Saturday, December 09, 2006
Punishment and Reward
(A Special Post for Sunday Scribblings)
Ahhhh, yes, glasshoppah - we now come to the ancient dynamic between the carrot and the stick.
Is it better to punish or reward? - many humanistic people never punish. "Punishment is bad," "never strike a child," "we should not punish, we should forgive," etc.....
Of course, the worst punishment that can ever be inflicted - never lays a hand on the other person. ....or even a word. Solitary confinement is one of the most brutal punishments that can be carried out against another person.
The very worst punishment? - it is the punishment that we administer to ourselves. It's not brutal enough to be noticed. It is all the low self worth/esteem/concept thoughts that we hold. I have often thought that it would be better for us to give ourselves ONE good slap upside the head when the crime warrants it......and then be done with it....move on.
"Ouch! That hurt. I don't want to do that again" - but, instead, when something bad happens, we get to say, "well, if he/she wouldn't have screwed me over, this wouldn't have happened."
In this case, blame gets to be a substitute for the pain - AND the opportunity to gain the benefit of punishment is lost. Punishment has it's place.
You know...most of us don't change that much - not nearly as much as we think we do. Yet, there are people who have made remarkable changes. What prompted them to make the shift? They hit their "rock bottom," whatever that is to that individual.
What is "Rock Bottom" ?- it's the accumulation of punishment, often self inflicted, that becomes so painful that the person now makes a quantum change that only that degree of pain could bring about. While I don't wish that on anyone, for some, it is what needed to happen. It was the only way for them to get back on to a their own correct path. (Notice I said, "their own"....not YOURS)
Pain is necessary - and pain does not come without some form of punishment. "If change does not involve a degree of pain, then it probably wasn't real change," is a quote that I stumbled across just this week.
Let's say that I am standing on Platform A - and imagine it as a platform. (Pause......I'm waiting.....when I say imagine...I mean STOP and imagine....OK, are you there? ....Good! We shall proceed). You have been standing on Platform A for some time. You have gotten used to it. It's a nice little platform. You even went out and bought a nice platform to platform rug to stand on. You picked up a nice little pillow too for those times when you are tired of standing on Platform A.....but you don't dare step off into the unknown space outside of your nice platform. The pillow (or cocktail....TV....abusing someone else) makes Platform A tolerable.
You'll die there on Platform A - and, if that's what you want, there is not a thing in the world wrong with that. Just don't kill anyone else along with you....please!
But, let's say, that you see a Platform B - kind of "over there a bit." It looks kind of nice....a bit better than platform A. It sure would be nice but....
There's this little problem - and it is that darn unknown space between here and there.
I can see that carrot....that reward - but, if I step off good ol Platform A, I may get some severe punishment (of course, you probably won't but you can't convince yourself of that at this point).
So, the presence of REWARD (or the accomplishment of the almighty GOAL) isn't enough - to get you to move. But you, you nice lil "the world should be peaceful, everything is great, let's all get along" you, can't even begin to fathom that massive suffering from the punishment that "will surely come" if you step off that platform.
At that point - there is a desire to move but a desire to stay.
And there is only one thing to do - sit down, decide which of the conflicting desires is stronger.......and then inflict massive pain upon the weaker desire. Yes, you have to kill the weaker desire. Reward wasn't getting it done in this instance. It's time for punishment. You see, that weaker desire is a piece of you....but it has to die. It is going to require punishment and pain.
Cortez burned the ships - and, in the old testament, when a war was fought, all of the enemy had to die because the mere existence of the conflicting desire would be enough to put the conquering tribe at risk as they made their dangerous journey to point B. (Now, Old Testament is a bit brutal but there is an important point there).
If you need to get off Platform A - and the reward of Platform B isn't enough to get you to jump into the pain of the unknown, you have no choice but to punish yourself and burn Platform A. I wish that you...and I....didn't have to do this. Sometimes we don't.....but sometimes we do. It is when we need to and we don't that we inflict the most damaging type of punishment upon ourselves. It's the long, slow, nagging irritation....the Chinese Water Torture. It is the constant, light, self flagellation that will kill the most important aspect in your life....your spirit.
Is it better to punish or reward? - dear glasshoppah that has read this far. I now plovide you with inflinite wisdom of the ages. The ansuh you have been looking for is........YES