Monday, August 10, 2020

Essay on Relationship With Self, Others, and Society

First draft attempt at collecting these various observations together. Still trying to refine these observations. Please consider this an in-progress first look rather than finished product. 

1) Humans and Economy

No human is 100% self-sufficient. A human baby would die in the woods if it wasn't fed and taught basic survival skills.

In a word of specialization and commerce, part of adulthood is "pulling your own weight" for the society you're in. In a commerce culture you offer something (a good or service) and trade it for something else. Money developed out of this and can be traced as far back as Assyria and Babylon. 

2) Modern Economy

In the modern Western world, most human now "pull their weight" through getting a job. We live is mixed market capital economies where things are "owned" and government protects ownership though laws and police. History shows that fully "free" economies are corruptible, so the government has tools to try and regulate markets while allowing the "invisible hand" to incentive efficiency.

3) The Rise of Selfishness as a Market Theory

In the U.S., in the aftermath of the 1930's Great Depression, America pushed toward increased social welfare. The New Deal and Keynesian economics. In the 1970's a series of economic events (oil crisis, inflation crisis, ect.) destabilized the U.S. economy.


Lawmakers decided the current economic model was not working and went searching for a new policy. They settled on the work of Milton Friedman as a new approach, which was given the name neoliberal economics. A main tenant was...

Individuals pursuing their own best self-interest would result in the greatest overall good to society.


For the past fifty years, social policy has been governed on the notion that self-interest economic goals are desired and that self profit ultimately benefits all because is results in increased efficiency. Can produce with less and that is desirable. There is a great deal of debate about this.


4) Is Self Above Others Natural For Humans?

There is a great deal of debate about this too. Friedman promoted an idea that humans naturally put self first, other second.


I have been working on showing that this a mentally damaging state of being. Emotionally, humans have a fundamental need for connection, understanding, to be heard, and to be validated. If these are not acquired humans destabilize into anxiety, depression, stress and desperation.


I posit that humans have a combination of fundamental, core needs to look after both self AND others. And neither is naturally above or below the other. Varying needs arise at any point in time. If you are starving, a self need to eat rising to the top of priorities. Once you are fed, that hunger needs fades and something else comes to the forefront.


Among the deep core needs is a need to not see people suffer. If another person is suffering, another human feels a deep need to help if they can. That needs competes with self-need and there's an equal tug of war tension.


Altruism is the state of being where the need for other seems so great that one will place self-need aside to help others.

In war, humans self-sacrifice to save others. There is an innate self-need to be selfless if others are suffering.


5) When Others Are Taking Care of You

Here is a theory that goes against much modern thinking. Full self-worth can never, ever come 100% from within self. Humans know they have a full sense of worth when others care for them freely. It feels safe and natural. We are interconnected by a self-need to care for others and a self-need to be cared about by others. These two mechanism band humans into tribes which is necessary our survival. No human is innately able to care for self.


6) Care from Other Requires Vulnerability

Humans aren't mind readers. Humans have a need to care, but if they don't know what's wrong you won't get the care you need. You won't get care on your terms. Vulnerability is expression of self need. Humans also have an expectation of some "pull your own weight". It is not the tribe's job to 100% always be monitoring you.


Assertiveness is the skill of stating what you need respectfully. It is an ask. Not place self above or below others, giving them the autonomy to freely decide what ideas of help are comfortable for others. In this manner help can be given and received authentically. One person fulfills need for validation / understanding from other. The other person gets their need to feel helpful fulfilled. Both people do it on their terms.


Empathy is the set of tools to solve the "we can't mind read problem". It the ability to properly assess the needs of another so that the work of mutual "need from and to others" is mutually beneficial.


7) When Others Aren't Taking Care of You

We can't meet all our own needs ourself. Humans are hard-wired to help. However, the neoliberal economic system now punishes us for giving help freely or collectively. The model says - if you don't look after self first you can't get money. And without money no-one will help you. Charity is bad. Welfare is bad. Give to get.


What's interesting is this isn't wholly wrong. Some level of self-sufficiency is part of the tribal social contract "pull your own weight". The other part though is the no human survives alone concept. "If you struggle, others are pre-disposed to help because helping fills a self-need and also means that others can expect a level of being cared for".


When we aren't being cared for freely, humans panic. There is fundamental need to be validated by other. Self-worth does not fully come from within. You are fully confident when the tribe looks at you and says "yep, you're one of us, we value you simply for existing". Both internal validation AND external validation are a core part of self-worth.


In a system that says validation won't be given freely humans panic. They need validation so, so badly. This is the root of inflated self-ego.


Being vulnerable is shunned and punished in our economic system. Asks for help are weakness. Are failure. You are not owed validation.


Because of this, the human retreats inward. The validation need isn't being filled elsewhere and still needs to occur. So one of two things happen...


A) Inflation of self-ego. Denial that validation of help from others is needed. A new image that self and self alone is enough. A retreat into self-confidence solely and only. It isn't, but it's all you seem to have. Vulnerability is punished, and defensiveness results. Questioning ego questions the only remaining source of needed validation and so it's defended intensely. Shame about one's ego just fuels further proof that empathy can't and won't be given unless self does even more, even better, and finds way to think that they are great and if others can't see it's the fault of others. Fault of self can never be healed elsewhere.

Empathy is what cures this condition.


B) Anxiety and depression. Validation isn't being given. Instead of retreating into inflation of self-ego, the human retreats into diminished self-ego. A retreat into reliance on others solely and only. Intense people pleasing. A knowledge that self-worth is false because no-one actually respects it. There is no social signal of outside caring so the only logical answer is this the self IS worthless.


8) The Rise of Arrogance and Altruism

The modern economic model of primacy of self interest has fractured society into a bimodel state of socialization and conflict everywhere. Humans hate conflict and everyone is miserable.


Type A inflated self-worth (self above others)

Type A retreats into arrogance when threatened


Type B diminished self-worth (others above self)

Type B retreats into passivity when threatened


Each side defends their style intensely against all others, both of the same time and others.


Type A v. Type A is dual arrogance of self. Talking past each other. No connection. No need filling to and from other. Just more unmet needs and more proof that others are not a source of need filling and reinforcement that ego-inflation is the only way to meet need.


Type B v. Type B is a weird dual altruism. A fight to keep pushing any focus off self and onto the other person. Both sides wind up "faking it" trying to look so much like whatever the other person seems to want.


Type A v. Type B is where abuse runs rampant. Now both sides have a deeply intense need to focus solely and wholly on Type A's needs and no-one is focusing on Type B's needs. And weirdly, both people bear some accountability. Type A is frightened that if they stop demanding they won't get what they want. Type B is frightened that if they start demanding they won't get what they want.


None of these interactions are getting needs authentically, mutually filled. Type A's are getting what they want by force. They know it's wrong but feel they have no other choice. Type A's at least get to succeed materially.


Type B's wish that others would take of them more. They know that it's natural to expect it. They sit and suffer and refuse to play the arrogant game. They are materially failing by refusing to be cruel and step on others arrogantly to succeed.


No-one is happy. We hear all kinds of reports that Type A people are lonely, depressed, and unsatisfied despite the material wealth. And Type B's tend to have shallow, abuse relationships they themself put themself into because it's the only way to get support freely - by burying self and only taking what the other has sole authority to offer or not. The lack of material gain means the suffering of Type B is even more traumatic because now both emotional AND material needs aren't being met.


9) Tools for Reconnection

What then is to be done? There's the high level, public health view. Keep working on economic systems that better manage the needs of all while also maintaining a level of self-autonomy. And inherent and deeply challenging task. But we keep innovating. Have a willingness to fail without repercussion. Which requires...


An empathy revolution. The world is deep state of war over needs meeting. Nothing is mutual. Everything is fought for with defensive behavior.


When a human is defensive (aggression / passive) they tend to respond to assertiveness as an attack. This often makes the other person want to raise their own defensive shield and conflict emanates out.


Even more nefarious - pain spreads. Defensiveness is the pain of unmet need. When needs aren't met negative feeling arise. Assertion is an attempt to meet a need. When that is rejected, the need is not only getting met and is being attacked for even asking (or with passiveness, being met resentfully and we can often tell that and hate it). Pain now spreads. Where we had a confident, assertive individual, they now fall into pain.


One pain makes two. The person might now be defensive to another person. Like a virus, a single point source of external unmet need can exponentially spread into an entire network of others.


The one and only truly healing answer for all this pain of unmet need to mutually, authentically both help and be helped by others? Empathy.


To understand the most all defensiveness is pain. And to weaponize empathy. To refuse to fall into self-defensiveness and give intense effort into understanding other until they feel safe enough to admit what's truly wrong. And then a final empathy to, at long last, let their need for validation/understanding/being listen to be met by another. That need can never, ever be met alone and that pain never goes away. We need each other.


And once someone has empathy given and grow in the self-worth of others supporting them, they grow increasingly able to, once healed, learn how to heal others and fulfill that last unmet social need - the need to feel helpful.


10) Empathy Lessons and Respect For Empathy

It's one thing to say "empathy is the answer, go do it now". That again is this mindset of non-support and self-reliance. Humans need training from others.


Humans need examples of empathy. Practical tools. How to create self-boundary so that empathy given is genuine and not the altruism of offering empathy resentfully - healing the pain of another through self pain.


Some tools:


- Asking. So often I hear "how can I know the thoughts of another". You can ask.


- Asking for a mind change. So often I hear "we can't change the minds of another". Again - you can ask. You can offer empathy for their side. Hear them. Be willing to question self. If two people can enter into a conversation with the humility to willing to be wrong, they can work together to finding an aligned truth. It is authentic because there is NEVER a demand to change opinion on anything. You change it yourself willing in light of new evidence and a new perspective as does the other person. Maybe you wind of up wholly in agreement with one person's view. Or the other's. Or you put pieces of each perspective into a new blended view. Or some wholly new view altogether.


- Active listening training. How to truly put self aside and the other person be heard. Not paid lip service. To tangibly show that they are understood.


- Mutual expectation setting. Up front, be doubly assertive. Make asks about the conversation ahead. Both sides are given agency to question asks, to make adjustments or say no. Then, during the conversation, no one person is wholly responsible for remembering to make sure one of the asks from wither person happens. And it's not even about 100% meeting every ask on the list. It's about both sides understanding what the other wants and working toward mutual goals. Which is nice because it means someone is looking out for you. And it feels nice to get gratitude when you look out for them.

Read more about this in my other post: Setting Conversation Expectations


-Gratitude. Thinking of effort others put in to helping you and acknowledging it. Also applies to empathy toward self. Giving self credit about challenges. Not making unreasonable demands of self.


- Boundary setting. Another act of self-empathy. Remaining authentic to self need. Having the courage to say no if needed.

Finally, for more on handling interactions with others, wrote a post on trying to approach others with empathy while also maintaining healthy self-boundaries: 
The Weaponized Empathy Game Plan for Conversations

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