negative emotions are poor drivers of systemic change

on of the books i’m reading right now is focus: the hidden driver of excellence by daniel goleman. i mentioned in my last post about the book that it’s pretty poorly written (and that continues to feel true), but there are definitely some interesting insights.

one that i just came across in the chapter titled distant threats is about emotions as motivators. he shares several studies about the difference between negative and positive emotions as drivers of action. turns out, negative emotions are better at driving urgent, short-term change and positive emotions are better at driving long-term change. when people are in pain, they tend to do whatever it takes to alleviate the pain as quickly as possible. unfortunately, that tends to undermine long-term efforts to change the situation that caused the pain initially. for example: taking medicine relieve a headache vs understanding why you get headaches all the time.

the implications this has for me on social change processes is huge. this is why scaring people into social change doesn’t last. it adds fuel to my growing thinking (heavily influenced by intelligent mischief) about why culture matters more than policy. in fact, the more i think through this stuff, the more i see that without cultural change, policy change is actually a short-term release that doesn’t really move the needle. you can have all the progressive policies imaginable, but if the dominant culture is still racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, the policies won’t matter (mlk jr was on to this and it informed the freedom struggle actions heavily - at least from what i remember reading of that stuff). negative emotions drive action that alleviates the negative feeling, but because that emotional pressure valve get released, it undermines the effort needed over time to make actual substantial, systemic change.

funny that this sort of mirrors how octavia butler handles the preparation of the neighborhood at beginning of parable of the sower. lauren, the main character, learns from her dad that you can’t scare people into being prepared. you have to just integrate into life and then when it’s needed, it’ll have been done. feels like another way to think about why living like we want the world to be in spite of how it is is important.

writing spell-check, link-finding, & formatting
12:45 9:11