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Emotional detachment, we need more of it

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by коннор, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Original article copied in full:

    War broke out on a sunny afternoon at my small suburban library. It began as conflicts often do - with faint rumblings of discontent escalating into wholesale slaughter. Apparently, the only free computer had been double-booked.

    An older woman with grey hair was insisting that she had booked a terminal, but somehow her booking had not been registered.

    The librarian told the woman bluntly she must have made a mistake. Affronted and defensive, she dug in and refused to concede. The young man using the computer looked up nervously from his YouTube clip but said he had a genuine booking. Then the real fun began.

    When the computer next to the contested terminal suddenly became free, the jilted woman claimed it and began her assault. ''Hard to find anyone with decency around here,'' she sniped at the young man. ''Yeah, yeah, whatever,'' he replied. For the next 10 minutes, while typing on her keyboard, she threw sarcastic barbs his way, to which he replied with increasing venom.

    Finally, the woman got up from her emailing chores and left the library. But not before one last shot: ''Such a nice day, such a nice person … pig!''

    I watched this scene with fascination and horror. How common it is for a person who feels wronged in some way to abuse or carp at another.

    Often it happens when a neighbour is rude, or on the road when another car cuts us off, or a parking inspector gives us a ticket even though we only dashed into the shop for a minute. We just can't help firing a parting salvo to soothe our wounded egos. The volcano of our rage explodes in response to the hurt of the blow. Feeling abused, we abuse back.

    But does it have to be like this? Do we have to bare our fangs when we feel piqued?

    The key has to be emotional detachment - the ability to step back from a conflict and act in a way that embraces everybody involved, not just yourself.

    We are not generally taught the art and skill of emotional detachment. At school, we are urged to think critically, to inspect and dissect thoughts and arguments - which is about the exercise of the mind. What about emotions? In our rationally ordered, mind-oriented society, emotions are not considered the main game, yet they are hugely important and often influence and override what we are thinking.

    The idea that as human beings we have a core or essence that is independent of our feelings, that we don't have to identify with our emotions and can stand back and not be consumed by them, is powerful and subversive.

    Advertising relies on the manipulation of emotions and desires. How many of us go out and buy something when we are feeling unhappy, lonely, or depressed? After the September 11 terror attacks, then New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told his citizens to go shopping as a way of recovering from their shock and grief.

    Of course, politicians are skilled manipulators, tweaking voters' emotions of fear, greed and insecurity.

    Emotional detachment does not mean unfeeling or cold. It means recognising there is a choice about how to respond to a feeling. We don't have to be slaves to our emotions. Another person may be abusive, they may hurt or wrong us in some way, but recognising that we have a choice in our response creates the potential for acting in a way in which we don't throw our own toxic fuel on the fire of a conflict.

    So how could the protagonists in the library have acted differently? The librarian should not have bluntly told the woman she had made a mistake, but tried to offer her something positive (''It's terrible you've missed out on the computer, can I get you on another one as soon as possible?''). Likewise, the young man could have expressed his sympathy for the woman's plight and offered to help her make a booking for next time. He certainly should not have responded to her abusive baiting. For her part, the woman could have channelled her anger and frustration by firmly asking the librarian to show her the booking system and ensure that she was able to use the next available computer.

    It is true that these are ideal responses, but they are possible and they do happen. Sometimes all it takes is one or more deep breaths before we speak or act. But it begins fundamentally with the understanding that we are not our emotions, that war is not inevitable.

    Sasha Shtargot is a freelance writer.

    I think I agree that too many of the people in our society don't have enough awareness of their emotions and the effect said emotions have on their actions/thoughts/beliefs/etc.

    Could say more, but I'm more interested in what other people have to say about the article. So please share :).
  2. He should have smashed her teeth in.
  3. With a tire iron?
  4. BAHAHAHA... My girlfriend works in a library and a few weeks ago had an old lady give another lady a chinese burn because of an argument over computer bookings. :rofl:
  5. I would have taken the old lady out with a spinning back kick
  6. lol, there is a distinct lack of emotional detachment in some of these replies.

    But I agree, it would be hard not to go to town on her. I have this mental image of me grabbing her computer and throwing it out on the street, then telling her "go play over there, biatch!"

    But seriously, this emotional detachment advice definitely comes in handy when out riding. Unless some old woman comes around and tells you that she has pre booked your bike for the weekend. :)
  7. People just want to be treated well...with respect and care and when they feel they arn't they get upset.
  8. What Sasha Shtargot is saying (my interpretation, anyway) is that while its unavoidable that one will get upset, its important to realise that's what happening and step back from the emotion enough to actually resolve the problem, rather than letting it take control and just exacerbating things. That's what the anecdote is about; a situation where no-one felt like they were being treated properly, and everyone let their actions be driven primarily by emotion.
  9. That's what people were saying in earlier posts.

    But you have to do the spinning back kick BEFORE she gets a chance to nag on ya multiple times :)
  10. Opinion piece writers, we need less of them.
  11. The anecdote is about not being able to concede in the interests of resolution.

    We are taught, or cultured, to be assertive to the point of aggression, and anything less is a sign of weakness. Even if you're in the wrong, if you push harder than the other person you can come out on top. Not right, but winner.

    Another facet of the horrible individualist emphasis in modern western capitalist society.
  12. ^^^this,

    But emotional detachment can be a useful tool, the same way it can be a disability.
    You know what perfectly detached people are? Sociopaths.

    Where a reasonable resolution is unlikely, I think a proper spleen-vent is damn near necessary.

    No-one feels as wronged as when they've been wronged, but then didn't say anything or stand up for themselves.
    ... and then they dwell on it, and whine about it, and it keeps coming up, and it bothers them for ages.

    I have a couple of mates, who need to learn to unleash the fury sometimes.
    Stand up to your manager/shift supervisor/lazy colleague - plenty of people test boundaries and see what they can get away with... but then shit themselves when you deviate from 'meek & mild'.
  13. I often find at work that not reacting to a situation can often solve it. It is in our nature that when another department comes to you with an in "your face problem" that you go on the counter attack.

    When it is appropriate, I have found that many of these problems are not as big as initially thought and they often solve themselves.

    Yes and I agree, there is too much opinion journalism out there these day.
  14. Well it's easier, better paid and, for some obscure reason, more prestigious than proper journalism. Get the work experience grunts to copy and paste the Reuters and AP stories and spend your own time getting paid a big six-figure salary to rehash the talkback radio themes of the week.

    Money for old rope.
  15. Nice article, I like it. But YOU try having a teenage daughter and see if you can be detached!
  16. I agree that 'news' articles tend to be a bit heavy on opinion these days, but at least this one brings up something worth thinking about, and does appear to have had mental effort put into it.

    As to dominance of opinion writing, perhaps its because people are too inclined to get caught up in the emotion of the article? They then fail to give it any analysis, walk away thinking it was a good piece of writing, and that they should buy that paper again some time. From the newspaper business's point of view, that's a win.

    Of course, if one does give it a critique, one soon realise that the writer is simply spouting the same shit as the unwashed masses, just worded slightly better. And still with as little to support it.

    EDIT: Rather like politics, I suppose.

    Admittedly, I'm generalising a bit (or a lot).

    I'm sure I could be detached. From my sanity :grin:.