Fear Thy Nature

Do you ever find yourself behaving or reacting differently based on the people you are around, the situation you are in, or what is expected of you? I know that I, for one, do it all the time. I think it's only natural and almost impossible not to. I couldn't act the same way around the kids I teach dance to as I do around my friends, for example, it would be inappropriate and I probably wouldn't have my job for very long. I also wouldn't act the same way I do at someone else's house as I do at my own, environments dictate what is or isn't acceptable behavior. Our own personal awareness of these changes isn't always necessary, we seem to just know how to behave in any given situation, we've learned over the years what should be done, what shouldn't be done and how to tell the difference. Society gives us rules and we follow them but I don't think it's a bad thing, social rules and cues are necessary and good for everyone.
I am not really going to be touching on the subject of Speak No More, as it is I think almost too much has been said in the podcast from this week about what happens in that production. It's something I first heard about from New York BFF and still have a desire to go see, although I do wish I still knew almost nothing about it. What I want to touch on from that portion of the discussion is the idea that everyone is given "rules" to follow once they enter, some people follow and some do not. I would be a follower of the rules. It makes me very uncomfortable as a grown-up person to knowingly break rules that are given to me. Back in my teenage years I loved breaking rules just to see if I could get away with it...but maybe the stakes are raised now on what will happen if I am caught breaking a rule and I just can't do it. So, I know, I would follow those rules to the letter and I would be very anxious that anyone I was with did exactly the same.
But, this same quality in myself also gives me some concern when it came to the portion of the podcast where they were talking about the experiments that were conducted testing to see how far someone would go when given a role to play. I didn't take note of the person talking saying they didn't believe in experiments like Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment, but I found him to be quite contradictory of himself. He says he doesn't believe that that is human nature to treat people like this and to jump to those extremes but he also says that he believes people will act in one way in a psychological experiment and in another way in an experiment conducted by an economist based on what the subject thinks the person giving the experiment wants. If the prison guards in Zimbardo's experiment believed they were to act out a prison scene and Zimbardo was looking for extremes in human behavior than I think that's probably what those people did, but that is human nature. I don't believe they were TOLD to be cruel, they chose to be cruel because they felt, perhaps, that the person in authority was looking for that. However if the person in authority, the one conducting the experiment was a pacifist then the experiment would have probably turned out much differently. But, I think this only goes to show how much people depend on cues from those around them...are you being told to stop? no, then keep going...are you being rewarded for your behavior? no, then try something new, more extreme...etc.

I guess here is what it comes down to for me, and it's a very serious subject so it's difficult for me to find words to properly express myself so I'm just doing the best I can. Part of my heritage is of German descent. What if I was someone else in my timeline and I grew up in Germany where my leaders were telling me that it was against the law to aid Jews, that it was actually lawful to turn them in...what would I have done? Would that have made me a fundamentally bad person? Do I believe that all of those German soldiers who helped in rounding up those innocent people and then helped in running concentration camps and then who did unspeakable things to people were inherently evil? I don't believe that, I think that a lot of them were following their leader, doing what they were told, not thinking about what that meant - does that excuse their actions, not to me but it does help me understand how they could have gotten there. And it makes me wonder, it makes me wonder about my affinity for following the rules and it makes me hope that I will have some fight in me if suddenly the rules stop making sense.

Did you listen this week? What were your reactions? Are you a rule follower or do you find joy in breaking the rules given? I'd love to know...and then I'd love for you to join me in finding out what fellow pod club listeners Rachael and Leah had to say on the subject.

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