Monday, December 11, 2017

Enemy Mine

the enemy narrative seems to be a deeply embedded human narrative. It's may even be tied in to our genetic drive for tribe. Kind of hard to have a solid sense of tribal identity if everyone in the tribe can change tribal affiliations at will - revolving door tribal identities aren't an acceptable thing.

I'd venture that in our current era, most of our tribal affiliations are imaginary. Doesn't make them wrong or bad or any less potent, the affiliations are just not tied to raw survival. Example. I am "a lot" Swedish. Still have family in Sweden. But if Sweden goes to war, I am not going to feel personally threatened. I'll worry about family - but my sense of physical safety and security won't be under attack. I am also "a lot" Irish. Same thing goes.

Tribal affiliations to our chosen organizations and even cultural heritage are rarely tied to our original drives for maintaining tribe. Sort of. Working this out...

Let's say I'm part of a Facebook group and over time, everyone in the group - leaves. The group page may still hold a spot in the interwebs, but the tribe has disbanded. Poof. Extinct. A year from now very few people, if any, will remember the group ever existed. Woe is me, such a loss!

But...if I founded this group and it's purpose is SUPER important to me and everyone is like 'meh' and moves on, I am likely to feel at the minimum, a tad irritated and on the opposite extreme - deeply betrayed.

And. If you leave my FB group for another group of a similar focus - now you are an enemy. You are my competition. You, are a traitor. You are loyal to me, or you are my enemy.

Are we so fiercely protective of our imaginary tribes because the evolution of humans' higher level skills (prefrontal cortex stuff) has outpaced the evolution of our tribal functions/drives? There is an internal disparity in these two evolutionary tracks and I wonder if that's why we engage in such dysfunctional behavior.  Think about this. If I belong to one martial arts group and then get involved in a second - there is a powerful martial mores that says my behavior is bad and wrong.

About a year ago I was looking into Libre - nosing around more than anything. A martial colleague reached out and said "hey, I'm a Libre guy and we could work together and make your school a location" (paraphrased). This could be fun, I'm thinking. But......I was also connected to someone else, a different martial colleague who had a few connections to Libre and taught knife stuff....and there was a subtle resistance to this from the first person. The connection never happened - for a variety of reasons btw - I'm just using this as an example to highlight the point.

The Gracie BJJ organization had a video circulating in which one of the Gracies made an overt statement that if you trained with him and then you also decided to train with someone else you were really fucking up and he would take it personally- a betrayal and a violation of ethics.

Another example - I'm connected pretty deeply with a couple of Martial 'tribes'. A representative of one of the tribes and I had a conversation ....can't remember when...a year? two years ago? The conversation included a questioned posed to me...why would you risk the approval and support of our organization to be connected to another one?

Somewhat paraphrased because naming the tribes is irrelevant here. It highlights though, the strong drift humans have toward the enemy narrative.

You are either with us, or against us.

Historical references go back at least as far as the Judeo-Christian Old Testament Book of Joshua - this is super important to us.

I am chasing about 5 different rabbit trails in this context right now - maybe there will be a few more posts on it as I play around with it. At this moment, I am landing on a couple of things:

1. if the purpose of a tribe is to make people better, stronger, more resilient expressions of themselves then this tribe would be violating it's own purpose for existence to say "you can only be stronger and more resilient in MY way..." because-
2. If as a tribe, I restrict your ability to become stronger and more resilient to the greatest degree possible then I make you vulnerable to the types of strength other tribes are developing...i.e. you can only be strong the way MY tribe is strong.
3. This creates an obvious weakness easily exploited by the enemies my tribe has created by drawing this line.

Rory once posed the it possible to shift tribes without creating an enemy narrative? It should be possible because the tribal identities are a) chosen and b) irrelevant to daily survival. However, the disparity in evolution of our monkey and human brains may create such an intense dystonic state that we may find the paradox too intense and capitulate to the stronger monkey drives no matter what we do. And yes - I am using the WE on purpose. The WE applies to both the tribe and the Benedict Arnold's.

Sooo many thoughts - but given I'm at the end of cogent thoughts at the moment - I'll put a pin in it for now.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

where danger lives

Thoughts stirring from a couple of different statements and a conversation from BC Vancouver VioDy –EDITED...

Humans aren’t a fan of acknowledging violence as an element of our biological nature and yet we have always used it to establish territories, to affirm hierarchies, to punish and to set tribal membership boundaries.

We have grown into a colonized species and like ants, have figured out how to live in large numbers without eating each other or ripping each other’s heads off (literally). Most of us like the results of the skill set.

And even with this evolutionary trend toward civil colonization, we struggle to keep ourselves in check.

In the past week I’ve heard two law enforcement professionals create a distinction between violence and use of force.  One made the distinction overtly and argued for it openly. The other one made the distinction in a conversation; not quite as consciously, but no doubt was still anchoring into violence and use of force are different.

post published edit to the above paragraph: flushing this out a bit - I know plenty of LEO's who do not separate use-of-force & violence contextually. I think the need to differentiate among force professionals is anchored in the idea that violence is bad and therefore if a force pro is one of the good guys, what s/he does in the line of duty can't be called violence.

There’s no difference. Use of Force is violent action. Sanctioned violence, maybe – but still violence.

Is it better to categorize violence with language to create the behavioral leashes that allow for this colonized living (and all its benefits)?

Or is it better to acknowledge – violence is violence – and set different parameters? I’m going to be super biased because this second option is my paradigm so obviously, I like it.

Being unleashed removes any socially programmed rules for when violent action is acceptable. Unleashed, I can hit you over the head with a shovel because you took my chair. When my kids were toddlers they hit each other over the head with tiny plastic beach shovels because someone had their bucket. Humans in their natural state do this.

So, I have parameters. A protocol in place that guides my choices based on how I want to live in this colony of humans. I have a failsafe if I lose my shit and slip the leash. I have friends who have similar protocols. Hence the bias.

I can’t help but wonder if the “let’s use words to say certain kinds of violence aren’t actually violence” is a risky way of establishing protocols. In psychology, there is a school of thought that identifies the more dangerous human is the one who refuses to acknowledge what s/he is capable of…

You know, the person who says – and adamantly believes – s/he could NEVER do THAT – EVER.

This is a dangerous human. If she ever slips the proverbial leash it will be so completely alien an action she’ll have no capacity for self-regulation. And this makes me wonder if the increase in episodes of mass shootings, etc.  is tied to our over-domestication and refusal to acknowledge…yup – I could totally do that.

We can’t explore and regulate those behaviors of which we refuse to become self-aware (sorry for the psychobabble).

I know what I’m capable of. I know where I glitch and I know why. I know there are blindspots still in which this awareness is completely absent.

Can you answer these same things for yourself? Are there things you think you absolutely can NOT do? Are you sure?

Violence isn’t binary. Shooting you is violent. It doesn’t matter if I do it because I don’t like your face, or I do it because I have sworn duty to protect and you have a gun shoved in the mouth of a baby. Either way, if I pull the trigger I am – in that moment – violent.

The more domesticated our colonization becomes, the more we eschew words reflecting our primal nature. I don’t think this is something we should be particularly proud of -

Monday, November 20, 2017

the unicorn tracker

I've been called a lot of things over the years. Not all of them complimentary. Sometimes it bugs me, because I have a monkey brain and it likes to be liked but for the most part, I realize that if EVERYONE liked me or supported what I stood for then I'd be doing something wrong.

Recently, someone told me I was a unicorn. He meant it. He said a female self-defense instructor who:

1) wasn't trying to be a "guy"
2) wasn't operating from a "we are victims" mindset

was a unicorn. Typically, I wouldn't take being called a fairytale creature a compliment per se, but I get it and I know this guy and I understood what he meant.

There are a number of women who are martial arts instructors. Not a plethora, but there are definitely more female martial arts instructors than there are female self-defense instructors.

And no, they're not the same thing. Martial Arts and Self-Defense are not synonymous. There is crossover and sometimes a significant amount of crossover. There are elements of martial arts training, including the combat arts, that can be applied to self-defense. These truths do not; however make martial arts and self-defense synonymous.

I have seen what the Unicorn Tracker identified. I have seen female instructors being really 'male' on the mat. Posturing, dominating, moving and walking with a more male gate....and not because they relate as a male from a gender perspective...but because somehow they must have felt it was necessary to be respected and effective.

I have also seen female instructors with a victim history making everything they teach about the victimization. A war of sorts. Us v. Them. I get this perspective too. There is a passion born of experiencing the sensation of utter powerlessness when being physically and psychologically overwhelmed by violence.

I could be either or both of the above. I'm not entirely sure why I'm not. And the only reason it matters is that I would like for the Unicorn Tracker's statement to become moot. It would be great if there were enough female self-defense instructors to meet the instructional demand. I have a deep respect for the guys who reach out and ask for help, direction and insight into the landmines they should avoid when teaching self-defense with women. They are taking on a task they have to shoulder because there isn't much of anyone else to do it.  Good on you, gentlemen.

I don't know how to do it - and I don't know if it's really actually possible. But it would be cool as shit for Unicorns to loose their designation as rare - it would be fantastic to look out across a room full of self-defense instructors and see as many women as men...more even.

Maybe in the generations to come. In the meantime, I'm noodling around on what the catalyst would be - what it would take to transform the mythic connotation from meaning rare, to meaning fantastically abundant.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What! Really? Say it isn't so-

ooookaaaayyyy. The woodwork is crawling with everyone who's coming out of it from Hollywood to The Hill. Sexual violations from lewd comments, groping, assault and under-age targeting.

And we are all appalled. Along side is the social media awareness campaign #MeToo.  That's a different but parallel universe so for now, I'll stick with the crawling woodwork.

I have two questions.

Why are we surprised?

Why are we suddenly outraged?

Question One. Why are we surprised...
Sex and sexuality have been a confused and distorted facet of human behavior for.............. well kind of for a few millennia.  Humans have been using rape as an action of war or territorial marking for deep back into recorded history. As a personal action, I think it's a safe assumption to say sexual violence has been a factor in our behavior at least as long as it has been part of our behavior at the tribal level. Sexual violence and appropriation is about power, dominance, control, territorial marking, and occasionally about lust and desire. This.Is.Not.News.

What's more, I'm pretty sure most adults are not actually authentically surprised by the recently disclosed licentious behavior. Our need to be surprised by a decently documented historically time-lined behavior serves a purpose. Are we collectively surprised because it gives us the right to plausible deniability? Letting ourselves off the proverbial hook of social responsibility?

Question Two. Why are we suddenly outraged...
Perhaps our collective gasp is an acceptable expression of virtue signaling. Generally, no one I know or have ever come into contact with supports sexual violence as a socially acceptable human behavior.  There is a dark and twisty debate about what actually constitutes sexual violence - but there doesn't seem to be debate about whether or not it's something we should all gather around to say "yay US! Let's legalize rape!"

Let's get honest. In industries and social systems like Hollywood and politics, the fight for and ownership of power is a primary objective. And if there is a human behavior through which power is frequently expressed then there should be a pretty high correlation between the power-hungry industries and this behavior.

We should not be surprised. You should not be surprised. By any of this. Drop the drama.

It's common. If we have decided that common no longer equals acceptable, okay - good on you. Fix it. Get off the drama and get to work.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

hmmmm - considering an uncomfortable probability

"Women have a tendency to look more to an authority/leadership for confirmation on decisions than men." By experience in training environments - a discovery made in specifically a force professional environment during training phases by a colleague. Is this statistically accurate? Does it apply in other professions? Don't know. Someday I may research all that but for now, don't need to because I can confirm - as uncomfortable as this may be to acknowledge - that in force-related industries I know this to be personally true.

Is this because it is a traditionally male paradigm? Do women, unconsciously perhaps, notice and wonder:

because there are so few women, and the majority of the leadership are men - maybe as a female - I better check with a guy to see if I'm thinking about XX in the right way. Maybe, the lack of women indicates the guys get this more than women do and so I shouldn't rely as much on my own judgment or intuition here...maybe...

I don't know. I haven't had those thoughts at a conscious level. When I worked in violence-prone environments I didn't look to the men for direction when someone was escalating because - in those environments -

a) I trusted my skill set
b) the roles in the environment had me in more of an "authority" position then most of the men I worked with. In other words, it was my job to make the call, not theirs.

But...personally on the mat - I know there were plenty of times I would question my ability to figure out what I was doing wrong when something wasn't working. I asked more questions than the guys.

The questions themselves aren't a solid metric of this though because as a whole, women are more discovery oriented and because of how our brains are wired, we see more connections between the points and we have a stronger drive to understand the "why".  What the questions were about though, that's where the comment that kicked off this post is something I can relate to (ick, so much don't like the reality there).

For a long time, I didn't trust my ability to figure out a solution on my own. I know of at least one situation where I followed a male training partner over the cliff in a martial-art mistake because we were the same rank and he was certain...and I wasn't.

I don't know how universally true the "Women have a tendency to look more to an authority/leadership for confirmation on decisions than men" reality is. It does seem to show up in force/violence related paradigms. And from a teaching/coaching in self-defense mindset it makes a particularly coaching approach even more relevant:

Good coaching often involves responding to a student's question "how do I fix this?" with "What do YOU think?" or some other form of encouragement that is basically designed to say can probably figure out a solution on your own. If there IS a gender metric and it does circle more around the force/violence industry and we want women to believe they can be their own bodyguards (to paraphrase a common marketing ploy) - then we need to coach the mindset early...and often.

As instructors we need to support her to look to herself to solve the problem. If we are preparing someone for a martial arts testing - all students need the coaching that will help them pass their test. This is different coaching. This is about performance and about looking "uniform" in how they move. Everyone's foot needs to HERE and everyone needs to move diagonally at a 45 degree angle. Everyone needs to.... because in a Martial Art we are training to the measure of the Art. In Self-Defense? Not so much. She needs to know she has -or can develop - the ability to think on the fly. She needs to trust she is as capable as the guys. Maybe even, that when it comes to high-speed problem solving, she might be naturally better at it because she adrenalizes more slowly.


Monday, November 13, 2017

goalposts, affordances, power and other things humans fuck up

I don't know if it's possible for a band of primates to change at this deep of a level, but I can't help but wonder at the skewed affordances within tribes of people who purport to laud powerful people.

The Story.
A group of people consistently give a petite female the same feedback over a 2 year period of time - the feedback designed to help her improve at a specific skill, or characteristic - that feedback is being offered as encouragement and a means by which to measure progress.

Over the two years, various people give her observations that amount to 'you're improving - and you have more room to grow in this particular expression of power - but you are definitely improving. Keep it up.'

So she does. She diligently works at it. She finds new ways to push past her own mental glitches that hold her back in this specific expression of power and personal authority. It doesn't come easily but she is undaunted. Frustrated at times, but undaunted.

Then it happens. She shows up at an event where these skills are not only encouraged but also measured. Someone with a great deal of authority, a person who is involved in the assessment process that applies the metrics tells her she is "too _______________".

She is too effective now in the skill she has been coached to improve upon for two years. One of the attributes that has not come naturally for her, that she has had to press against the edges of her own mental envelope repeatedly, that skill she was improving in but "not quite there yet" even six months ago.

And now - no, no, need to back this off - you are demonstrating too much of this particular characteristic symbolizing power, never mind that we've been telling you for two years you weren't expressing enough -

The message is clear. Grow, get better, be strong - but not too strong - too much strength will be punished.

Most of us would have our cake and eat it too, if we could. I get that. Wanting a thing and actually being able to have it though, not always reality. I can want to live close to conveniences and live miles away from the closest human but until I learn to teleport- it's not gonna' happen. If you coach people to express power - guess what? Some of them are going to get it and they are going to become more powerful. If you don't want it (the collective tribal 'you') - don't coach for it.

If you coach people to become powerful and you admonish them for doing just the thing you coach - what exactly are you trying to communicate? Here's an unpleasant thought. One of the effective tools in victim grooming is to destabilize the Target's ability to understand (and predict) expectations. If you want to effectively abuse a dog - train him to sit on command and then punish him for it. Repeatedly.

When a tribe commits to developing powerful people and then punishes people for expressing the specific type of power they have been encouraged to develop, this looks and feels an awful lot like victim grooming. And in the martial arts profession I'm wondering if this may be one of the deepest transgressions possible.

note and afterthoughts to the above: I left the specifics vague and went for the meta level because that's really what's important. If I tell a student to get better at ANY skill in a martial art, I am encouraging an increase in power. It doesn't matter what the skill is.  And because we have mostly been raised up in societies with fucked up relationships to power, this type of victim grooming is going to happen at a pretty unconscious level. It's not a blame-thing. Mostly. I'm wrestling with that. Part of me is incredulous and wants to lash out with righteous can you not see this? And that very part of me that wants to do the righteous lashing is the tribal monkey me which means, there's gonna' be some logic missing. Hence, I am wrestling with it here.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

sneaky is as sneaky does

Haven't written here in a while. Partly because I've been wicked busy but mostly because my thoughts have been swirly misty things too hard to pin down into a cogent set of words. I'm not sure that's changed but here we go anyway.  I am back from my second teaching gig with the VioDy crew. This time at VioDy Prime. The original location and with mostly retreads (people who've done it before). Significant to me because I was teaching stuff they'd all seen before and seen before by the person who created the stuff. Yeah - no pressure there, nope....none at all.

Like, teaching structure in front of a couple of Judo/Jiu Jitsu instructors who's art forms are anchored in structure. I seriously considered throwing Rory Miller out of the room for that one because my monkey brain was all "oh hey, let me teach that one thing that you taught me...and yeah - the drop step oh yeah, teaching that one too and it took me forever to get THAT one down and now you're going to sit over there and watch me teach it...fuck that".  Didn't kick him out but I thought about it.

One of the get-to's about VioDy is I get to teach Conflict Communication. I think the material is transformational and I really like teaching it - for a lot of reasons - but mostly because each time I teach it the insights that pop up in the room change how I see the material and inform more deeply into how humans work and seeing as how I'm a shrink, that makes my day.

We talk a lot about the monkey brain (your limbic system etc.) and how much it resists change. The resistance goes waaaayyyy up when that change impacts any tribal affiliation or your place in that tribe. The monkey brain is also wicked smart. Not intelligent necessarily, but smart - clever - underhanded and devious even. It's always cool to find the evidence of this, particularly in your own self.

Working with Rory, Kasey, Randy and Terry is a gift all the way around and I am privileged to say Rory is one of my closest friends. My closest friends are the people who are comfortable saying the hard things. Spent several days with this bunch and discovered something. I know that he smart little monkey brain will use our own biases and glitches against us. What didn't occur to me was how this smart little aspect of the socialized self will use our personal ethics in an inverse strategy to undermine change.

If I work to minimize behaviors I identify as personal character flaws - like weakness - my monkey brain can and will use that against me if it means maintaining stasis.

Me: where I find weakness in myself, I will work to change that - do the hard things, etc.
Monkey Me: if you do XXX that will be weakness
Me: Oh! Damn. Okay, got it. Won't do XXX.
Monkey Me: good job! (claps me on the back) atta' girl. (and smiles a little just at the corners to avoid being obvious because not doing XXX does not benefit me or the goal but homeostasis in the tribe).
Me: Wait. What?

Homeostasis of the tribe isn't bad or wrong. Usually. But sometimes it works at cross purposes to strength and growth. Growth and strength - and transformation - they upset the balanced systems of the tribe so the monkey is going to prevent it and if it has to, the monkey brain will use your own personal rules for living to the tribe's advantage perhaps at the cost of your own well-being.

Sneaky little bastard.