Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a crystal ball that told us who’s likely to go ballistic when cogjam-related topics enter conversation? It would definitely be handy for helping us know when to heed the advice of “don’t go there.” Unfortunately, we don’t have such an asset on hand, which would help greatly during Act I of avoiding cogjam moments.
However, science and common sense give us clues that help us take educated guesses, based on how we’ve seen people behave in other social situations.
I hesitate to label anybody with any term. In this case, it’s really their various beliefs and behaviors that are unreasonable, not the people themselves. There is much more to people than how they measure up in one area. Individuals we describe as unreasonable can also be quite skilled or gifted.
Nevertheless, certain beliefs and behaviors raise red flags regarding how reasonable you can expect people to be, no matter what the situation. Chapter Twelve of my upcoming book, The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science, highlights these red flags:
- Major difficulties with emotional regulation: Their anger or anxiety is both extreme and poorly handled. They go way overboard in comparison to how most people live with those feeling states. Others may refer to them as being a “hothead” or “Chicken Little.”
- Reactive and impulsive: They often speak and act without thinking. They also may believe their impulsive acting out is only being “who they are,” rather than something for which they have choices and control.
- Do not anticipate potential consequences: Considering what might happen with a certain course of action requires input from the logical brain. Immediate gut reacting does not allow adequate time or opportunity for consulting the relevant knowledge base. Thus they often find themselves becoming victims of their own poor choices.
- Poor social judgment: Effectively interacting with others requires more than identifying good guys and bad guys, fighting/fleeing the bad guys, and mindlessly glomming onto whichever herd is doing something agreeable. Therefore their morals and moral behavior are often challenged. They may construct and live by their own moral standards, which largely serve their own gut brain interests. Or, as happens in the case of the psychopath, the moral compass is nonexistent. They end up doing things that hurt or offend others, unintentionally or otherwise.
- Do not learn from mistakes: When poor choices do not work out, they do not step back and evaluate what they could have done differently. Instead, they view such misfortune as someone else’s fault, which feeds into becoming masters of the blame game. They have extreme difficulty recognizing or examining core beliefs or thought distortions that may lie beneath the surface of their ill-advised choices. Change, and learning itself, are extraordinarily difficult for them.
Compassion to the Rescue
Steering clear of controversial topics while with such individuals is not only healthy for yourself. It is also an act of kindness and compassion. You know how they will react during such discussion. Why burrow down to the cellar and purposely punch their hot buttons? What do you hope to accomplish?
And imagine how much better both of you will feel, if you successfully avoid creating yet another cogjam moment.