Monday, November 20, 2006

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.”

The post below was a comment from a reader named Peter Vajda. It is such an incisive analysis about blogging and the reasons why some bloggers are negative and uncivil, that I thought it would be a waste if I don't share it with other bloggers. Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D. is Co-Founder of SpiritHeart, an Atlanta-based company dedicated to “Essential Well-Being” for body, mind and spirit.

Blogging, Incivility and Negativity

Social scientists, socioeconomists, and social psychologists are increasingly pointing to the fact that the social mood in the United States, and across the world’s culture and civilization is turning bad and that overall social mood is going to get a lot worse before improving. Research graphs and diagrams, such as the Elliot Wave Principle, underscore the finding that there is a natural ebb and flow of social mood (positive vs. negative) and that darker times, socially and politically, lie ahead of us, creating increased tension and negativity. Nowhere is this negative mood more evident than in the blogosphere where incivility, disrespect, meanness, bullying, and demeaning behavior rule the day, and the posts. What is it that accounts for this negativity among bloggers and what can be done to perhaps soothe and diminish their high degree of vitriol, rancor, meanness, incivility and disrespect?

I've followed the negativity of blog discussions mainly from the perspective of being curious about the nature of the interactions where the behaviors are as interesting, if not more so, than the content.

There’s no question passion drives many a blogger’s interactions. Unfortunately, passion is often used as an “excuse” (it’s never a “reason”) to treat another blogger disrespectfully or in an uncivil manner.

Curiously enough, research also points to increases in the number of heart attacks, cancer incidents, obesity rates, diabetes, suicides, spousal abuse incidents, etc. What’s the connection?

Whether it’s an increase in incivility or in life-threatening illness and disease, these statistics do not mean that I have to engage in anti-social or self-destructive behavior.

I can choose what behaviors support me to live a healthy lifestyle and which don't. The same reasoning is true for whether I choose to be civil or uncivil, respectful or disrespectful, hurtful and harmful or compassionate and understanding in my relationships and interactions, on blogs, that is, in how I choose to show up in the world.

Shakespeare said, "An event is neither good nor bad, only thinking makes it so." So, why is one’s "thinking" so negative? What belief systems, mental models of the world and people in the world, assumptions, misconceptions, misperceptions does one have hard-wired into their brain that bring one to reactivity, to negativity in the face of just, well, “words”?

So, with respect to how I show up in the blogosphere, the bottom line is the degree to which I am "conscious" — whether I am consciously aware of “how I am” and “who I am” while blogging, and relating to others in a blog community, or am I “unconscious”, being reactive, with no conscious thought of how I am behaving.

In our current culture in the U.S. where most folks are obsessed with ego needs for control, recognition and security, it's no wonder that most folks' thoughts are "killing thoughts" as opposed to "healing thoughts." The mantra underlying most of our interactions and interrelationships is: “It’s all about me! Out of my way!”

Moreover, in a culture where many folks gain their sense of identity ("who I am") from a direct association with their "knowledge and information" (the database in their brain), it's no surprise that much of the incivility and reactivity on blogs comes from the perspective that: "When you disagree with my information, well, you disagree with me", and because such disagreement is just too much of a hit to many folks' egos, they react (fight, as opposed to flee or freeze). Agreeing to disagree and engaging in constructive dialogue are fast becoming a lost art forms in Western culture.

When folks are "unconscious" of “how they are” and “who they are”, when folks are unable or unwilling to engage in self-reflection, their tendency is to associate and behave with a herd mentality — witness the vitriol, the high-pitch ever-escalating level of disrespect, sarcasm (in the guise of "humor"), mocking, bullying, that is taking the place on blogs.

Much of the negative and disrespectful exchanges in blogs has to do with how one relates to another human being. Life is relationship — the manner in which one chooses to, consciously or unconsciously, relate to, "meet", "see" and accept another person. What’s happening in the blogosphere is a manifestation of a blogger’s internal conflict that manifests as a failure to relate to another individual in an accepting, compassionate, respectful manner that transcends simple "exchange of knowledge and information."

So, while the research is what it is, that does not mean one cannot consciously choose how one wants to be in relationship, is dialogue, in conversation when blogging.

So, how does one become more conscious of one’s blogging behaviors? How does one become conscious of what’s driving one’s negative blogging behavior? By consciously considering what’s underneath one’s need to be uncivil, mean, disrespectful, and demeaning.

There are two underlying drivers for much of the negative interactions on blogs. These two drivers are characterized as: (1) "It's not about the information or content”, and (2) "It's all about the information or content."

1. It's not about the content

From this perspective, what is occurring is the need for an individual blogger to resort to a verbally abusive and bullying approach in an effort to make a "connection" with another person. For other bloggers, the need is to first engage, and then disengage, then engage and disengage, as in a "love-hate" relationship, in order to stay in the game.

In the arena of psychodynamics or ego psychology, both of these behaviors are referred to as "negative merging." In some relationships, the only way two people can "merge" or have any semblance of “connectivity” (e.g., mental, emotional,, psychological, social, etc.) is by fighting or arguing. Without the fighting or arguing, there would be no connectivity, no relating. Thus, the need to bully, argue, demean, find fault, nit-pick, etc., supports a blogger to feel engaged and “merged.” It gives the blogger a sense of “belonging”, being psychologically and emotionally connected. It really has nothing to do with the "information" being discussed or exchanged.

Rather, the negative and uncivil behavior is about connecting and needing to feel "seen" and "heard", in other words, to feel that the blogger is actually “somebody” as opposed to being a “nobody.” Unless the blogger feels they are somebody, they feel they have no sense of value or worth. The only downside is that playing out of this need to be “seen” comes from a deeper place of anger, fear and negativity.

In “negatively merged” relationships, real and true, mature, heartfelt acceptance, approval, and satisfaction are lacking. So, the only way the two or more bloggers can experience any “false” connection at all is from this place of negative engagement, often it's in the form of poking, being disrespectful, being uncivil, nit-picking, finding fault, etc. .

In “negative-merged” relationships, such back-and-forth behavior, and childish emotional acting out, becomes the sole source of contact between bloggers. The bottom line is that in negative-merged relationships, negative contact is better than no contact at all.

So content aside, two or more such bloggers are no different than a couple who, lacking any real heartfelt, mature, adult-level connectivity, resort to arguing and fighting over how to stack the dishes in the dishwasher, fold the laundry, or vacuum the car, or slice the turkey. At the end of the day, for negatively merged bloggers, it's never really about the "content". It's about the need to be "seen" and connect when there's no true feeling of connectedness.

Until and unless a “negative-merged” inclined blogger expands their awareness and explores what's really "underneath" their need to be negative, uncivil and disrespectful, (i.e., by consciously exploring their limiting self-images, beliefs, preconceptions, "hard wiring" about how they view their self vis-à-vis being in the world and relating to others), there's probably never going to be any change or transformation of that blogger’s behavior. So, they'll fight, lick their wounds, go away and come back to fight another day on another blog, always at another's throat, always argumentative, bickering, poking, criticizing. Why? It's the only way they know how to "connect."

2. Content is everything.

The ego-personality is driven by one's Inner Judge and Critic, the inner voice that continually creates drama and upset in our lives, that never allows us to truly feel at peace with ourselves. The inner judge and critic is driven by three major ego needs: control, security and recognition.

Driven consistently and relentlessly by these three needs, many of us derive our identity, that is, "who I think I am", and "who I take myself to be" from external things, as opposed to experiencing ourselves with integrity and authenticity that arises from being in touch with our Inner Nature, our True and Real Self, from what’s "inside".

One of the externals from which people gain a sense of their identify is their “information.” For these folks, their mantra is "I am my information." In other words, my identity, who I am, is defined on what I have in my brain, my database. I live in my mind, and my mind defines me as a person.

Coming from this mental place, then, in a blogging environment, what happens when someone disagrees with an “information identity” blogger, is that the “information identity” blogger is unable and unwilling to see the other’s response as a simple perspective, or point of view, or as just “different from me.” Rather, the “information identity” blogger has a need to react, to become defensive and critical and take the other’s information as a personal affront and as a personal and “attack on me.”

In our culture of right vs. wrong, good vs. bad, win vs. lose, me vs. you, for many bloggers there is little to no room for acceptance of differences, i.e., "different information". Rather, there’s more of a need for many bloggers to engage in some type of escalating “ad hominem” attack so that the “information identity” blogger can survive, live, and not lose their identity. The “information identity” blogger survives by meeting their need to “be right" in some way, shape or form.

And so when these “information identity” bloggers feel attacked because another blogger has presented "different information", or disagreed with them, they emotionally feel out of control, insecure, and unrecognized, unseen. Their internal, unconscious reaction is: "My God, I have no identity if my information is "wrong'. I need to fight back and save my self.”

In this state of (often unconscious) reactivity characterized by anger, fear, worry, resentment, defensiveness, feeling "small", unseen, invisible, unrecognized, unappreciated, being resistant, defensive and agitated, and feeling a loss of control, recognition or emotional security, some bloggers act out so they can feel and see themselves as big, large, as “somebody” with an identity.

”Information identity” bloggers might be surprised if they were to explore why they need to act out and sting, poke, demean and bully others, why they need to attack, defend and counter-attack, why they are so caught up in identifying with "my information."

What happens in the blogosphere is really no different from what happens between and among individuals and couples every day, at work, at home and at play, i.e., occurrences of the same behaviors that manifest when folks allow their ego-personalities and "comparative-judgmental minds" to get in the way of a healthy relationship, a healthy dialogue, a healthy interaction. The dynamic here with the “information identity: blogger, is that they are being by their need for control, recognition and security as opposed to allowing their self to coming from one's inner plane where one can be perfectly comfortable with who one is and where one is without needing to be right and without depending on one’s information as the source of who they are.

The poking, the disrespect, the vitriol and incivility are all about resistance, denial and projecting. It's all about not being "consciously conscious of "Who I am" and "How I am" in relationship; so the negativity comes from one's locking on to cruise control, being "unconscious" and simply reacting to everything happening "outside". It's about needing to look "outside" for what's lacking "inside."

While some may view ad hominem attacks, rudeness, disrespect, poking, bullying and negative behaviors as "common" in today’s discussions and relationships, they are not, neither for children nor for adults, and sometimes, in the blogosphere, it's hard to tell the difference. Reactive elements cause mental, emotional and even physical pain, and discomfort and for the actual and lurking "ringside" participants and observers, even though they may not even be aware of it. The discord does take a toll, one way or another.

Where some lurkers would honestly and sincerely like to offer their perspectives in a safe environment, they are often wary of doing so as they don’t want to come up against bloggers whose need is to "take it personally" and who react to "different" takes and information in a negative, poking, rejecting manner. It’s the “information identity” bloggers who make many blogs unsafe for so many others who have worthy contributions to make.

So, The negativity is an attempt to fill this hole of deficiency, thinking that spending time and energy being critical, judgmental, demeaning and disrespectful of others will somehow make me feel "better" at the expense of those who I am stepping on and over in my attempts to get to the top of some ladder (financial, social professional, etc.) that will make me feel like "somebody."

So, what can bloggers do to ensure a more inclusive, safe, mutually-respective container for adult-adult dialogue and reduce the intense degree of negativity that permeates so much of the blogosphere?

Perhaps bloggers can envision and then act to create an environment where one can notice, accept and appreciate the uniqueness of another blogger’s perspective without automatically jumping on the "me vs. you", "right vs. wrong", "good vs. bad" "expert vs. novice", “intelligent vs. stupid” continuum.

Perhaps bloggers can take some time to move out of their intellectual zip code of ”It’s all about what I know.” and explore the perhaps, more foreign, landscape of non-violent communication to enhance the quality of some of their interactions, even approaching discussions with the curiosity of a “beginner’s mind”, a neutral mind.

Perhaps bloggers can take a deep breath, sense into their bodies and experience their feelings and emotions, before responding to a post and consciously ask themselves, “Why would a reasonable, rational, decent person like me consciously choose to be disrespectful, uncivil and harm another person simply because their "information" is different from my "information."

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see.” So, if you are engaging in uncivil, disrespectful, demeaning behaviors as a blogger, don’t wait for others to change their tone and tenor. It starts with you.

As Rumi says, "Out beyond right doing and wrong doing, there is a field; I'll meet you there." Come from that place in your blogs and interact from that part of yourself that is respectful, accepting, compassionate, empathic, and inclusive.

Bloggers can choose to play in that field with their colleagues; or they can choose to create and fight in a battlefield of words, of ego, hostility and lost identity. One brings happiness, collegiality, contentment and well-being; the other brings pain and suffering, mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually.

Incivility and negativity are all about "resistance" to someone or something “out there” with which one feels uncomfortable. Incivility and negativity are all about being "unconscious” of how one is in relationship. Incivility and negativity are all about the ego’s need for control, recognition and security and being unwilling to go “inside” and explore why one needs to hurt, be verbally abusive, and disrespect another. Incivility and negativity are largely about the mantras: “I’d rather be right than happy." Or, "I have to be somebody at the expense of being seen as a nobody."

Life, after all, is choices. Do I choose to be reactive, hurtful, negative and uncivil? Why? Really, really, really, why?

(c) 2006, Peter Vajda, Ph.D., C.P.C.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

How to Love Your Neighbor

Author: PinayHekmi
First posted in PinayHekmi's blog on Jan. 7, 2006

I was really disappointed by a blog I came across recently. I was very impressed with this blog author because of what I perceived as the author’s open-mindedness despite their background. I’m not gonna elaborate. I don’t want a blog war on my turf. The point is, I realized that while someone may be liberal in some respects, this does not necessarily equate to open-mindedness.

Here are my observations on how to be a good neighbor. And it applies to blogs too!

1. Don’t post inflammatory remarks about others, even if you dont’ name them.
If you really must vent, password-protect your posts. You don’t know who read your blogs. It could be your boss and your job on the line because of the not-so kosher posts you are publishing. Why risk it? Ever heard of the term dooced?

That is not to say you should write inflammatory remarks about others as long as they are not about your workplace. But let’s exercise a little love and discretion. Try speaking to the person about the issue first, or if you must write, well just think twice, even three times about it.

2. Don’t resort to name-calling. This is really the prime evidence that your little grey cells aren’t made of much. When you cannot tackle the issue but attack the person bringing up the issue instead, it means your reasoning, defenses, aren’t up to par. You also look like a fool, a school-yard bully.

Here’s a simple rule, if your child, or a child that looked up to your were watching you handle this conflict, are you acting in a way that you would want them to follow? That you would not be ashamed of?

3. Once the proper defenses have been posted, and your points made, drop it, let it go. The great thing about blogs, our neigbors aren’t across the street or next door to us. We can always stop visiting them and we won’t have to pass them on the street. You have so so many more important matters to attend to, you don’t have to the time, or the energy to get stuck on this issue and let it eat up your valuable resources.

4. Don’t take things personally. Develop a thick-skin. You cannot control what other people say, but you can control how you perceive their words. You are also the one who determines whether what someone says, whether it be negative, will affect how you feel. When someone is blatantly aiming to say “these words are meant to hurt you”, isn’t it better to just ignore them and disappoint them by showing them you haven’t been affected?

5. With that said, don’t make anonymous inflammatory comments on others’ blog. It’s like leaving dog turd on your neigbor’s front porch and running away. It’s a sign of immaturity and cowardice. Be brave. If you have something to say, at least have the integrity to back it up with your identity. If you don’t have anything nice to say, then the old adage goes, don’t say anything at all. We all know this.

6. If I were you, I wouldn’t reveal how much money you make. There’s something about the topic of money that gets people riled up. We all know that most marriages/relationships fight over money. It could be the same between blog neighbors. There’s a reason that companies usually have a policy of immediate disciplinary action if they find out you have been discussing your salary with your co-workers. It is bad practice. And why would you want to reveal how much money you make in your blog? Like I’ve already said, anybody could be reading this. Including people who may wish to scam you out of your hard-earned moolah.

Blogs are mediums protected by freedom of speech, and indeed that is why most people are so enamored by them. They can vent, rant, think out loud in their blogs. That is no reason you should leave your manners behind.

Some people make the argument that their blog is like their home, and they should be able to say whatever they want in them. The only way that analogy rings true, is if your home was rigged with a camera and you go in front of it periodically ranting and talking to hundreds or thousands of viewers about your life. Your blog is being watched all the time. And you have an open door. It is not the same as the privacy of your home.

Now, mind your manners. Please.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"Attitude is the way you mentally look at the world around you. It is how you view your environment and your future."

Author: Ka Uro
First posted in Ka Uro's blog on Nov. 7, 2005

It was a normal Friday afternoon rush hour traffic and Bill was driving on his way home from the office. He was patiently waiting for the traffic lights to turn to green when the car, a white sedan, behind him started incessantly sounding it's horn. He sensed that the driver of the white car wanted to overtake him. Annoyed by the driver's impatience, he thought of giving this driver a lesson. The white car moved beside his car to make an overtake maneuvering move. But instead of allowing the driver to complete the maneuver, Bill sped up to be slightly ahead of the white sedan. And for a few seconds they were in a sprint race. Neither driver wanting to give in.

Then the inevitable happened. An on-coming vehicle directly in front of the white sedan came into view. The driver of the white sedan had no choice but to step on the brakes and let Bill go first. But it was a bit too late. Bill heard a crash. The on-coming vehicle clipped the side of the white sedan. Bill slowed down to look at his rear view mirror. Both drivers from the colliding vehicles looked okay as they got off from their vehicles seemingly free of any bodily injury. Feeling a sense of victory, Bill couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. “That will teach that lunatic a lesson. He deserves it” he told himself.

A few more minutes and he was in front of his house. As he was opening the garage he saw Virginia, his wife, rushing towards him. She was trembling and her hands drenched in blood. “It’s Jenny” she said. In between sobs, Virginia tried to tell Bill what happened. “She… she… was just playing in the tree house….. Then…. I heard a noise… when I turned around ….Jenny was lying on the ground and then I saw blood ...Called Dr. Peters, and ambulance…”

Upon seeing Jenny’s limp body, all Bill could do was let loose a loud whimper. Tears flowing down his cheeks, he knelt and held his daughter’s lifeless body close to him. Within minutes Dr. Peters came in and examined Jenny. “I’m sorry…It’s too late, there’s nothing else I can do…. Her head must have hit this rock lying on the ground…” uttered the doctor. “An ambulance should be here shortly. Can’t stay any longer as I have to rush to another emergency” he said as he ran towards his car….. a white sedan with fresh collision damages on its side.

"The belief that one's own view of reality is the only reality is the most dangerous of all delusions" - Paul Watzlawick

Friday, December 30, 2005

Have a Peaceful New Year

Wishing everyone a happy and peaceful new year!

I also wish to welcome our three newest peace crusaders.

I can't say anything much about walkabout. She doesn't say much about herself either. Perhaps better to find out about her by visiting her blog.

According to her, she's just an ordinary person living in an ordinary life. Creative, imaginative friendly, sometimes weird & moody.

or Kevin Ray is from Cebu City. He is very politically articulate, you wouldn't believe that he's only 15.

Monday, December 12, 2005

It's Luchie's turn

Meet Luchie, a psychologist, early childhood educator, wife, mother, and grandmom to two lovable girls. Luchie is blogging from Singapore and is our newest VFS supporter. Learn more about her. Visit her blog and say hi.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Maven

Since, I have not much to say these days, let me therefore take this opportunity to welcome the newest VFS supporter, "Wendy". Peace to you Wendy. Here's Wendy's brief intro from her "The Maven" blog.
Am just a simple girl... huh? Hehe... Well… most of my friends call me Wendy or Wends. I love green — my favorite color. I do believe that nothing in life is to be feared… It is only to be understood and it is absolutely right, right?! I love people who love me too… for what I am and for what I have (kinda familiar phrase, huh?!) I am a sensitive person in some ways, a paranoid one in sometimes and an expressive individual in some point. A crybaby, I do cry a lot when I got hurt. I love to sing (one of my diversions when I’m sad) even though I don’t have a beautiful voice. I do believe that there is only one me for all time, so I’m fearlessly to be myself and no life is so hard that I can't make it easier by the way I take it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Control Your Tongue

Author: Hezel
First posted in her Hezel's Haven blog on Nov. 15, 2005

A small force can yield catastrophic results, little bits turn gigantic horses, a small rudder puts huge ships on a new course, and a small flame can consume an entire forest so as the tongue, a small part of the body but can make great boasts.

This little piece of muscle is capable of defiling the entire body. It sets the whole course of a person's life. We need to be alert to the danger of an uncontrolled tongue. Like harmful gossip and conceited boasting must not issue from our lips. Instead we should speak words of encouragement & enlightenment, of grace & blessing.

Last Saturday, I attended our BCBP CLP and the speaker, Bro. Hermie Rodil, shared to us something by Socrates. Allow me to share it to you too. It's entitled:

by: Socrates

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom. One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance that ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"

"Wait a moment," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student, let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said. "Actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed. Socrates continued. "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter - the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

Let's control our tongue. We make sure no fire escape from our mouth. May our words bless, not burn, those to whom we speak today.