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Cowardice and Self Control - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Watch Dr Sylvia Gearing on CBS 11 discuss how cowardice and survival may be related to self control - click here.

Why would someone in a position of responsibility abandon the people that he was supposed to protect?

There is a big difference between what people say they will do and what they actually do, especially when high emotion are in play. None of us want to think that we would act like this ship’s captain. We all want to think that our duty would keep us on track irrespective of our own welfare.

However, science tells us something different. In real life, when there is a potential life threatening situation and when strangers surround us, many of us would run. Our moral compass fails completely. We may surrender the responsibility for rescue to others—what psychologists call diffusion of responsibility. As in this case, we might choose to escape and call it something else (I was going for help!), but really we consider nothing but our own survival.

Do you have any idea of what went on in the captains’ mind when he jumped ship?

He was probably in the moment and totally overwhelmed by events he could barely decipher. The bottom line is that there was a total lack of self-control. In fact, it is a well-known axiom in psychology that most major problems that we create for ourselves boil down to a simple failure of self-control. We say something we shouldn’t say, we spend money we shouldn’t spend, or we take that drink we shouldn’t have. No consequences are important when emotion overrides reason.

Self Control Lapses Share These Characteristics:

Impulsive Behavior—We act before we think

Emotionally Driven Decision Making--When the events are happening quickly and unexpectedly, the emotional brain can hijack our analytical brain.

Consequences are Irrelevant

The Only Goal Is To Escape the Immediate Problem

What does a courageous person look like?

Courage Under Fire: Courageous people may look ordinary but their actions are extraordinary. Under fire, they choose to perform the extraordinary, heroic act even if their personal welfare is jeopardized. For instance, Captain Sullenberger was an unknown pilot until that fateful day on the Hudson when he heroically landed his plane.

Cognitive Self Control: Heroic people remain focused and block out distractions while they solve the problem in front of them. They remain proactive, not reactive.

Emotional Self Control: Every person has the ability to do extraordinary things, but true heroes are able to show tremendous emotional self-control in bad situations. Most of us would be overwhelmed but their emotional control allows them to move through adversity and solve the problem.

What can we do to make sure that we are stronger when adversity strikes?

Conserve Your Energy: Depleted people make poor decisions under fire. Live a deliberate life and don’t procrastinate. The mind tends to grow more negative when we chronically fail to follow through on goals.

Build Self Control Before the Crisis: People who rank high in self-control report the least amounts of stress. They practice leading orderly, disciplined lives. When adversity strikes, they are ready to make the tough decisions and to solve the issue.

Play Offense with Your Stress: Very stressed people make the worst decisions when bad things happen. Use your self-control today to not just get through a crisis but to avoid them as much as you can.


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