Give me my binky!

Give me my binky!

Domestic violence is on the rise. So is bullying. So is murder in schools. The Centers for Disease Control cites several factors including “cultural norms that support aggression, anger, and lack of non-violent social problem solving skills.”

It is easy to look around in our micro and macro worlds and see increased aggression. In my own experience I was accosted in a bar while minding my own business because a young man was so incensed that I could be a Democrat.

A mob of angry citizens stormed our Capitol to literally try to change fair election results. On a smaller scale, congresspeople angrily heckled the President during his State Of The Union address. 

In bars, halls of Congress, in our homes, at barbecues, America is physicalizing its anger.

These dysfunctions have always existed in some measure but we also know we are seeing increased hostility with more violent manifestations. 

How is this building when we are allegedly more aware of it?

I have a theory that already appears to be unpopular but I’m doubling down. I am because the central theme isn’t being understood. It is being co-opted by the natural impulse to justify.

Several years ago I wrote an essay about increased competitiveness in youth sports and adult complicity in teaching kids that “winning is everything.”  I noted rising blood pressure and increased heart failure among over stressed adults who themselves were taught the same competitive anger.

Anger Management

When faced with certain challenges, adults often revert to their earliest stages of development, leaving behind adult faculties like reason, logic, and calm.

Clinical psychologist, John Mayer, PHD, in a recent article in “Well & Good” attributes this to having been habitually rewarded for immaturity, being surrounded by other not-so-mature people, having an abusive upbringing, or not having mature role models while growing up. 

Sports often reward immaturity when it transfers into energy. It is called “passion” by coaches and fans when the actions from a child-like temper tantrum employ strength. This was brought into our homes in living color during the Super Bowl when star tight end, Travis Kelce, stormed over to his coach, threw his helmet and screamed in coach Reid’s face. Kelce had done this before and was, in fact, told by Reid in the earlier incidence to settle down because he threw his helmet toward a referee.

A few weeks earlier cameras picked up a similar temper tantrum by quarterback Patrick Mahomes who was incensed by a penalty that reversed a touchdown. Immediately, fans rallied to say that’s their competitive spirit, “they want to win so badly,” and in a violent game, they say, this is not only to be expected but encouraged.

That is where I separated from that pack and where I am doubling down on my premise. It is NOT passion, it is a reversion to early development that cannot process a problem with maturity.

Most athletes DON’T throw their helmets. And in years past such an action would be almost universally met with “What a child!” I tried to imagine Dick Butkus getting in the face of coach George Hallas. Or Bart Starr throwing his helmet toward Vince Lombardi. It never would have happened. There was a higher expectation of how adults should process frustration. 

I was immediately met with articles and videos of how Kelce and his coach were fine and how I should, therefore, be fine with the behavior. But THAT is the issue itself. It isn’t about how the two men feel about each other, it is about how that dysfunctional example in “the heat of the moment” is, in fact, excused. And when it is excused the societal norm changes. Even if one, two or three incidents are a small scale, it is part of what the CDC defined above. It is the normalization of aggression that becomes cultural. 

On the largest stage in the world, regardless of how much coach Reid and Kelce care for each other, it was demonstrated to millions of young athletes that unhinged rage is not only ok but to be admired as “passion” and excused because it’s a “violent sport.”

And, of course, it isn’t just sports, that is just one of the more public examples. The immature personality disorder shows up at work, on the street, and at home when a fist pounds the table in anger. How hard is it to transfer norms that support aggression to other aspects of society? How Congress behaves. How a student deals with a teacher. Or with their insecurity. Or how a spouse is treated. Or as simple as how disagreements are dealt with in a bar.

It isn’t hard at all.

Postscript: Being a role model isn’t just how well someone plays, performs or politics, but how they conduct themselves, particularly in stressful situations. Not every athlete, performer or politician even wants to be a role model but that’s where I would argue that every adult SHOULD want to be. And if someone is in the spotlight they should cherish their position. If someone doesn’t have the tools to be so, they should still be held to our best standards. We should not excuse adrenaline or the “heat of the moment.” That’s when adults, and true role models, should step up.

Published by gary1164

I'm an advertising executive and former actor/producer