Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Fight, Flight, Love, Ambivalence, Ignorance, and Curiosity



A little exploration of the philosophy of human behavior, shedding some light on this week's mission, and what our options are in a crisis...

There are three general reactions that living things can have towards something in their environment.

POSITIVE - moving towards something that seems helpful - Love
NEGATIVE - getting away from something that seems harmful - Flight
NEUTRAL - staying put due to lack of information about something - Ambivalence

These three are the basic patterns of relationship that all living things have, including us animals, and even plants and bacteria. We can change direction in a negative way, a positive way, or not change direction at all.

For illustrating these three basic types of relationships, I happen to like to use the metaphor of magnets, because most people are familiar with magnets, and because magnets are really fun to play with! So, the next time you happen to find two magnets in your life, go ahead and play with them to see how these three general relationships - positive, negative, and neutral - actually feel to you, as you get the two magnets to attract each other in a positive embrace, repel each other in a negative fight-or-flight approach, or sit quietly in each other's presence in a neutral state as they wait until they are close enough to directly affect each other.

But, of course, because we extra clever, future-thinking, h*** sapiens have more than one level of thinking - we can think about the past, and we can think about the present, and we can think about the future - it turns out that we can have three different reactions to something at the same time. Humans are more like a small pile of magnets all moving somewhat independently, while also all being connected, and moving as a wh***, while also interacting with other, similarly complex sets of magnets. (Which completely describes pretty much every romantic relationship you've ever had in life, doesn't it? :-) You can have negative reactions to past memories of something, while having positive reactions to what that something is doing right now, while also, simultaneously having neutral reactions to what that something might do in the future.

So, we can identify two other major kinds of reactions that humans and other higher-conscious beings can have by combining the first two basic active reactions together. So when reacting with the wh*** self, we find that humans can fall into various states of:

NEGATIVE~POSITIVE - moving both towards and away from something - Fight

And then combining the passive reactions with the active ones, we get the states of:

NEGATIVE~NEUTRAL - moving away from something while not really having enough information about it- Ignorance

POSITIVE~NEUTRAL - moving towards something while not really having enough information about it - Curiosity

Now these six kinds of reactions - love, flight, ambivalence, fight, ignorance, and curiosity - are the most general and obvious sets that go with the combinations of two different reactions, but, of course, we humans can have at least three different reactions at the same time (to the past, present, and future of something), so things can get even more complicated. But being aware of these six basic states is often more than enough to help you understand a situation, and help brainstorm ways to change people's states, or use them for helping you do what needs to be done.

Obviously in a crisis such as a natural disaster, where some humans feel threatened by something in their environment, some people will naturally fall into those potentially dangerous states of flight, fight, or ignorance. So, finding out what, specifically, it is that these not so positive people are trying to move away from can be very, very helpful in guiding them to a healthier, happier state of being. And, as you can imagine, understanding which state they actually are in can make all the difference in using the right approach to helping them.

Views: 32

Comment by Catherine Gentry on May 1, 2010 at 6:32pm
Turil, I believe I generally understand your premise, but I would view it differently. In my study of ancient energies (and I'll look specifically at the ancient Western system) there were 4 elements: earth (+), fire (+), water (-), and air (-). The first two elements are masculine or yang (related to electro) , the former two are yin or negative (related to magnetic). Well you can see immediately the danger of judging such as "positive" or "negative." The feminine polarity would be negative...and unfortunately that is exactly how the energy has been divided and defined throughout history under the auspices of the androcentric world which put a value judgement on the energy and elevated the value of the + poles and qualities.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine one learns of the importance of achieving and maintaining balance between the polarities. This includes a healthy appreciation of the + and -, (as in effect representing, as you do, the energy field) where both types of energy manifest themselves in each individual (these are also the differing energies of the left and right hemispheres of our brain). I have become aware of only seeing the + in ourselves and the - in others. This creates an imbalance which I thought the article of Jeremy's which I sent you addressed quite nicely re: self-compassion vs. self-esteem. I believe that as we acknowledge our own shadows, work to love and incorporate that wounded, hurt part of ourselves into our own psyche, that often heretofore we have projected onto others, we can truly begin to heal ourselves, our health, that of our relationships and that of our planet--and thus achieving WH***NESS--embracing both poles.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 7:07pm
Catherine, we're talking about different things here. I'm not at all talking about masculine and feminine. Those polarities are on a very different dimension (or at least at a very different level of complexity). I'm instead talking about the polarity of actions in response to one's environment. And while I'm curious about the ancient four elements and how they labeled them as masculine and feminine, I'm not convinced that they are accurate, but that's another discussion!) For my purposes here, negative literally means to "negate", to oppose or counteract. And it's not necessarily a "bad" thing, it's just negative. :-) For example, in order for a child to be born, the mother must push the child out of her belly. Birth is a negative thing, while also being a good thing! We need negatives to balance out the positives, as you note.

My point is that in looking to understand problems we might be having, being aware of what someone is specifically moving away from (or moving towards), and paying attention to the fact that a single individual can have several different reactions at the same time towards the same thing, can be really valuable. It's not that negative and positive and neutral are in and of themselves good or bad, it's that being in one state when it's better for us to be in a different state is what leads to us being imbalanced. Know what I mean?

Also, as an aside (OK, here's a bit of that other discussion about gender categories), it looks to me like water and air would need to be different genders. And I'd say that Earth and Water are female, while Air and Fire are male. Though really, actual males and females of any species are always far more similar than they are different.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 7:14pm
Oh, and just for your amusement, here are my Platonic Peas!

Comment by Catherine Gentry on May 1, 2010 at 7:17pm
I get your points, I think.

Re the elements. I at first saw it the same way you did with Earth and water being feminine, etc. But then, a few years ago we had a lot of rain in our area. So much so that the doors swelled up and were virtually impossible to open. I suggested that a dehumidifier be purchased. I was astounded by how much moisture it took out of the air. Later in reviewing the literature of elements in Chinese medicine (which I would add has been practices for over 3,000 years continuously) I found my mistake in the elemental genders. Air was feminine. This makes so much sense now, but did not seem to intuitively to me for a long time.

There is much here which might be said, but I'm wearing out...too much time on the computer today. I'm out of here soon. Have a good weekend.
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on May 1, 2010 at 7:28pm
nice framing (of the psychological issue). My thoughts on denial and thought suppression in crises situations is governed under that scope of your blog as negative-nuetral
( http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/self-esteem-and-crisis )
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 7:33pm
To be accurate, all of the elements are both masculine and feminine, really, because all of them are made up of atoms, with both protons and electrons... I don't intuitively think of any gender when I think of the elements, though. But I'm going on the mathematics of how things combine, and air and water are both combinations of earth and fire, with water being more earthlike and air being more firelike, in characteristics. So if Earth is female (mother Earth, solid, lifegiving) and Fire is male (Father Sun, energy, deathbringing) then Water must be more female than male, and air must be more male than female.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 7:49pm
Jeremy, I'd say that denial is probably something complex like physical (past) negative reaction, combined with a negative emotional (present) reaction, combined with a neutral intellectual (future) reaction. Denial seems to happen when I've been threatened before by something, and that something is still threatening me now, while I have the more advanced logical thought that in the future it might, possibly be helpful to me but I'm not at all sure. So it makes total sense to avoid it until it at least stops threatening me. Of course, to an outside observer, or to me in the future, it might actually be that this something isn't actually threatening me, and only appears to be from my perspective.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 7:50pm
Oh, and I suppose I should clarify that deathbringing is good! Being turned into pure energy is a wonderful thing. :-) So guys, you're just as awesome as us lifebringing women. Really, you are!
Comment by sunnydupree on May 1, 2010 at 7:59pm
I really like your solid visual. We humans need concrete items to understand something.
Comment by Turil Cronburg on May 1, 2010 at 8:07pm
Heh, no one noticed (or pointed out anyway) that I'd mixed up the negative and positive right in the beginning! I just fixed it... Whoops!

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