I’ve been concerned lately about the prevalence of sexual assault on our nation’s campuses. Being the father of two beautiful Millenial young ladies I worry. But I cannot always be there when they need me. So I encourage them to trust their inner selves. After all, we are the experts on our own lives. Our feelings tell us what is right for us and what is wrong. If something doesn’t feel right or safe it most likely is not, so don’t go there.
That being said we live in a society that attempts to influence our decisions at every step. We cannot walk down many streets without seeing an ad of some sort. Whether it be on a billboard or a bumper sticker someone out there is always trying to influence us to behave in a certain way. Which leads me to the question; “What or who has influenced predators to behave the way they do? And, is it possible to change that behavior?” Not easy questions.
Many of the solutions to social issues follow a model of punishment. Laws are created to penalize people for unacceptable behavior. But how effective is punishment in accomplishing a change of behavior? Might it not be more effective to find the root cause of the behavior and heal that? Instead of waiting until someone has committed the crime shouldn’t we try to prevent the crime from being committed? Punishment will never be able to do that because by it’s very design it does not come into play until the act has occurred.
There is a section of our brain called the amygdala. It is also referred to as the “lizard brain.” Check out this article in Psychology Today: Your Lizard Brain The amygdala stores emotional experiences and the associated fear responses. What this means is that the initial response we have to an emotional event can be imprinted on our brain. So, when an event triggers that emotional memory the lizard brain hijacks our awareness and influences us to respond in the same manner as we did on that initial occasion. Powerful stuff. The good news is that if the response we have to that event is negative we can alter it by imprinting a positive response.
If a predator responds the way s/he does because of this coupling of emotional experience with fear response, then couldn’t we prevent further predation by programming a positive response to that emotional trigger?