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There is a Stoic exercise called Premeditatio Malorum, or to Premeditate on Evil or on “Bad Things;” that is, thinking on “everything that could go wrong” in order to mute the emotions that inevitably arise When Bad Things Happen. To, as the article linked says, reduce the triggering effect.
This method is useful – within reason. Descriptions of it often don’t go far enough. Interpretation is the most important part.
We have to be careful not to wallow in malorum. That will have the opposite effect than what is intended in this exercise.
Right now, our Media and our Politics is one giant exercise in Premeditatio Malorum gone haywire. “Panic Porn” is the best term I have heard for it. This is not a useful, other than perhaps it is so revealing of the baseline character in so many of those who choose to be “leading lights” in our society by being in those fields.
“Trigger”is an interesting buzz word. One of my teachers also teaches people who work in the Crisis Mental Health field. Based on an interaction he had in one group, he had to address the whole idea of triggers. He referred it to a group of mental health care workers, but it applies to the Press, the Politicians, to Police, First Responders everywhere. It applies to everyone in every day life if they want to better than they are right now:
“You aren’t allowed to have triggers. Or at least to let them affect you. You don’t GET to be “triggered” and bail out on the situation. You knew what you signed up for, and a big part of that is to place others before yourself. To be the calm in the storm, a center of gravity. Not to give in to the rushing tide of your emotions when someone says something, or does something that bothers you, or when things are going bad.”
If, Rudyard Kipling
We have forgotten this. The people we are to depend on the most are now lauded not for their performance under pressure, but for their inevitable victimology; how they are “coping,” (notice how common this term is now?), or their quivering and eventual emotional earthquake – if not now, then in the future to be sure. PTSD is a given – and it has become so broad to be meaningless as even intelligent, thoughtful, powerful people can say without irony that an “entire generation” will have PTSD because of the Coronavirus…
How did we become so weakened? Our feelings so frail? How did we come to see everything as traumatizing instead of challenging?
And who is to blame? Helicopter parents who won’t allow their children to face life’s difficulties? Indifferent or even malevolent parents who fail to set a solid foundation for their children? The Media, who traffic in supposition and speculation based on biased projections and models and their own narrow viewpoints? Political leaders who exaggerate when its their opponents and obfuscate and prevaricate when it’s their own?
We need shakers of salt to sprinkle on these talking heads and empty suits, and not lose our heads when those around us are losing theirs.
Remember, premeditatio malorum is about preparation, not performance. We should visualize everything going right when imagining our response to bad things happening. To paraphrase Olympic Champion and performance coach Lanny Bassham, We shouldn’t go up to the line thinking “Don’t Miss!” but rather “Just Hit!”
A side note: We are seeing an influx of new police recruits hitting the streets, many of them unprepared for what occurs out in the real world despite many months of full-time training. One trainer spoke with me about something she observed: she’d been told brand new trainees were being fed a daily diet of the ODMP – the Officer Down Memorial Page. Required to read an entry each day.
If so, this is not a good thing. Another case of premeditatio malorum gone awry.
Thinking about the bad things that can happen is only useful when given strategies – psychologically, physically, and tactically speaking – to handle them.
Beating my old drum again, proper psychological performance has its foundation in technical and tactical skills. When fed a steady diet of malorum on which to premeditate, but then not being given the tactical, technical, physical, and psychological skills to manage those bad things, they are not going to be able to rise to the occasion. They will default to the training – or lack of it.
Are these things related? I’m sure they are. So goes a culture, so goes its people. The Madding Crowd, at least.
Stand Out from the Crowd.