The problem with Gus

15 March 2017

This is the story of Gus. Gus like all of us was once a dependent infant. He required feeds, security and love. Unfortunately there were times when Gus’s needs weren’t promptly met. With the dropping of his blood sugar levels and the delay in maternal responsiveness, Gus’s amygdala became activated and he experienced all the physiological signs of anxiety. Knowing that obtaining maternal responsiveness and his feed was essential, Gus worked at understanding and thus controlling his environment in order to manipulate things and have his needs appeased. This took the form of crying, screaming or throwing things. Invariably he was rewarded with the required response. On receiving the required response, Gus experienced a reward-mediated dopamine boost which switched off the activated amygdala and thus the anxiety physiology. Gus also experienced an oxytocin boost which enhanced a mind state of belief and trust.

And so Gus’s life narrative began with the fundamental belief that the most important element in life was experiencing the recognition of his existence and thereby the appeasement of his own needs. The sub-narrative was that Gus became the centre of his own universe but was filled with fear of not experiencing recognition and having his needs met. Additionally, Gus believed that reward would eventually come his way but that he would need to work at it. In this way Gus and his narrative lived in a little box called Gus’s comfort zone or Gus’s Subjective World View (GSWV).

In time Gus matured into an adult. But Gus still lived in his little box called GSWV. From this space Gus ensured that his needs were appeased even at the expense of others. He would ensure that he was recognised and adored so as to experience his dopamine and oxytocin spurts. However, fear of not experiencing recognition and reward was also his constant companion. And so his amygdala invariably bubbled in the background resulting in a chronically raised adrenaline and cortisol. The consequence of this was to slightly impair his reasoning potential (pre-frontal cortex), push up his blood pressure and slightly increase his inflammatory index.

Flowing from GSWV was a need to rationalize the external world in the context of Gus’s subjective beliefs. Therefore concepts which were too inconvenient to internalize were either deleted or distorted to fit into Gus’s subjectivity. Gus’s modus operandi in this regard was firstly to form an opinion or judgement based on his subjective frame of reference, but this would progress to a state of judgementalism – defined as making a judgement but incorporating condemnatory and disparaging elements. The most noticeable sign of this behavior was the discrediting of others to enable Gus to disregard and thus delete the opposing person and the inconvenient aspects of their perspectives.

Aggravating this already difficult situation was Gus’s inability to accept criticism. In the context of his narrative Gus perceived this as a threat to being loved, adored and respected which increased the fear of not having his needs met. Since fear, anxiety, panic and anger/rage all reside in the amygdala, Gus’s fear was notched up to anger in response to criticism.

Gus was driven by the Five Finger Rule: WHAT’S; IN; IT; FOR; ME ? Most of his efforts and actions were driven by the potential for secondary gain insofar as his subjective needs were concerned. As a result of this dynamic, Gus was not a team player. Gus did not listen much to what others had to say if it did not appease the Five Finger Rule. Gus’s mode of engagement was judgmentalism and his style of leadership was prescriptive.

While the Gus’s of the world are effective (as long as the Five Finger Rule is appeased) they are not primarily value contributors to the greater collective. Their value contribution is secondary to the appeasement of their primary needs. As a result they do not honestly embrace people and the extended environment with respect and sensitivity in a mode of dialogue. Dialogue is a mode of communication which is non-judgemental and requires that you attempt to be, think and feel as the other, before forming a judgement or opinion. Dialogue establishes rapport which allows the best to emerge from interactions. This will lead to integration where the greater collective becomes enriched and evolves.

We all have some Gus in us. Some more so than others..... I would propose that we all become aware of the Gus within us and make the effort to transcend that destructive space when it occurs. Ultimately, by growing ourselves we will grow the greater collective.


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