Wednesday, 4 June 2014
A step back
My habit has always been to reflect on what I'm about to say or do before I leap into it. Which makes me a slightly reticent and cautious person, but I'd rather that than make some colossal blunder simply because I didn't think first.
You only have to look at the torrents of abuse and spite unleashed on the internet to see that "following your instincts" can sometimes be pretty destructive, especially if your instincts are tangled up with heated emotions and it's actually the emotions that are holding sway.
I think instincts can be helpful in some situations but calamitous in others. Parents getting conflicting advice on how to bring up their children usually fall back on instinct, and since that instinct is guided by love and affection for their child, the result is usually positive.
But relying on instinct in fraught public arguments, where delicate sensitivities are at stake and it's all too easy to fan the flames and make everything worse, is a mug's game. So much tragedy and distress could be averted if those involved first took a step back and thought about the effects of their actions.
Following your instincts is not much help if it means bingeing on junk food or having 19 children or squeezing into your budgie smugglers. A pause for reflection might have led to a happier outcome.
Instead of "follow your instincts", how about "follow your thoughts" or "chew it over"? Or how about another old phrase "Look before you leap"?
Unless you're a bemused parent, that is.