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Beware Of Social Comparison –
It Leads To The Life Is Not Fair Crisis

Wallowing in bitterness when “Life is not fair” is foolish. Just the knowledge of the primitive origins of that response can heal your trauma. Life happens. Children die. Divorces divide without hope. Incurable illnesses attack. Bad people succeed. Silver linings fail to appear beyond endurance. When calamities strike, the deeply religious remain calm. They find peace by sensing divine justifications. But, skeptics are more likely to give in to anger over the sheer injustice of such tragedies. Their anger and despair trigger a chain of biological events, which engulf them in bitter thoughts, which irreversibly damage their health. But, such torments are triggered by prehistoric impulses from their limbic systems. An awareness of the folly of such bitter responses can still such thoughts and help them regain their balance.

  • Anger, common sense, humor and kindness are all possible emotional response strategies. Anger leads you on the wrong path.
  • Becoming angry with fate is like becoming angry with the lamp post that you walked into.
  • Anger can become a passing distress.
  • A social comparison drive haunts us.
  • The acceptance of the concept of leaders and followers is assembled into our nervous systems.
  • Self awareness can stop comparisons in their tracks.

Life Is Not Fair
How Did The Idea Of Fairness Originate?

Grief after misfortune strikes is natural. Sadness tends to heal. But, bitterness is folly. Instead of being ruled by common sense, embittered people have become victims of their animal instincts. Such emotions are out of place in the world we live in. The emotional response to unfairness has an evolutionary origin. Primeval survival demanded the equitable sharing of scarce resources for the protection of the herd. If one animal seized an undue share, others recognized the injustice and became angry.

Pattern recognition systems developed to recognize the concept of fairness. When injustice was detected, the amygdala triggered anger. Anger made the observers aggressive and gave them increased energy to grab their “fair” share from the aggressor. Anger discouraged such offenders. Following this instinct, if a person steps ahead of you in a queue, anger will instantly well up within you.

Life Is Not Fair
How Does The Body Prepare For Aggression?

Nature developed emotional controls to finely tune the behavior of animals, in order to cope with conflicts. Anger signals from the amygdala set in motion changes in the reproductive, vegetative, endocrine, hormonal, visceral and autonomic functions of the body. Breathing, digestion, blood circulation, brain activity and body fluid flows are instantly affected. The signals dilate pupils and increase brain wave frequency. They make hairs stand on end. They reduce saliva, drying the mouth. They cause sweating and a decrease in skin resistance. They decrease peripheral blood flow. Breathing speeds up. Stomach muscles tighten. Digestion slows. Acids increase in the stomach. Sugar increases. The signals increase blood pressure, They tense postural muscles. Anger prepares the body for action.

Life Is Not Fair
How Are Aggressive Thoughts Triggered?

Simultaneously, the system limits access of the mind to thoughts, which favor the emotion. The mind focuses on the origin of the source of unfairness. The offender is instantly identified. Anger wells up against the person, who grabs more than his fair share. Subconscious anger constantly seeks to reinforce itself. Anger makes you avert your eyes and prevents you from smiling at your opponent. Anger removes the normal sympathy and respect you feel for a person. Without your conscious awareness, anger triggers contempt and distrust. Anger will impel you to harm, or hurt the people, who have acted unfairly. Such responses will appear to be perfectly natural.

Life Is Not Fair
Is Fairness A Workable Social Concept?

Since the “not fair” emotion is a natural anger response, many political systems point to unfair social situations and incite people against groups of people who possess “unfair” advantages. Politicians preach the equality of all people. This feeds the inner sense of people that they deserve a fair share. Unfortunately, life is not fair. While everybody would like to have equal opportunities and talents, the distribution of benefits is widely distorted. There will always be others with more talents, wealth, or health. Fairness is also not a workable social concept. In any social group, just a few people provide the new ideas, the leadership skills and the entrepreneurship, which can benefit the whole community. Societies, which fail to reward them “fairly” have historically landed into the poverty of the socialist systems. Even if it appears unfair, societies thrive only if they reward those who contribute more. “Fairness” is an unworkable social concept in any large society.

Life Is Not Fair
Is Anger The Best Solution To A Problem?

A range of emotions can control your behavior. Anger, common sense, humor and kindness are all possible emotional response strategies. Ideally, an unfair situation should not cause you to lose self control. If your common sense is in charge, you will seek a practical way to set the situation right. Object calmly to the action of the culprit. Or accept the situation, if it is beyond your control. With kindness, you will deal tactfully with the offender. If you give in to anger, you will resent the injustice and be filled with hostility towards the offender. The LTP circuits trigger visceral reactions, intensifying your hostility. In the meanwhile, a few milliseconds too late, your common sense may discover the triviality of the issue. But, anger would have stilled your kindly thoughts, which could weaken your resolve to punish the offender. Indifferent to consequences, you lash out. Anger controls you like a puppet on a string and is the worst solution.

Life Is Not Fair
What Happens, When You Are Angry Against Fate

When the mind identifies an injustice, it also picks out the offender. If it is fate, which delivers you an unfair blow, your anger wells up against an unjust providence. The victim's first response to adversity is "Why Me?" We may question whether we did something to deserve this punishment or trouble. We may feel resentment for others who are not suffering and question why trouble did not choose them. We may even point to the wealth and comforts enjoyed by a far less deserving person. But, becoming angry with fate for our misfortunes is like becoming angry with the lamp post that you walked into. Anger only harms you.

Life Is Not Fair
How Can You Still Your Anger?

Self awareness is the key to peace of mind. Effective mind control is the process of becoming aware that large groups of thoughts take over the mind due to primitive emotional responses. Such emotions narrow the viewpoint of the mind. By understanding that an emotion is in control, a person can get back the realization that the particular line of thought is irrational and unjustified. Negative emotions always have a rationale. Never argue with them. The secret is to realize that an unreasonable emotion is in charge. Self awareness can terminate troubling distress signals in milliseconds. Typically, a “not fair” situation can trigger anger in the average individual in just 20 milliseconds. But, within 300 milliseconds, his knowledge that “life is not fair,” can kick in and his anger would disappear. His momentary flash of anger would resemble the passing distress of a person, who mistakes a garden hose for a coiled snake.

Life Is Not Fair
What Is The Social Comparison Drive?

In 1954, Leon Festinger proposed that all people have a subconscious social comparison drive, which also generates a potential for pain. The Social Comparison Theory proposes that individuals have an internal drive to evaluate their own opinions and desires by comparing themselves to others. People look at outside images to evaluate their own views and abilities. These images are sought to be realistic and achievable. The drive to compare reduces as the comparison image diverges from their images of their own views and abilities. People tend to move into groups of similar opinions and abilities, and they move out of groups that fail to satisfy their comparison drive. The theory suggests that while people do improve their abilities through comparison, they do not change their views significantly through the same process.

Life Is Not Fair
What Is The Benefit Of The Social Comparison Drive?

The social comparison drive became a survival need, when grazing animals grouped together to protect themselves. The groups moved and acted together, without any overall plan. Unlike an army detachment, which follows an overall plan, individual emotional controls achieve cooperative behavior in herds. Social comparison helped herds to imitate the behavior of equals to choose cooperative patterns of behavior. These tendencies create a status structure of higher and lower groups. A dominance hierarchy is established, with leaders and followers. Each group compare themselves within their own group. At the watering hole, the leader drinks first. Others instinctively follow. Social comparison enabled individual assessments of supportive group behavior. The acceptance of the concept of leaders and followers is assembled into our nervous systems.

Life Is Not Fair
How Can You Avoid The "Unfair" Thoughts?

Social comparison is a relentless and often troubling drive within you. Self awareness can help you to still the emotional turmoil set off by this incessant subconscious process. Social comparison works both ways. It enables you to fit into the social hierarchy of your community. It enables you to improve your performance through subconscious imitation of the people you admire. Nature even limits the hidden process to a comparison among your equals, creating a realistic potential for improvement. On the other hand, social comparison triggers a feeling of helplessness and despair about your failure to achieve comparable levels. It generates anger towards your superiors. While the subconscious process will work to improve yourself, an awareness of its manipulative workings can help to still your emotional turmoil.

This page was last updated on 04-Nov-2018