Monday, July 30, 2012

Stage Two Thinking and the Great Divide

Scenario 1: A drunken drug dealer (say that 10 times fast) breaks into the wrong house, shoots a single mother and her three children with a Saturday night special. Shocked by this vicious crime the city council heads up a campaign to get people to trade in or sell all their handguns.

Scenario 2: A hundred-year-old brick building in a California coastal town collapses during an earthquake. The family gets out safely, but their dog dies in a rain of falling bricks. This event sparks 42 new housing restrictions.
Scenario 3: The state bird, the purple-legged honey-sucker, starts dying off so the state sets up strict regulations, which disallow the use of the insecticides used to protect the state’s all-important cabbage crop.

OK – these are all fictional, but the stories must sound familiar: a problem arises – a shocking, emotional yank that scares us silly. We react in a natural way – “Mommy make it stop hurting!” The truth is that Mommy never did have much control over life’s nastiness, but we believed in her and her reassurances made us feel so much better.
When my children were little, we lived in Nebraska where giant, dramatic, fabulous thunderstorms frequently lit up the night sky. Lightning would suddenly brighten the world and then thunder would shake the house and the kids would cry. I’d run upstairs to their rooms and hug them down out of their fear, but before I went back to bed I’d put little wads of toilet paper in their ears. We all knew that smidgen of tissue was not going to do anything to block the next thunderclap, but the fact that I’d gone through that ritual warded off the terror and they’d go back to sleep. It was a lovely illusion.