Combatting Impostor Syndrome
When there’s a disaster, it is usually best to think ahead. Think before you act.
Because any actions taken without forethought and also without consult with those around you can lead to chaos in an unexpected way. This is true when there’s a disaster. The trauma associated with a natural disaster can do far more harm than many people would imagine.
But what happens if we become the cause of our own trauma?
Is there anything we can do about this?
This is the question that motivated many people to not only watch the recent “Save the Twins” YouTube video, but to try to save the lives of the three injured brothers at the house fire just last month. With the burning furniture, the erratic siding, and the crazy fire-entering machine in the background, it’s easy to understand how YouTube founder Chad Hurley (one of the many people to attempt to rescue the babies from the house fire) and the other concerned residents came to realize that their rescue attempt could have been catastrophic. What we would consider a ridiculous act at the time, on the other hand, would have turned into a real disaster had their mission to save the twins not been thwarted by a rude fire-entering machine.
According to two research psychologists and investigators from Harvard Business School, many disasters today also lead to impulsive behavior.
Hurley, in the YouTube video, describes the potential hazard facing anyone who decides to try to save the children from the fire by calling out a fire extinguisher into the structure. And his story is one of many unfortunate lessons learned and absorbed by countless disaster victims today.
According to the researchers, this may indeed be true. They discovered that participants in their studies had shown a willingness to engage in rash rescue attempts. They also predicted that one of the ways to be more likely to make a rash decision was “diverting their attention away from the situation they were in so they don’t have to think about it”. Their research was carried out to investigate this question, and what they learned led them to theorize that preventing impulsive behavior is in fact as simple as limiting one’s access to information.
In one study, researchers hypothesized that “when situations are unexpected and dangerous, the human body changes its behavior to react in such a way that a healthy part of it can survive.” After comparing the physiological traits of healthy participants versus those who decided to enter a partially destroyed building in Mexico, they found that participants involved in this rescue attempt were more likely to exhibit symptoms of chronic anxiety. They also showed an increased rate of physiological fluctuations such as heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rates. Their caution became an impulsive decision, as they got caught up in the fight or flight mode.
Their conclusions showed that, unfortunately, in some situations, the body, or another dynamic element of the human mind, goes into fight or flight mode. When one gets caught up in it, they find that many symptoms of the chemical dopamine and catecholamine dopamine are increased, which influences behavior. An important driver of these dopamine and catecholamine levels are perceptions of threat, and incidents that involve a significant loss of life. They showed how not only understanding the biological component of the physiological response to a threatening situation is very important, but the understanding of how perception of risk levels of higher activities can affect one’s impulsivity.
Ultimately, these researchers are writing about how to increase “disruptive creativity” in modern society — how to influence decision-making and behavior to serve the higher good. Through this research, they also noted that the habits of these participants could be identified in order to help them to avoid this type of impulsive behavior in a future situation.
Understanding the factors that influence impulsive behavior can be one way of addressing this problem and mitigating the impact it can have. In an attempt to promote creativity and creativity-driven innovation, maybe we should think twice about that even-stupid-adventure we are currently planning to pursue. Because much like the Three Minute Miracle — or the Six Minute Miracle for that matter — we may just be inducing stress, urgency, and anxiety. Stress leading to chaos, urgency leading to guilt, and guilt leading to potentially more destruction. We might even get hurt. Just like the people in the YouTube video who tried to save the toddlers from the fire.
From unhealthy thinking to stupid behavior, impulsive behavior is not just a problem in the realm of technology and commerce. According to these researchers, mental states associated with life-or-death situations can also trigger impulsive reactions. And when these decisions are selfish or inappropriate, often this behavior can lead to truly bad decisions in the future.