Surviving the Impeachment Hearings

Here we are, again. Welcome to the latest installment of cogjam–one to easily have us following lemmings over the virtual cliff.

Impeachment hearing broadcasts further drive the wedges between those of differing opinions. The gut brain can’t help but react. It perceives threats within disagreeable statements and behavior, no matter which side of the divide. It sees only safety or catastrophe. Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are at risk of following suit.

Potential Cogjam Consequences

We do, however, have some control over this unfolding drama–specifically, whether we let circumstances:

  • override common sense and our use of evidence-based thinking
  • get ourselves all stirred up emotionally
  • cause us to lash out at others or otherwise act poorly
  • withdraw into the perceived safety of limited groupthink behavior
  • as a result, further increase the divide between ourselves and others

In other words, it is possible to keep ourselves from ramping up personal distress and antagonizing a cogjammed society.

How, you may ask?

Taking Control

Effective coping means making active choices. Following is what my new book, The Cogjam Effect, would suggest:

1. Soothe the inner lizard, and its ongoing negativity bias.

  • Thank your inner lizard for pointing out potential threat, so it knows it has been heard.
  • Slow down your thoughts–mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation techniques are good for this, or even just a hot bath or leisurely walk in the park.
  • Look for any gut-brain faulty “knee-jerk” reasoning, and be willing to consider information that suggests all may not be as you believe or fear.
  • Break patterns of back-and-forth reactions that perpetuate social problems, and find more productive ways to interact.
  • Seek out your own personal niche for bettering society, wherever it may lie.

2. When in the throes of cogjam anxiety, note that in reality, you are just fine:

  • Your heart is still beating. You are still breathing. The ground beneath you is still there.
  • Shift focus to your strengths, rather than vulnerabilities. You’ve made it this long through cogjam. Therefore the necessary competence, determination, and fortitude are at your disposal. You are, in fact, resilient.
  • Decide if the distress is truly necessary in that moment. If that’s not so, let it go.

Author Signing Event at Jan’s Paperbacks

Please join us at Jan’s Paperbacks, Beaverton OR for an author event. Copies of my books will be available, and I will be there to sign them and answer your questions about cogjam.

We don’t need to let the ongoing impeachment hearings destroy our holiday spirit! There are indeed answers, and they already reside within us.

COGJAM IN THE NEWS: Who’s the Real Enemy?

We must keep up the good fight! A good, strong offense, and brave defense!”

Over morning coffee I heard these words uttered by someone who supported a certain side of our current political divide. Actually, I’ve heard people on either side express similar sentiments. In spite of being polar opposites, both perspectives are driven by passion and convictions. Both are fueled by the desire to make a better world.

So what’s wrong with this picture? This–the more the two sides attack one another and get defensive:

  • the further they drive each other away.
  • the more they expand and more deeply entrench the divide.
  • the less likelihood there is of differences being resolved.

Which is exactly how the gut brain would have it–identify the good guys and bad guys, then join in with “good” group and attack the “bad” one. A good offense and strong defense helped us survive the millennia, running from lions and enabling combat with hostile neighboring villages. Without such strategy on tap, our species probably would not still be around.

Unfortunately, when applying this mindset to today’s socio-political strife, things get worse, rather than better.

What else can we do? Do we just let all this passion and energy go to waste? Surely it’s good for something.

Of course it is. We can redirect it onto these destructive patterns that so frequently intrude into our thinking and social lives. The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science offers numerous suggestions for combating cogjam. For example:

  • Note when you feel defensive, even if only as a mental state, as you react to a comment or media broadcast.
  • Do not let ideological challenges or verbal attacks control your reactions; set aside defensiveness that may arise.
  • Instead, truly listen to what the other side has to say–especially regarding what they fear will happen if their side does not “win.”
  • Crank up your compassion for that suffering–how would it feel if you were experiencing such a fear? How difficult must it be for the sufferer?
  • As your behavior softens, listeners naturally react less defensively, since their gut brains see less reason to engage.
  • With logical brains coming back on line, solutions to today’s problems can be explored.

Compassionate caring and fight or flight mentality cannot happen simultaneously. The two stress responses each have supporting neurochemistry. However one motivates us to throw ourselves into the adversity in order to help those we care about. The other drives us to fight, run away from, or otherwise escape the adversity. When we let our fears run the show, they have the ability to override compassion.

Fortunately, we do get a choice. There are many ways to reexamine and set aside fears long enough to let compassion to take the lead. And when we act with compassion, we are also rewarded with feeling less stressed ourselves–a win-win for all.

So, yes–keep up the good fight. But instead of aiming combativeness toward those who think differently, aim it toward cogjam.

COGJAM IN THE NEWS: Black or White Reasoning

Good morning! “COGJAM IN THE NEWS” installments begin this week. I hope you find them useful as you sort out divisive community and fractured science crossing your paths.

Today, a Florida story shared the plight of a moderate congresswoman. She was sitting on the fence about the impeachment inquiry. Eventually she encountered enough evidence to decide she favored it. A conservative politician publicly proclaimed that it showed she was not really a moderate, but a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” in fact aligning herself with socialists.

What’s wrong with this picture?

The conservative politician’s overboard reaction is actually an example of our old friend, the gut brain, trying to jump in and save the day.

When highly aroused, fight or flight activates. Parts of the logical brain are temporarily blocked, so maximum energy can be funneled into any immediate activity needed for survival. It kept us alive when running from the lion or fighting off attackers. To do this, we first had to identify the “bad guys,” and quickly identify and bond with “good guys” who might help offer protection. Immediate survival left no room for contemplation of gray areas. Only two extremes mattered: safe, or dangerous.

Today’s threats are different, but our ancient arousal chemistry persists. That knee-jerk black or white response is still there. Truth be known, we all succumb to it. And pieces of fractured science like the one above, when dumped onto others, create divisive community: cogjam, on the loose.

So what do we do when we see ourselves or others fall victim to it? Following is an approach The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science would suggest for processing the conservative politician’s reasoning error.

Consider this: if the moderate politician said she’d decided to oppose the impeachment inquiry, would he then say she was aligning with fascists? Of course not. He opposed it, and he was not a fascist. Nor would he describe his fellow conservatives that way. But when the fear response is allowed to call the shots, disconfirming data is never allowed to surface.

That’s why these days extremist potshots abound when, in fact, any position or concept taken to the extreme becomes absurd. It is the gut brain gone awry. When allowed to rule what we say or do during these times of severe political stress, we both alienate others and blow our own anxieties out of proportion–a very uncomfortable place to live.

Fortunately, we all also have the power to let our calmer, common sense brain step in and help us move beyond immediate fear responses.

We are resilient.

A Great Chance to Practice Cogjam Recovery

Over the last few days, impeachment proceedings and worries of where they may lead us have taken center stage. Community stress, especially socio-political stress, is on the upswing. It’s so easy to take sides.

Stress wiring urges us to quickly bond with those whose paths are similar to our own. We jump to the offense/defense to protect joint needs or beliefs and block information or beliefs that may get in the way. And, especially in today’s circumstances, it leads to escalating the pointless back and forth that is cogjam.

The good news: The cogjam effect has been outed. We can see it, hear it, taste it when it rears its head because we can recognize it for what it is. We can choose a different path, rather than let it control us. We can let the logical brain step in and give the gut brain a breather. We can be emotionally healthy, in spite of whatever dysfunction surrounds us.

How is this accomplished?

The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science offers suggestions. For impeachment back and forth, one possibility looks like this:

 

Here we have a human being.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is another.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s’s a whole roomful of human beings . . .

. . . and here are a few more.

All of them are currently taking potshots, based on how their jobs fit in with this drama. But in truth, these are simply individual human beings doing the best they know how. Each of them has dreams and fears, goals and beliefs, families and friends, and personal gifts and quirks, just like the rest of us. And, as common humanity, we are actually one with them.

  • To let compassion rather than reactivity rule, we must first strive to understand them.
  • Only by listening and empathizing with their individual humanity and concerns do we truly understand where they are at.
  • Empathic understanding leads to caring compassion, which cannot coincide with pointless reactive hostility.
  • When we recognize that we are all one as common humanity, side-taking becomes irrelevant.

And adopting this mindset, rather than the cogjam mindset, delivers us inner peace.

Understanding the Journey

What is the first step of the journey? Where does story of cogjam begin? Two main characters hold center stage.

First, the antagonist: the gut brain, affectionately known as the inner lizard. He looks innocent enough, hiding in the shadows. But he’s a formidable foe to any who dare threaten.

 

 

Next comes the protagonist: the logical brain, seeking to bring wisdom and practical know-how to the inner lizard’s automatic alarm system. He’s more inclined toward thinking things through than knee-jerk reacting.

Unfortunately, these two guys haven’t been getting along very well these days.

 

Here’s how Chapter Two describes their relationship:

“The prevailing view of today’s strained society is of two extreme positions duking it out, with both trying to claw their way to the top of the food chain. This certainly paints the most tangible picture of what we see and hear. And it’s definitely the arena that stirs up the most cogjam misery.

However I beg to differ in regard to what it is we’re really looking at. I suggest that this conflict we’ve entered into is a reflection of something much deeper and more profound, an allegory of epic proportions. What we experience today is only a bump in a story that has been unfolding for many thousands of years.”

“All would be well if the two brain functions knew how to play together nicely. But that’s what’s only beginning to get sorted out in the grand history of the evolving brain. More typically, no matter how gently or firmly the gut brain tries to keep cognition from getting in the way, the logical brain becomes all the more insistent, believing it’s the better lobe for the job. As a result, the restricted flexibility of the stress response can become self-defeating.

Thus the real conflict is not one of opposing social attitudes, differing philosophies and worldviews, or cartoonishly polarized political parties. It is the ultimate battle between fear and logic, two yet-evolving brain functions going head to head. What spins around us today is merely the joint echoed cry of each individual’s inner struggle between logic and gut.”

And there you have it – the evolution of cogjam, playing in an arena near you. Except, we don’t typically recognize it as such. Instead, we tend only to see political perspectives busily tearing into one other. We react. They react back. And the beat goes on.

But there is hope: resilience, proving itself stronger and mightier than antagonist and protagonist alike.

To be continued . . .

It’s Here!

And healing is near. No matter who you are or how today’s polarizing stress shakes up your world, The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science has answers.

Healthy community can be restored. Likewise, we can reestablish the common sense, logic, and and evidence-based thinking that has served us so well for eons. But first, we must break a few entrenched patterns and seek new ways.

What might help you travel these troubled times? Chapter One suggests this is the right book for you if you seek to:

  • Be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
  • Take control over what currently spirals out of control.
  • Discover strengths you never knew you had.
  • Experience greater inner peace.
  • Clear up confusion, and regain self-confidence and sense of certainty.
  • Heal and strengthen relationships with those you hold dear.
  • Better fend off the slings and arrows of ongoing dysfunctional politics.
  • Help choose and plant seed for the next era–which can only sprout from the muck left behind by cogjam.

Everyone is welcome to join the mission of healing common humanity. All aboard!

Find The Cogjam Effect at Kharis Publishing (https://kharispublishing.com/kp/shop/the-cogjam-effect/) and many major outlets. Release date: September 2, 2019.