Even if you, like me, don’t watch TV, you will have come across the news of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock in the face during the Oscar ceremony:
The entertainer on stage, Chris Rock, makes a comment on an actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. The actor, Will Smith, walks on stage, slaps the entertainer in his face, returns to his seat and shouts at the entertainer something like “Do not take my wife’s name into your mouth!”. Shortly afterwards, the actor is presented with an Oscar. A few days later, the actor got banned from the Oscars for 10 years.
“The greatest night in the history of Television.” (Chris Rock)
I was grateful for this out of the ordinary event. Not because I welcome violence (I don’t). Not because I think he was “right” (I’m not interested in that discussion). I was grateful because it gives a great example of why we need adults to consciously feel their feelings.
Modern culture knows nothing about conscious feelings. The things that float to the surface are unconscious expressions of feelings or emotions. They come out irresponsibly, disproportionately, sometimes violently, and hurtful, and they reinforce the general story that “feelings are bad and need to be suppressed”. They also display other outdated and disempowering thoughtware still active in modern culture.
1) Outdated Thoughtware: Feelings, like anger, need to be suppressed.
There’s a really deep belief in modern culture that feelings need to be suppressed and hidden. Jada Pinkett Smith, for example, first politely smiled when she heard the comment directed at her, then rolled her eyes. What does she do with her anger? Her fear? Her sadness? Rolling your eyes is one way of avoiding responsibility for your feelings.
Will Smith also first smiled, laughed, then slapped Chris Rock in the face. Where did this anger come from and when? What else could he have done instead? Anger, built up, comes out explosively.
2) Outdated Thoughtware: A woman needs to be made happy by her man.
If a woman is unhappy, it’s her man’s job to fix it for her. He has to do whatever he can to make her happy. (NB: It’s an impossible task. A determined woman will always find a reason to be unhappy.) How come Will Smith went up on stage when it was his wife that was unhappy? Maybe due to the next thoughtware?
3) Outdated Thoughtware: A man has to stand up for his woman.
A man has to stand up for his woman. Jada Pinkett Smith did not walk up to Chris Rock and slap him herself. The underlying patriarchal thoughtware is that a “good” man, a real man, stands up and fights for his woman. In general, that is considered OK.
What it really does is disempower the woman. It operates on the assumption that she can not stand up for herself. It is rescuing on the low drama map and doesn’t change anything.
4) Outdated Thoughtware: When you are angry, slapping someone in the face might be OK if you have a good reason.
When you feel very angry, slapping someone in the face might be OK if you have a good reason, In this case, public debate included whether it was “wrong” of Chris Rock to comment on Jada Pinkett Smith, implying it could be OK to slap someone that “insulted” your wife.
How would you react if you had the impression someone attacked or insulted your spouse?
Why is this thoughtware outdated?
Let’s look at the results it created: Was anything resolved? Was anyone empowered? Was connection created? Was clarity achieved?
No. The result was that a lot of low drama was unleashed. It’s the kind of stuff that makes the events the “greatest evening in the history of TV”. It’s juicy, it opens doors for discussions of right and wrong, righteousness, and more. Low drama are actions designed to avoid responsibility. It lives off the story that someone is not OK. It revolves around a victim. A persecutor persecutes the poor victim (from unconscious, irresponsible anger), a rescuer jumps to its aid (from unconscious, irresponsible fear), the victim stays stuck in its victimhood (from unconscious, irresponsible sadness). Nothing changes but time going by.
New Thoughtware creates new possibilities and a next culture
In order to act differently, the people involved would have needed to have new thoughtware. For example that “feelings are neutral energy and information that serve you”, or “By rescuing a woman, you don’t empower her to take a stand for herself”, or “It’s not a man’s job to make his woman happy” or “A man can choose to hold space for a woman”.
What else would have been possible if one of the people involved had taken responsibility for their feelings?
What would have happened, for instance, if Jada had felt her sadness, her anger, her fear? What could she have done with that?
She could have turned to her husband and expressed any of these feelings without him needing to fix it for her. She could have said something herself. How could she have been empowered to take a stand for herself?
What would have happened if Will could have simply held space for his wife’s feelings, and possibly his own, without needing to fix anything?
He could have given his wife a completion loop, simply repeating back what he heard. He could have asked her what she feels. He could have encouraged her to speak up for herself. He could have said: “I won’t go up there for you because that won’t empower you to stand up for yourself, but I will go with you.” He could have discerned that what was happening for him wasn’t a feeling but an emotion, possibly of fear, that his wife wasn’t OK.
What would have happened if Chris Rock had let himself feel the impact of the slap and chosen to express it?
The world could have witnessed the vulnerability of an entertainer on stage.
So many different actions were possible. I can’t say how it would have gone then. The real possibility that opens up from being conscious of feelings is that it paves the way for authentic connection, creation of high drama instead of low drama, and empowering each other to meet as adult human beings. That will change the world and create next culture, bit by bit.