The music industry designated today “Black Out Tuesday”, a day to turn off our music and reflect and implement change. This was triggered by the death of George Floyd, but our reflections must include all the black lives that have been maimed and destroyed over the years.
I have dedicated my life to helping people understand gender differences to bring harmony and equality to the workplace. Being a woman in Tech for many years set me on this path. I also lived in Alabama during my high school and college years. This was only a few years after the infamous march from Selma to Montgomery. When we moved there, we were led to believe that the race issues had been fixed. But my young eyes saw through that deception. It was plain as day to me that nothing had been fixed. It had just been pushed underground. So, people with privilege could act like something had been done. There are many systemic and institutional practices that are used to suppress people. These must also be changed, but the biggest change that needs to occur is really in people’s minds and hearts. Because this is always where it starts, within us. There is only one way to make these changes. Each person must decide to become more aware, to decide to change themselves. There, I said it. Each and every one of us must take the initiative. Here’s why.
Our Ancient Brains
Our brains came pre-wired to make instant determinations of friend or foe and our bodies physically respond in kind. If a “friend” is the call, people relax, let down their defenses, and prepare to socialize. If the brain says, “foe,” watch out the body prepares for fright or flight. Our heart starts to race, we breath faster, our body releases chemicals that prepare us for battle. All of these changes make it unlikely that we will ever be able to interpret other’s people’s actions, in a positive manner. All things will be interpreted as a threat driving us even further into a fighting frenzy.
There is another human capacity we have and need to learn to utilize. The Pause. At the moment our brain makes a decision, friend or foe. We have the ability to pause and check our emotions to decide, really, how we want to react. Did our brain make the right call? Or do we need to override it and proceed down a different path. We all have this ability, everyone of us. AND we need TO LEARN to use it. In most of us it is an undeveloped skill. We keep using our Neanderthal circuits put in place to protect us from Saber Tooth tigers.
How to Implement the Pause
Most of the time when our ancient brains are triggered it looks like this:
We encounter someone new and our brains leap to a decision and immediately start implementing what we believe is the right thing to do. Notice that there is no conscious thought at all going on here.
What we really need to do is break up this sequence, by inserting ‘The Pause’, as shown below:
In this more desirable configuration we have more awareness, realizing that our bodies and minds are ‘programmed’ to jump to conclusions, but we since we know this, we can insert our own over-ride into the system. When we are aware, we can insert this pause just before we are about to follow our natural impulse and act. During the pause we take the time to think about our desired outcome, what all our options truly are, and then select our next action, thoughtfully.
People are mad as hell over the murder of George Floyd, as they should be. I am too! But violence, and looting is not going to bring him back or right the wrongs society has imposed on African Americans, women, … the list goes on and on. Switch countries, the labels are different, but the oppression is the same.
I applaud the peaceful protesters. We need this to ensure we understand the enormity of the problem and the number of people who are affected by it. But the most that protests can do is call attention to the atrocities. It will not “fix” them. Fixing these issues requires that:
1. We first recognize the issue as a problem (many have not fully made it here yet).
2. We decide it must be fixed
3. We make the changes we individually need to make (this includes continuing to point out the problems to get more people to recognize #1, above)
4. We make the societal changes we need to make
We can each work on becoming more aware and implementing The Pause (#3 above) into our mental processing. This will allow us to take control of our impulses and arrive at more thoughtful decisions and actions. This is totally in our control if we choose to take control.