In my line of work, I complete a lot of reading.
A recent front-cover article in “The Atlantic” magazine highlights a topic that I have been observing for some time – a rise in the growing sociological assumption that “one should not ever be offended”. In it’s 8000 word tome, authors Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt systematically detail the range of mental health disorders that can be attributed and multiplied within such a collective mind-set (see below for a partial list).
The primary tool that appears to be sacrificed in an apparent hunt for environmental utopia is the very tool required to survive in the world: the ability to develop and sustain emotional resilience and perspective under pressure.
Sadly, in both educational and familial settings, it is not uncommon for consequences to occur that far outweigh an actual event, so for example a teacher who displays a (recently formed term) “micro-aggression” in language whilst teaching to a class of students can be censured by the Academic Faculty, or an argument at a family dinner in 1975 can blossom into a 40-year family feud, simply because someone, somewhere, “got offended”.
A question that I have found useful for people to ask themselves when confronted with the choice as to whether or not to be offended (and let’s be clear – being “offended” is most certainly a free-will choice) is this: “Is this a hill I wish to die on, or is it simply an uncomfortable walk?”
If we can’t seem to make people do what we want them to do against their own conscience or free will, then it seems likely that trying to control how people think and believe is equally doomed to failure, and that includes taking offence (whether or not it was intended).
Izzy Kalman, a international anti-bullying expert, is of a similar opinion when it comes to helping kids dealing with bullies: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resilience-bullying/201510/albert-ellis-was-the-real-expert-bullying
With the evidence now in that “zero-tolerance ” school anti-bullying programmes actually contribute to a rise, as opposed to a fall in bullying culture, and recognising that for 6 hours a day our kids have to largely fend for themselves in a school environment, it makes sense to infuse emotional resilience and perspective into a family culture, regardless of stimulus or environment.
Because frankly, if we don’t teach and embed our children (and ourselves) with these skills, there won’t be enough social workers available to clear up the mess, and even if they were, simply attempting to do so would only increase the problem anyway.
Mollycoddling the Mind” by Greg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/
Common Cognitive Distortions
A partial list from Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn’s Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders (2012).
- Mind reading. You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts. “He thinks I’m a loser.”
- Fortune-telling. You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. “I’ll fail that exam,” or “I won’t get the job.”
- Catastrophising.You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it. “It would be terrible if I failed.”
- Labelling. You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. “I’m undesirable,” or “He’s a rotten person.”
- Discounting positives. You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. “That’s what wives are supposed to do—so it doesn’t count when she’s nice to me,” or “Those successes were easy, so they don’t matter.”
- Negative filtering. You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. “Look at all of the people who don’t like me.”
- Overgeneralizing. You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. “This generally happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things.”
- Dichotomous thinking. You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It was a complete waste of time.”
- Blaming. You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “She’s to blame for the way I feel now,” or “My parents caused all my problems.”
- What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. “Yeah, but what if I get anxious?,” or “What if I can’t catch my breath?”
- Emotional reasoning. You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. “I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out.”
- Inability to disconfirm. You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought I’m unlovable, you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.”
Kind Regards, Steve Taylor, Director, 24-7 Ltd
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