What do grief, denial, conspiracy theories and bullies all have in common? They all are behavioral manifestations known as an extinction burst. Or to put it another way, what happens when we don't get our way?
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All our behaviors are learned. Our thoughts, are also basically, learned. Here is a good book about how we think and what we think we think - https://amzn.to/3oNRDc4
We learn behaviors because learning them helps us. In laymens terms, that means, they were rewarded in some way. When the behavior stops being rewarded or stops working, the brain doesn't like it much. So, the brain tries to figure out ways to make it work again. How do we get our reward back - the reward being, things going - our way.
It does this in a variety of ways. Sometimes it grieves. Sometimes it denies reality. This happens even when reality can't be denied. Sometimes it constructs theories about why things in reality don't match up to our expectations.
For those of us watching someone in grief, or denial or spouting off an absolutely ludicrous conspiracy theory, or even bullies, we should understand that the reason they are doing these things is because reality isn't being kind to them.
And no, you can't just slap them and say snap out of it. They just have to go through this on their own. And just as some people get stuck in grief and denial, some people get stuck in their conspiracy theories. They come up with hypothetical ways reality might not be real and then they forget that it was a hypothetical and they treat it as real.
ALL of this, all of it, is a manifestation of what we call an extinction burst.
Bullies do this to. If you don't respond to a bully the way they want, they will escalate to get you to respond again. They do this because the reality didn't match their expectation.
All you can do - and really the kindest thing you can do, is to keep presenting reality in a kind and gentle way. Sorry, that's not how this works. Sorry, I know reality is painful at times. But the sooner we all accept reality, the less problems we cause for ourselves and for others.
So, the next time you find yourself talking to someone who seems, out of touch or in serious denial, treat them with compassion. Oh - and as an exercise in critical thinking for yourself, ask them for evidence of whatever it is - just in case, you are the one in denial.
Be kind to everyone you meet. You don't know what they are going through. Even and especially the ones causing problems.