How many times have you seen a news story and a neighbour or family member says the words “It was just so out of character for them…”? In these instances there are two questions that we really should consider:
1 – Was it? Really? Really, really?
2 – What were the circumstances?
Another way of looking at the Frankl quote could be to simply state that “desperate people do desperate things.” When life is going well, and everything is running as expected, people will typically do the thing they do. Behaviours will (mostly) be quite predictable, we are, after all, creatures of habit. Even the people who are always doing something new and seeking new thrills are predictable in their adventuring. It’s when they settle down we wonder if everything is alright with them.
And this is where we are brought back to our last post as we look at how much we are conditioned, and how much we actually decide our behaviours. It is rare that a completely abnormal situation arises from nothing at all. Alien invasion? That would qualify. Poltergeist activity? Depends on the house, but for most that would be abnormal. Outside of the truly strange we can learn a lot from our own experiences and the experiences of others, there is really nothing new under the sun, and there isn’t much we can’t in some way prepare for.
That said, it is important to clarify the difference between worrying and preparing. I am sure we have all heard the phrase “90% of what we worry about will never happen” (I have no idea if this is statistically accurate), but this does mean that 10% will happen (if the 90% thing is true). That being said, there is still little value in worrying about it. Why worry when you can prepare? But what are we preparing for? Here’s the reality – most of us struggle with a personal fable – a belief that “bad things happen to other people, it won’t happen to me”. We believe that we are somehow immune to tragedy and when it happens it is such a shock it is difficult to accept.
If we learn to control our personal fable, accept that bad things happen to good people (and bad people), then we will be better equipped to manage our behaviour when the abnormal situation occurs. Instead of being surprised that something happened and behaving in an abnormal way, we can take a moment to consider our steps in order to try to maintain some control over our future. If we expect the unexpected, we will never be surprised.
Here are the three takeaways for today:
1 – What is in character and out of character for you? Your spouse? Your neighbour? Maybe those unexpected or abnormal behaviours are a reaction to something abnormal going on and aren’t abnormal at all.
2 – Desperate people do desperate things. Can you help someone in your life avoid the part where they become desperate?
3 – Are you living a personal fable? Do you believe “It can’t happen to me, it happens to other people”? If so, events that are normal to the world (sickness, money troubles, loss) may be the catalyst for you to behave abnormally. You don’t have to dwell on reality to the point of despair, but it may be worth preparing for it a little.
When bad things happen to us, as Frankl says, we have options on how we behave. However, when we are under stress we may not be thinking as clear as we might. There is value in preparing (or conditioning) a measured response so when the time comes you are able to manage your behaviours and not dig ourselves a bigger hole.