What’s FOF?

During WW2, when RADAR was developed, a system was created for airplanes to communicate they are friendly (not foe), so their own people wouldn’t shoot at them. The system is called it IFF for “identity friend or foe”, and a version of it is still used today.

The idea is something humans have done forever – deciding whether someone was trustworthy or dangerous – in short, FRIEND OR FOE (FOF).

FOF processing happens in the Amygdala, or parts of the brain that process facial expression and also control our instantaneous emotional responses. (See how this connects?) Just like the RADAR system, we send out a query – often by smiling at people – and then watch for them to echo it back, confirming they’re “not foe”.

Our intuitive reaction to emotions on others’ faces account for over 60% of our approach/avoidance decisions. The Dangerous Decisions Theory (DDT; Porter & ten Brinke, 2009) predicts judgments of trustworthiness occur instantaneously, and are experienced as “intuition”. It happens automatically, , and outside our awareness.

We start learning this at around 7 – 8 months, when we start to get anxious of faces we don’t recognize. According to psychology professor Joseph Durwin at California State University, Northridge, young children are “very reactive to a familiar body type with an unfamiliar face”. We’ve all seen the photos of a child, terrified by some sports mascot, and all the adults think it’s hilarious.

That SPECIFIC and primitive TERROR may be re-visiting people who are getting creeped-out by seeing others in masks. It may be the same way people discover a phobia they don’t realize is related to a long-forgotten childhood scare. And, just as we shouldn’t force a baby into the arms of the Disney character that terrifies them, forcing adults directly into close contact with masked people that are triggering a terror response is not the best way to help them.

There’s something especially creepy about faces missing some of the expression pieces, like the Faceless Monster in “Among the Damned”. And, Japanese folklore contains a creepy creature called Noppera-bo, or “faceless ghost” that looks like a human but has no face. Writers of scary stories understand this natural fear reaction to faceless characters, and use it in many ways – as do criminals, terrorists, and government thugs.

A lack of social cues (loss of FOF signals) can be terrifying because in our primitive past, it could have life or death consequences (more than now). So, being unable to get social cues via facial expressions can put us into fight, flight, or freeze survival mode.

I think Americans are also more sensitive to this than people from other countries because they’re used to more, and larger FOF signals. Ask a bunch of foreigners how to spot an American abroad, and the thing that comes up the most often is how shockingly outgoing we are. We smile broadly at everyone, seemingly “for no reason” (we’re looking for that FRIEND signal). Then, we initiate conversation with strangers (other people usually don’t). And, once we do, we over-share our feelings about everything.

When you see one of those YouTube meltdown videos, you can see the anxiety, panic, and anger triggered by losing FOF signals. You might notice the person melting down “crowding” someone who is wearing a mask.

We might interpret that as aggression, and it might be. But some of them seem to be searching for something – almost as if they can’t see well enough. They’re trying to get the social cues they need to feel safe, and can’t do it. They’re the one drawing closer, all the while emotionally escalating…

While we see the roots of this in children, the reaction in adults isn’t childish or silly. It’s based both in instinct, and in a long history of media – from horror and action movies, to government propaganda.

How many masked bad guys – from robbers, to terrorists, to secret police, and even executioners – do you think the average American has seen on television and in movies in their lifetime? In current news, we see scary images of “Antifa” and “Black Bloc” – and also of unidentified “Secret Police” – doing scary violent things.

There’s another reason we don’t like masked people: They might misbehave. The works of Zimbardo (1969); Diener (1976);, and Mann, Newton, and Innes (1982) show a link between anonymity and abusive behavior. Scientists have found a tendency for people to act rudely, illegally, or even violently when their faces and names are hidden.

So, MASKED PEOPLE ARE SCARY, and there are several “good reasons” to be scared of them.


So, learning to conquer the loss of the FOF signals we’re used to – and to cope with the “creepiness” of people in masks – has literally become a matter of life and death. As we go forward it’s also a matter of social acceptability. We won’t be able to avoid wearing a mask, or being around people wearing masks, or to avoid the issue by arguing with “alternative facts”.

One of the main ways people learn to alleviate social anxiety (to get an FOF signal) is by smiling and watching for the echo of our smile. That’s the signal we know.

We teach children the protocol – to smile at others, and to echo back smiles when others do it first. We even have brain structures that trigger a mimicking expression. This is very old evolutionary stuff…

Panic attacks and intense anxiety are not usually dangerous to the people suffering them. However, when they interfere with safety precautions or evolving necessary social behaviors, they can contribute to both public health problems and relationships.

ANGER can come from anxiety or fear – a sense of danger – and can also result in some serious social or even legal consequences if a person offers an aggressive or anti-social expression of their panic or panic-induced anger.

So, it’s really essential to overcome anxious or angry responses to the loss of FOF signals that masks might cause. If seeing someone in a mask incites confusion – or the sense that you can’t somehow “see them”, you may be having a very normal reaction to loss of FOF signals. If it feels terrifying, triggering, or enraging, you may be having a stronger reaction. Experiment with the tips below, or contact a professional for help.

How to Feel Better:

Flight is OK: If you begin to feel overwhelmed, it’s OK to respond to the anxiety by retreating – just leave the area. It’s OK to walk away from a basket of groceries and come back later. That’s certainly better than becoming the next viral YouTube video …

Collect yourself: You can pause and take a few deep breaths. You might even close your eyes momentarily. If you look around and notice nobody else is running scared, everything might be OK.

Restore the FOF: Most often, we operate the FOF system by smiling and watching for the echo. We may even find ourselves smiling repeatedly under our own mask, and becoming unsettled because we’re not seeing the echo. NOTICE THIS, and have a good chuckle about it.

We should never force a child to interact with someone they are afraid of. And, we don’t have to do that to ourselves, either. We think it’s OK for a child to be frightened of strangers but we shouldn’t – so we have to feel weird about it. In reality, it’s normal, and admitting it to yourself will actually take some of the pressure off.

When we can’t safely get people to take off their masks to show us their friendly faces, we need to “change to a clear channel” of communications. You can fire-off the very same FOF system in others unconsciously by substituting an exaggerated nod, even to the point of a slight bow. Try it out and notice how other people will nod back – and usually become visibly more relaxed.

In certain communities, and especially among young males, a chin-jut is also a recognized acknowledgement, and can be sent and echoed even when masked.

The need for FOF signaling is so ingrained, many people are adapting without giving it a single conscious thought.

On the hiking trails, I’m seeing lots of the old-fashioned exaggerated wave. In the past people would use the smile for FOF signaling – often along with some cheery verbal greeting. These days, people are waving broadly from 50 or more yards away, and often shouting a “good morning!” or a “thank you” for having given them the trail. The intuitive need for the signal is generating what’s needed.

You can also use your words. Speak in a cheery tone: “How are you today?”, or “That’s a nice mask you’re wearing. Where did you get it?”

You can use some of the tricks used by public speakers: If there’s a crowd, focus on the least-threatening one. And, imagine the smile that’s under their mask.

How to Help Others:

If you aren’t experiencing these kinds of problems, try to be understanding of others who are triggered into fear (which may be followed by protective anger) at losing their FOF signals. Try to help them recover that FOF information using the communications tips I mentioned above. Realize they’re probably not even aware of what’s triggering them.

Also, try to be understanding that denial of the pandemic might be their way of trying to cope with the non-rational but very real fear they’re experiencing. Realize that arguing the reality with them while they’re triggered isn’t going to be helpful.

Give them space, and speak in a calm, reassuring, and cheerful tone. This can be very difficult if they’re crowding, angry, or even threatening. Just do your best, and try not to be too angry with your own tone, as that’s likely to validate their fear.

As much as you may want to, don’t shame them for being stupid, as that’s likely to worsen their response. If there is sufficient social distance, consider showing them your (calm and reassuring) face.

If you or someone you know is experiencing intense fearful or angry responses to wearing masks or seeing people wearing them, consider getting professional assistance

If you find this article or series of articles helpful, share them with others.

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Masks of Fear 1: Suffocating Panic

If wearing a mask makes you feel short of breath or light-headed, it’s NOT because it’s “reducing your oxygen” or because it’s “trapping the CO2”. (Masks don’t actually do those things.)

The symptoms are most probably due to a panic attack being brought on by having something over your face. It’s really very common.

It may be aggravated by the many fears about the virus that some people are repressing in order to maintain rapport with their tribal / political group.

The symptoms may also be aggravated by hyperventilating that is sometimes part of a panic attack.

The remedy for hyperventilation – and the symptoms from it – is breathing into a paper bag – something that *actually* traps the CO2 (the mask doesn’t) to restore the proper level of CO2 in the blood: (

It is common for people with phobic or panic responses to attempt to rationalize them in various ways – which will over time make them even more difficult to deal with, and may in some cases generalize the stimulus that can trigger them (make them more common / frequent – and maybe not require a mask to trigger them).

If seeing others wearing masks (a thing that actually protects you) is “triggering” for you, you may be having a phobic response to people in masks. This may be related to another phobia that is far more common than most people realize: coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns (

It may be related to the fact that we’ve been bombarded with scary news about “terrorists” for the past 20 years. It may even be related to the amount of information we’re used to gathering instantly and unconsciously about the people around us – that their faces are friendly and welcoming – or at least not angry and threatening. Suddenly being unable to tell whether the people around you are hostile might trigger a fearful response.

When such things happen, people don’t always realize they’re having a panic attack or phobic response. And, experiencing this doesn’t mean a person is “crazy”, “broken”, or “weak”. Even though these emotional hiccups are quite common, people are often embarrassed by them – which is one of the reasons they live and suffer in denial rather than just seeking help for them.

Panic attacks and phobia-like responses are not usually dangerous to the people who suffer them. However, when they interfere with medically necessary safety precautions from deadly disease, they can contribute to both personal and public health problems.

If wearing a mask – or seeing people in masks – feels triggering, or leads to light-headedness, dizziness, or hyperventilating, contact a professional for some assistance to resolve what is likely a simple issue, but in these times one that might lead to really serious outcomes – for you or for someone you care about.

A quick-fix you might try for yourself is picking a mask that represents a group or team you support – from a sporting team, to a political organization, a flag – or even a superhero costume. While this might seem silly or simple it actually works wonders sometimes. And, it costs very little to just try it.

If you aren’t experiencing these kinds of problems, try to be understanding of others who are triggered into fear (which is naturally followed by protective anger) at being asked to wear a mask or at seeing others in masks. Realize that they may not be aware of the specific thing that’s triggering them. Try to be understanding that denial of the realities of the pandemic might be their way of trying to avoid or to rationalize the non-rational but very real fear they’re experiencing.

Give them space, speak in a calm and reassuring, rather than angry or demanding tone. Don’t shame them for being stupid – that’s likely to worsen their response. If there is sufficient social distance, consider showing them your (calm and reassuring) face.

If you or someone you know is experiencing intense fearful or angry responses to wearing masks or seeing people wearing them, consider getting some professional assistance for relief, comfort, and safety.

Posted in Anger Management, Coping with Sadness, Dealing with Fear, Get Rid of Anxiety, How to Stop Worrying | Comments Off on Masks of Fear 1: Suffocating Panic

Stop it and Get a Life

Stop it. Please.

I’m writing to ask you to STOP IT. Please.

You know who you are, posting announcements from Facebook applications with titles like:

  • “Which fairy are you?”
  • “Which day of the week are you?”
  • “Which beer are you?”

For a moment, step away from the keyboard. Walk into the bathroom wherever you are, and look into the mirror, deep into your own eyes. Notice their shape, their color, the beautiful details in the iris.

Imagine looking back across time – into the eyes of some distant ancestor.

If your eyes are blue, then you share a common ancestor to ALL other blue-eyed persons, scientists say. And, within the past 6 to 10 thousand years or so. And, that person probably lived in Northern Europe.

Contemplate who THEY were – and how you’re connected to them – and to EVERY other blue-eyed person on this planet.

Then, regardless of your eye color, begin to imagine that WHO YOU ARE as the *SUCCESSFUL* progeny of thousands of generations of human beings that walked this planet for thousands of years.

Imagine that you notice yourself carrying the genetics of the SURVIVING members of your ancestors’ families – through wars, treachery, plagues, fire, droughts, floods, earthquakes, cyclones, ice ages, pestilence, famine – and every other natural and man-made disaster and challenge, recorded or forgotten.

The blood of the survivors and the successful – and the just plain lucky – runs in your veins. When you look into your own eyes, you look deep into that legacy.

If that legacy were to look back – the warriors, and captains, and sailors, and fishermen, and farmers, and miners, and travelers, and mothers, and hunter-gatherers, all.

They may collectively say to you:

“Stop it, please”. Stop seeking an identity in a meaningless “application” on Facebook.

Perhaps they’d offer something like:

“HERE’S YOUR IDENTITY. Right HERE. Look long. Look hard. Look often. “Imagine it” they could say “YOU – the product of thousands of generations of SUCCESS – just by being alive – JUST by drawing your breath this moment – YOU ARE US. We thrill to know that you are here. And, we want you to experience a REAL identity, rooted in your character and grown throurh your actions.”

“LIVE a life WORTHY of that history – and while you remember this undeniable connection EVERY REMAINING DAY OF YOUR LIFE – before you join us all in the dusts of time…”

I wonder how people would feel about their “identity” if they did this once in a while – or maybe even just ONCE…

I wonder if people would notice that those who thought them interesting enough to “friend” them in the first place were imagining they’d post something that’s actually ABOUT them – and not some idiotic “applications” random stamp about them.

And, I genuinely wonder how interesting their REAL posting that’s actually about them will be …

Posted in Dealing with Shame, Get Rid of Anxiety, How to Be Happier, How to Stop Worrying, Self Esteem, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Stop it and Get a Life

Victim Status – according to Brodsky

I write a good bit about victim status, seeking it, the utility of it – and the price. I just came across this fragment of a commencement speech by Joseph Brodsky, from 1988, where he speaks eloquently and directly about the subject.

Hope you like.

At all costs try to avoid granting yourself the status of the victim. Of all the parts of your body, be most vigilant over your index finger, for it is blame-thirsty. A pointed finger is a victim’s logo — the opposite of the V-sign and a synonym for surrender.

No matter how abominable your condition may be, try not to blame anything or anybody: history, the state, superiors, race, parents, the phase of the moon, childhood, toilet training, etc. The menu is vast and tedious, and this vastness and tedium alone should be offensive enough to set one’s intelligence against choosing from it.

The moment that you place blame somewhere, you undermine your resolve to change anything; it could be argued even that that blame-thirsty finger oscillates as wildly as it does because the resolve was never great enough in the first place.

After all, a victim status is not without its sweetness. It commands compassion, confers distinction, and whole nations and continents bask in the murk of mental discounts advertised as the victim’s conscience. There is an entire victim-culture, ranging from private counselors to international loans. The professed goal of this network notwithstanding, its net result is that of lowering one’s expectations from the threshold, so that a measly advantage could be perceived or billed as a major breakthrough.

Of course, this is therapeutic and, given the scarcity of the world’s resources, perhaps even hygienic, so for want of a better identity, one may embrace it — but try to resist it. However abundant and irrefutable is the evidence that you are on the losing side, negate it as long as you have your wits about you, as long as your lips can utter “No.”

On the whole, try to respect life not only for its amenities but for its hardships, too. They are a part of the game, and what’s good about a hardship is that it is not a deception. Whenever you are in trouble, in some scrape, on the verge of despair or in despair, remember: that’s life speaking to you in the only language it knows well.

In other words, try to be a little masochistic: without a touch of masochism, the meaning of life is not complete. If this is of any help, try to remember that human dignity is an absolute, not a piecemeal notion, that it is inconsistent with special pleading, that it derives its poise from denying the obvious.

Should you find this argument a bit on the heady side, think at least that by considering yourself a victim you but enlarge the vacuum of irresponsibility that demons or demagogues love so much to fill, since a paralyzed will is no dainty for angels.

Posted in Anger Management, Bully Blog, Coping with Sadness, Cultivating Character, Dealing with Fear, Dealing with Shame, Get Rid of Anxiety, How to Be Happier, Relationships, Self Esteem, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Victim Status – according to Brodsky

Clean Off the Guilt

Nobody is eager to do the job of cleaning a stinking mess off their shoe, but the alternative is to walk around smelling like that – and tracking it everywhere you go. And, whether you’re spending time “isolated together” with someone or isolated alone, the isolation can seem to intensify the issue.

COVID-19 is bringing many changes to many people – and to relationships.

In some cases, it’s requiring people to be isolated – and in some cases, to be “isolated together” – for extended periods of time.

These conditions lead people to “think about things” – often to dwell on things – including things they may not feel great about. And, the “not great” things might include guilt.

Guilt is an interesting emotion in that feeling guilty about something can lead a person to doing other things they wind up feeling guilty (or ashamed) for – and that can become a self-amplifying spiral of behavior that’s really troublesome.

Knowing about these sorts of things doesn’t make a person immune to the problems. In fact, it can create a blindness to the power of the cycle, or to the destruction it’s doing.

A person might find themselves saying to themselves “I know, I know, blah, blah, blah … thereby maintaining the problem condition – because doing the things that would let them fully escape the guilt and just move forward with freedom seem seem impossibly difficult.

Emotional things are like that – especially in American culture, and especially for men.

Again, cleaning the shoe is pretty gross – except in comparison to walking around like that. And, allowing guilt to cling to you – and to get on your relationships endeavors – really is worse than just cleaning it off.

In consideration of the current situation, I have recently re-released a couple of my videos about a fast easy way to clean the guilt off yourself – and to do that in privacy, and probably without needing to have awkward conversations. In consideration of the current situation, I’ve also discounted the price by $20.

If you’ve been feeling bad about something and want to be free – through a simple process you can do in privacy in the next 30 to 60 minutes – check it out. If you know someone else who is suffering, consider sharing the link with them.

Whatever you do, be well and happy.

Posted in Dealing with Shame, High Performance, How to Be Happier, How to Get Some Sleep, Relationships, Self Esteem | Comments Off on Clean Off the Guilt

Landmarks of the Self

People construct and experience their identity – their place in the world – largely based on their interactions with others. Disruption of one’s social interactions can lead people to lose sight of the landmarks they have chosen to navigate their identity – to literally lose their sense of self.

This loss can lead to intolerable anxiety and despair.

How important (to our understanding of our identity) is it for us to proxy our personal hygiene and grooming to someone from a different socio/ethno/economic class?

In Motivational Literacy(TM), we observe a relationship:

Dependency = Denial + Defending

The amount by which one denies dependency and defends doing or using something, they are dependent upon it. (Think of various addictions…)

In this context, we would say the extent to which one denies that they need someone else to frost their bangs or groom their toenails – while also having anxiety because they can’t experience it this week – they are functionally dependent. Likewise, the extent to which they defend the urgency of their seeking it, they’re experiencing stress based on dependence.

These things might reveal a person’s self-definition – their experience of unique identity and place in the world – is to some extent based on those kinds of interactions. Character implications aside, it might be useful to consider the ecology of having one’s landmarks of self-ness so externalized and so provably fragile and out of one’s own control. A person might find themselves wanting to adjust things…

All approaches to the mechanics of such adjustments begin the kind of quiet personal thinking that pandemic countermeasures “lock-down” might … we can choose to see it as “imposing” or “facilitating”, whichever seems most useful. Whichever the case, we cannot build new landmarks for the navigation of the self while still pining for or grieving for the old ones.

We might re-design some of the ways we’ve build our personal navigational systems (or allowed them to be built for us). We might use the time and circumstances we’ve come into for that purpose. And, through that wind up with the kind of personal renaissance that some people create after surviving a near-death experience and recovery, or after they’ve resolved a “mid life crisis”.

Right now, we get to be like Jonah.

What will you become through the experience?

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Motivational Minute: Utilization Principle

This is March 20, 2020, and stress over the COVID-19 virus is beginning to crescendo for many people. They’re trying to concentrate, to do work from home or create something – or to home-school their kids – and the constant press conferences and counts, and communications about the virus – or about dealing with the changes it’s bringing – can really make that difficult.

If you’re like most people, you might have one of two responses. You might try to “discipline” yourself – to grit your teeth and force yourself to concentrate; sit still; and “get something done”. Or, you might try escaping or distracting yourself from an unpleasant emotion like anxiety, fear, panic, or just boredom – maybe through some activity that’s not great for you.

Another option is to use an emotion like anxiety to drive an activity you need – or even want to do anyway, but maybe just wasn’t scheduled for right that minute. It’s a powerful technique to harness USE an emotional state that presents itself, while it’s right there. Use it all up – and then come back to the original plan. Parents who have ever intentionally let their kids wear themselves out so they’ll go to bed know what I’m talking about…

We don’t want to do this ALL the time, because we do want to build the ability to conjure the best emotional state for a given task. On a given day, it can be fun to “let the dogs hunt” – and today was one of those for me. Here’s a short video from the “upstairs office” – and it includes some information useful for parents trying to home-school during the crazy we have right now. Hope you enjoy.

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