I’ve been reading up on noise pollution in the United States (U.S.) and the adaptations that human city dwellers have made to adjust to the layers of man-made noise in urban soundscapes. Adaptations not necessarily to eliminate, but to lessen the impact of the unhealthy noise discomfort.
Adapting seems to be a normal, maybe even expected survival skill. But I wonder if the ‘normalcy’ of adapting, habituating or getting used to something implies that it is an automatic response. Automatic to the point of reactive.(Reactive in the sense that action is made as a response to the situation as it is, without intention of prevention or changing the circumstances.)
Are reactive responses “normal” and proven to be easy paths with the least resistance? On the other hand, could a proactive train of thought be an equally automatic response, or is there an assumed or projected difficulty level that makes this method of thinking less appealing?
In U.S. culture, have reactive responses been taught as the “go-to” method of thinking over proactive responses? I think both reactivity and proactivity are used for problem solving. But is proactive thinking not the norm?
The phrase, “It could be worse” comes to mind as an example. I’ve used this phrase countless times to describe my day, or an event, or a circumstance. “It could be worse,” delivered with a shrug, at first appears to be optimistic, looking on the bright side of things. But on a second look, the response appears reactive, a response of resignation and mud-stuck acceptance of a not-so-great state of being. “It could be worse” tips the domino thinking toward all those horrible situations where, in fact, it could most definitely be worse.
What about the phrase “It could be better”? I haven’t said that one much, and I’m not sure how much it is used in general society, but this phrase could potentially encourage the dominoes to fall another direction. Uttering “It could be better” to acknowledge the not-so-great situation implies the next thought will emphasize how it could actually be better and what needs to happen to make the change. A proactive approach.
Maybe there is a difference when talking about personal versus business issues. For example, could a business prosper if someone asked “How’s profit?” and the response was “Eh, it could be worse.” A business perspective may encourage a more proactive response like “It could be better…. and here’s how”.
For personal situations though, would a proactive method of thinking take priority? “How are you feeling?” What if the consistent reply was proactive – “It could be better….and here’s how.”
Could a proactive method of thinking work in today’s culture? Or, is a shrug more likely as a response, resigned and accepting of circumstance, settling for what you have, where you are or who you are because you might lose it all and actually live the fear of “It could be worse.”
© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014