Let’s say you’re driving along the freeway and someone cuts you off. If an accident is imminent, the impending reaction would be fear. Or, in the case that you’re in rush hour traffic and you get cut off by a BMW you might get angry. Either way, an unexpected outcome produces some sort of emotional reaction. This is normal. You get laid off, sadness. You get promoted, happiness. You win the lottery, ecstasy.
Whenever something is out of the ordinary, it is human nature to become aware, which aids social creatures to distinguish between socially “acceptable” behavior and socially “deviant” behavior. Too often, however, our reactions to the unusual event involve immediate action to “right the wrong.” The impulse for immediate action is adaptive in the case of emergencies. Hitting the brakes to avoid an accident is an example. When there is a time lapse between the trigger (unusual event) and the ensuing action, it only makes sense that inflammatory life-saving reactions should NOT be taken. Human behavior, however, does not always make sense.
Returning to the traffic example, one thought process might be “the guy in the BMW that cut me off must be an asshole, and if I pass him I’m going to give him the finger.” In this case the original trigger is non life-threatening, but the reaction is far from it. Let’s say the asshole has a gun and your finger, which has become the new trigger, triggers him to take another unwarranted response, and before you know it someone you don’t know is pointing a gun at you.
Albeit the aforementioned scenario is rare, but the underlying premise is widely applicable. Foreign relations function on a similar basis. Any unwelcome trigger could have likely brought nuclear genocide during the cold war…
Unwarranted, you think?
On a less nihilistic note, what about neighborhood wars? Your neighbor gets a cadillac, you get a lincoln and two weeks later you’ve taken a second mortgage out on your house, and foreclosure is a couple blocks away.
We should all take time to ask why we feel a certain way and take the best action to justify our feelings without compromising sanity. We are human after all.