Thursday, March 23, 2017

We are not afraid

The following image and narrative were posted on Facebook by NewsThump following the attack in London on 22 March 2017:

Don't give them the anger they want. Focus on the amazing job done by the public and emergency services. Don't look at the apparent carnage, look at the people rushing towards the unknown to help others. Make the story about the resilience of London and its citizens. They want your anger, they want your fury - and they want you to focus it on anyone different from you. Don't hand them an easy victory.

I find this fascinating given the work I've done on my second book concerning our natural and learned response to a threat. It integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, emotion, and cognition to explain our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process. It also helps understand our learned responses to a threat as they are all interventions in the survival process.

Given the above narrative shouldn't the image say, 'We are not scared'?

Isn't terrorism associated with terror, an extreme form of fear?

This raises the question, what is the relationship between anger and fear?

Many refer to the fight-or-flight concept to describe our natural responses to a threat. They explain that in response to a perceived threat, fear motivates instinctive flight or fight behaviours that an automatic physiological response prepares the body to enact. That is a limited and flawed understanding of the F-o-F concept, and in fact the F-o-F concept itself is limited and flawed.

The issue I will focus on hear is that the F-o-F concept refers to two emotions not just one. It associates fear with flight and anger with fight. That small but important detail is important because there would be no need to counter/overcome fear if fight was the desired behaviour.

Given the above narrative, how do the terrorists intend to elicit anger rather than fear by killing indiscriminately? And is the reason terrorists want to elicit anger is to motivate the 'enemy' to fight?

Anger has been used since time immemorial to counter/overcome fear in order to fight in war. But so has hate and spite, different forms of anger but with a different focus and different outcomes. A news report today of the exposed civilian Afghan casulties following a NZ SAS raid refers to the troopers being angry at the killing of one of their own. No insurgents were killed, only civilians and in the main women and children. Were they angry, or did they hate the enemy and wanted to inflict pain and suffering to alleviate their suffering? The same may be asked of the Vietnam massacre at My Lai.

It should be noted that anger is nature's go-to response to get things done. For instance, the initial response to a threat is fear and flight, however, if flight is obstructed, nature goes to anger and fight in order to provide the opportunity to flee. Two psychologists associated with US prisons and prison hospital concluded after more than 20 years experience that the greatest cause for violence is shame. The shame is so painful that it elicits anger and its action tendency of fight in order to alleviate that pain. As the director Ang Lee once said, 'Sometimes you have to get angry to get things done.' Nature agrees.

 These are all fascinating issues that I hope to cover in my book. Issues that enable us to better understand our natural and learned responses to a threat.


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Your comments make my work all the more relevant as I use them to direct my research and theorising. Thank you.