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Stephen Mayo | A Critical Moment

A Critical Moment

June 14, 2020

"After 9/11 everyone was scared, scared it might happen again, and the CIA would be blamed if it did. Or maybe they were ashamed. But fear and shame don't make for better policy decisions, and the fact that the people who we captured didn't look like us or believe the same things we do made it that much easier to do the things that we did."

          - Daniel Jones in the film The Report (2019)


It's easiest to be honest, fair, wise and compassionate when we're feeling good, when things are going according to plan. 

But when we're frightened or ashamed, the situation doesn't look quite the same, through the lens of our brain. 

It's easiest for the loving parent to snap or speak sharply when they're worried about the family finances.

The temptation is greatest for an employee to cut corners when she's worried about meeting a deadline.

The possibility that we will do something hurtful, to someone that doesn't look like us, is greatest when we are frightened.

But we can learn.  We can learn to catch ourselves, to use fear as a trigger for better behavior. We can recognize that the moment we begin to experience anxiety, that is the moment to devote even more attention to doing what is right, because our physiology may be working against us.

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