The Resilient are Apathetic
Motivation: (And partially inspired by Interfluidity’s latest)
We used to call it the much cooler, “Battlemind“.
Battlemind is the Soldier’s inner strength to face fear and adversity with courage. Key components include:
- Self confidence: taking calculated risks and handling challenges.
- Mental toughness: overcoming obstacles or setbacks and maintaining positive thoughts during times of adversity and challenge.
Confidence. Mental Toughness. Stoicism. Optimism through difficulty.
Not callous, just thick skinned. Not inhumanely insensitive, but matured to a state of minimized negative sensitivity.
A man like that is unlikely to be easily shocked or offended, you know, like a mature adult or something. Seen any around lately? A disappearing breed, but not extinct! Though they are masculine virtues, there also exist a few extraordinary women who also demonstrate the above characteristics while somehow remaining feminine. I’ve had the honor (and pleasure) of knowing (and knowing) a few of them.
But now we have something called “Resilience“, which is supposed to be mostly the same in theory, but turns out very different in practice. Imagine the stereotype joke of a group session of an anger management class. Now make it a general negative-emotion-management class. Now give it to people who haven’t actually experienced those negative-emotions yet, so it’s really a kind of awareness class that pretends to be a kind of general purpose, preemptive, coping-skills block of instruction.
In addition to mentioning ‘bouncing back’ ever other sentence, cue the ubiquitous presentation of the “tip of the iceberg” model of minor physical symptoms of major emotional problems. Cue the knuckleheads in the back giggling like Beavis as someone makes the obvious “just the tip, just the tip” joke. Cue the permanent cementing of the expression “the whole iceberg” as subculture code for …
But let’s think about where ‘Resiliency’ might actually come from.
Sometimes when I think of a very resilient person I think of this Gen-X Dirty-Hippy type friend I had over a decade ago. This Lebowski-type lazy, happy-go-lucky stoner guy was cool in a hyper-mellow kind of way. Very low anxiety. Life didn’t phase him, and he was irrepressibly cheerful. Insults and setbacks were like water off a duck’s back.
He was a bum, but, at least outwardly, a seemingly happy and contented bum. By most peoples’ standards he would be considered a loser who didn’t ‘make it’, but life in America was never too hard for him. Parents say they want their children to be happy. But I don’t actually think they want them to be happy in his way – as a bum. They’d prefer their kids be happier expending a little more energy and smoking a little less weed, and they suspect weed, perhaps even more than alcohol, helps turn some otherwise productive but susceptible people into happy bums, which is why they continue to support its prohibition. If the consequences of being a happy bum are severe enough to make the bums unhappy, then perhaps this a price worth paying to keep their kids on the right path. That’s an individual benefit from collectively heightening the differences between winners and losers. This, too, is part of Interfluidity’s ‘American Way’.
Now, my friends was also smart, a decent worker with a pleasant attitude, (cheerful mellow people are hard to motivate into working hard, but they are good for morale – like mascots), without too much pride, and good looking. This meant he always found a not-too-much-work way to achieve some kind of communal habitation and a car that usually worked. He would work just enough to pay for the rent, the car, some food, and the weed, and always had some LTR on his arm. A lazy cad. A lazy everything. He had experienced what most people would consider ‘traumatic’ circumstances, but if any left any mark you couldn’t tell even right after they occurred.
So, he’s resilient. He bounces back. He copes, but mostly, he doesn’t need to cope. But is that the kind of ‘Resilience’ we’re really after? Or was it instead that Battlemind thing?
If someone has low sensitivity to setbacks or negative consequences or events, and/or good coping skills – or if they are easy-going, laid-back, and have high adaptability – then that disposition should reduce their overall perception of the expected negative-emotion impact of those events. It it’s not going to hurt much, and provides some benefit, you won’t avoid it. Like hipster poverty.
This would reduce various incentives for striving, ambition, long time-horizons, long-term planning, and deferred gratification. This would also potentially reduce discipline, self-control, work-ethic, and drive and increase impulsive decisions since punishments or loss of rank or pay would be perceived as merely minor setbacks – not worth getting upset about or worth avoiding if it means sacrificing a good time.
Such a person would also appear ‘lazy’ to his less ‘resilient’ peers (more sensitive to indicators of low status). But probably this ‘laziness” is a misinterpretation of a lack of interest.
Or, conversely, ‘interest’ in something – a work-ethic, or desire to work hard towards something – is not the natural baseline but is perhaps generated by the anxiety of trying to avoid being a loser. That is, you would expect especially non-resilient people to be very motivated to work hard because they are terrified of being bums and full of motivating anxiety. You would also expect such people to never find a satiation point, or simply ‘enough’, and their peers would call them ‘workaholics’. Someone who is particularly sensitive should be particularly vulnerable and responsive to existing social incentive structures and will display behaviors that appear to be drive, ambition, etc.
But back to our ‘resilient’ fellow. Basically, this person has a very inelastic utility curve. They are sated and satisfied and contented and saturated at capacity very early compared with their peers.
There seems to be three different components.
- Temperament / Personality in general
- Energy Level in general
- Motivational sensitivity to social incentives (“culture”) in particular.
To the extent these are genetic and inheritable and tend to be shared among close relations and ethnicities, then even controlling for “talent”, groups will still differ according to displaying behaviors we associate with “striving for accomplishment” and perhaps consistent with that groups overall tendency to express ‘anxiety’ in their personalities.
Given group differences, diversity and integration will impair the establishment of supportable norms. What is lazy to Germans may be driven to an Hawaiian. ‘Lazy as a Kuwaiti’ isn’t a popular expression, but it ought to be. It’s hard to define ‘lazy’ when entire subgroups may display greater content-complacency, and it’s taboo to label any behavior predominant in any subgroup in a derogatory manner.
In fact, anti-drive norms are more likely to predominate in such a circumstance. “He’s obsessed, a workaholic, etc.”
However, socially anxious hard workers will usually be better workers and better compensated at any level of talent. You would expect people with these non-resilient personality characteristics to rise to the top of the social hierarchy over time, combining with those that got there with less ‘drive’ but more talent. Eventually, assortative marriage yields an anxious, talented, workaholic, highly-sensitive de-facto aristocracy.
Selectionism always leads to two things – disparate impact on those with predispositions noted above, and concentration of similar types amongst the elites. Such concentration will eventually lead to aristocratic re-norming – especially as the elites celebrate the characteristics among their own class that lead to their achievements and status. This will, inevitably, lead to condescension and contempt for those in the lower classes who do not display the observable attributes of the elites. They’d have little sympathy for happy lazy bums like my friend, and wouldn’t care very much if life became quite a bit harder for him, so that he’d have to hussle all the time. Like they do.
Your analysis is missing one thing. It has two dimensions: the individual and his society. But there is a third thing: G-d. An individual who is sensitive to negative consequences to his relationship to G-d might be more resilient to external setbacks to his relationship with his society, more capable of overcoming them. Classical example: King David.
I think there is a lot too this. How often do you see people who have it all work really hard at a “grind”? If they are interested in it sure, but that’s not the grind I’m talking about. If the payoff rate is just astronomical (Dad got you a job at GS and a few years of grinding can make you millions) they might suck it up for awhile, but even that has limits. I’m talking about the regular nose to the grindstone people that rise really slowly doing shit they hate. Doesn’t it seem like most are doing it out of fear, or because they have nothing better going on in their lives to compete.
Ask yourself, what makes someone work 80 hour weeks at KPMG grinding accounting out in the hopes of making high five or low six figures one day. Could you ever see someone that doesn’t need the money to get girls, fun, and meaning doing something like that? And would you blame them if they turned that down for a regular job?
Moreover, even the whole idea of effort and purpose needs to get revised. A lot of the things people create that have a ton of value don’t have a lot of monetary value. Honestly, what I do for money is the least valuable thing in my life, it just hurts people.
Your line of reasoning is too long and complicated for it to stand on its own without empirical support. Count me skeptical.
That’s fair. Then again, it’s impossible to learn from insight, introspection, and experience if every time you think you understand something about human nature, or some personality type or psychological phenomenon, you’ve got to reference some gold-standard study to justify its validity. That’s an unrealistic epistemological standard, especially since we don’t do double-blind experiments on humans.
Understanding humanity is unavoidably both Art and Science. There’s a lot of abuse and error possible on both sides, obviously, so one must be careful.
We’d have very little transmission of genuine cultural wisdom, both traditional and literary, if everyone presumed extreme skepticism about every claim.
Anyway, the point is to stimulate conversation and exploration. To collect opinions, volley arguments, and refine our understanding.