Friday, February 23, 2018

when the ground breaks - devastatingly acceptable expectations

quiet spaces in my head - which are admittedly not super common - have been filled this past week with emotion, thought, and a sensation of gravity trying to suck me down into the earth. That's the best way to describe what it feels like when I think about the kids who lost their lives in the Florida school shooting.

I have a kid that age. He is in the last few months of his high school career. He is a defender. He teaches in our kids' self-defense program and talks all the time about how much fun it is and how much joy he gets when the littles end class with eyes shining with accomplishment.

He wants them to be strong. He gets angry when people get bullied. He's not silent about his beliefs and he struggles when there's a suicide of a classmate and scratches his head when people doubt their value because he gets everyone HAS value.

And I think about him and this shooting could be his school just as easily as a school in Florida. I think about the terror and the choice he might make. As his mom, I want him to find cover and go dark. Wait for the LEO's to make the scene, subdue the shooter and clear the building.

I have mixed feelings when I think about what he might actually do because I think he'd be torn. He would know we would be devastated if he became one of the victims and he knows we are all defenders in this household. All of us in our own way, and he would stand in that gap. I am both frightened by this and proud of him at the same time.

I've seen video of the father addressing Trump. I've read the article about the 3 JROTC students who died because they stood as defenders, helping their peers get to safety. They paid for their commitment with their lives. And I can't even remotely imagine being one of those parents without feeling like the ground is coming apart under my feet.

And I don't believe the solution is to arm all teachers - some of them don't want to be armed and that's a bad metric. I don't believe the solution is to make certain weapons or ammunition or magazines illegal. Laws only control people who already believe in the behavior being regulated. I believe we are pathetic (our culture) in how we address mental and psychological health. I also know, having worked with violent individuals as a mental health professional, that better mental health will not categorically fix the problem.

I don't know the solution. Do we set guards at schools? Do we have metal detectors at all entrances? Controlled access points are already in many public schools but that's not a fail-safe. What I think (which means we are in dangerous territory) is that there are solutions to be found, they won't be one-size fits all and we won't find them until we stop being anaphylactically allergic to honest, thoughtful, investigative and progressive dialogue about violence and conflict.

In Violence Dynamics we always deliver ConCom aka Conflict Communications as a cornerstone of the seminar/conference. It's seminal because it basically says...look sports fans... emotions aren't bad but they make a really fucking horrible compass. They're fuel but so is spilled gasoline waiting for a match. Acknowledge the emotional energy and then, don't let it own you.

Get curious. Be willing to discover and discuss and engage and listen. We are ridiculously intelligent as a species. It is completely achievable for us [humans] to have an investigative conversation about violence in a manner that produces tangible, logical and reliable progress against the question - how do we keep our kids alive when they're at school?

Our wildly emotional and splatter painted gestures at the problem have become devastatingly acceptable.

Is it possible that we could take a collective stand for unreasonably high expectations? Expectations for effective, committed communication? How about if we don't stop having dialogue when the emotional deluge has past - and - what would become possible if we just stayed in it even when we got our feelings hurt, or angry or frustrated and we just kept exploring?

Seriously. We are so fucking collectively intelligent. I refuse to believe we are incapable, authentically biologically incapable, of solving this problem.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

the wierd ownership rights of success

When someone becomes successful, the people who have supported the upward trajectory can have warm fuzzy feelings. The supporters were...well...supportive and they get to enjoy the byproducts of their support. It's happy-making to know someone you helped actually benefited from the help. At the end of it, humans like being useful.

Once in a while, the success becomes an object of sorts. It's an item with property rights like who gets the Villa in the divorce. I've seen this in a couple of different permutations and although I have noticed it occurring around successful men, I have seen it more often around successful women. Because I am also female, there's a strong possibility of confirmation bias on that observation-

As a martial arts and self-defense instructor, I am noticing how this plays out in our world. Male students who become good at what they do, who rise up to to leadership and take on the mantle of coaching up other people are respected for their skill, hard work, physical dedication.

Female students who follow the same path are also respected for their skill, hard work, physical dedication and are frequently asked....who trained you? In a culture with powerful alliances to lineage this isn't particularly noteworthy and the differentiation between men and women perhaps remarkably subtle. Both genders will speak of lineage, who they are trained by and whom their instructor trained up under....all the way back to someone particularly [internally] famous.

I suspect the difference lies in whether or not the question gets ASKED v volunteered. In my experience the women are more often asked "who trained you" than the men. 

There is perhaps ownership of/for the successful women, in any industry. The mentors, coaches, instructors, etc. who participated in her hard work, dedication and skill. It's challenging to give a solid example in descriptive terms because this is slippery. My experience of it shows up more in statements. Examples:
"I did that..." stated by a mentor in reference to a female who accomplished something. To be clear, this was not a statement made by the successful female - it was made by her mentor/coach.
"Her coaches did a great job with her..." remarked upon by onlookers to a successful female
"I still have more to teach you" and "Just focus on your XXX. When people ask you to consult - tell them no" as expressions of keeping her under said mentor/coach/instructor etc.s tutelage.

I'm turning this thing over in my thinking because as a martial arts instructor, I have the privilege of supporting some really talented and successful students.  I'm wondering, do I take MORE pride in my female students than my male students? Do I express 'ownership'?

As a good friend likes to say "a rising tide floats all boats". I know that if the people I'm around do well, my boat sails on the same waters as what carries them. We work toward mutual benefit of one another and this is true for my students. Ego, fear, and natural resistance to change live in me (as much as I regret to admit it) and those 3 at least, fuel the drift to efforts at ownership. So I'm thinking about it and wondering if it's an isolated observation, or a dynamic with a broader occurrence?

And then, if it's a 'thing' beyond my narrow slice of the world, what impact does this have? What are the sociological implications? When we mark territory - it's often because we fear losing it. What fuels this fear? And I probably should avoid tangential mental meanderings before I am adequately caffeinated in the morning.