Is aggressive behavior the new normal?

By: Diana Bello Aristizábal

Para leer in Spanish

South Florida and other parts of the state have become battlegrounds for many. Horns set off at the slightest provocation, rudeness displayed in a ‘hello’ that no one answers, indifferent stares in the supermarket line or brawls in social media groups seem to be the new normal in the midst of a pandemic which demands the contrary.

“We live in a high level of vigilance,” says Erika Monroy, a clinical and educational psychologist specializing in emotional intelligence about a problem that is not unique to Florida but to the whole of the United States and even of the world.

However, Florida often tops the ranking of the most hostile places in the country, as, for example, in a recent Bankrate.com study in which it ranked third among the states with the most aggressive drivers in the United States. after California and Nevada.

Is it surprising for those of us who live in Miami-Dade? The answer is no because if there is an indicator of the increase in aggressive behavior and intolerance in the population, it is precisely road rage that is so familiar to the inhabitants of this municipality.

But the problem with this hostile behavior spread across the country is that a lot of times it doesn’t end with an exchange of insults or a temporary bad moment, but rather in tragedy.

This is what happened to a family in California, whose 6-year-old son died after being shot in a road rage incident, while in Miami Beach a man nearly lost his life after dodging a bullet from a woman’s pistol. who decided to get out of her vehicle and attack her only for not letting her pass a red light.

“In Florida, you never know who’s armed and who isn’t. In fact, gun sales increased during the pandemic because now there is mistrust and fear, ”says Jairo Ledezma, professor of sociology and history at Miami-Dade College.

But what is increasing aggressiveness? Does the pandemic have something to do with this trend? And can we do something to live better in community?

Aggression as a response to fear

It is a reality that the pandemic has brought positive and negative changes to the world. Among the latter group, the most notable change concerns the increase in mental illnesses.

Erika Monroy

“Anxiety and depression have increased 300% since the start of the pandemic. In addition, sleep problems, alcoholism, drug addiction and child abuse have also increased, ”says Erika Monroy.

This trend is linked to the social changes that humanity has been experiencing since last year, when the world took an unexpected turn that tested people in all walks of life.

“The changes that take place at the level of society always affect us individually. For example, the riots that took place last year in response to the struggle for social justice changed the way we view authorities while the challenges brought by the pandemic, such as adapting to new labor rules, have changed the way we think, ”explains Jairo Ledezma. .

As a result of these times, when uncertainty prevails, the general reaction has been panic. “People have internalized all the struggles we have faced since last year such as unemployment, racism, political division and shootings and now they are expressing it,” Ledezma adds.

Feeling fear is not something negative as it can protect us from dangerous situations. However, it can become counterproductive when we respond to it with unfriendly or aggressive behavior.

“We attack when we feel fear like animals biting those who try to take their food, it’s a means of survival,” adds Erika Monroy, who explains that in South Florida, it’s even more common in South Florida. because of the very emotional nature of Hispanics.

But, in addition, the fear is even more intense in this part of the country because most of the people who live there are immigrants who struggle to be successful. “People come to Miami and find themselves in survival mode, which means working a lot, sleeping little, or having no friends. If you add to that the problems brought by the pandemic, like caring for children and working at the same time, you have a ticking time bomb, ”says Erika.

The six-second rule

The individual and collective challenges we are currently facing are often beyond our control. Still, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to attack others, as we need to take responsibility for how we respond to life’s challenges.

This means that we can adopt strategies to better respond to external circumstances. One of them is think before you act, which results in a 6-10 second pause before deciding what to do. It is a kind of “time out” like the one we teach children.

In this period of time, which can be used to follow our breathing rate or to walk, the brain can reflect on the stimuli presented to it and thus appease its more primitive side, which is the one that is activated in emergency situations. .

“When we manage to wait that long, we can consciously reflect on what’s going on around us so that we don’t have an impulsive reaction. This is called self-regulation, ”explains Erika Monroy.

But in order to apply this rule successfully, it is important that each person integrated into a community first takes care of themselves by practicing self-care habits that allow them to develop stress tolerance, flexibility and optimism.

While many of them are basic for some people, others find it difficult to maintain them over time due to the hectic life we ​​live in. They are: sleeping between 6 and 8 hours a day, doing aerobic exercises to create serotonin and dopamine, both responsible for states of well-being, meditating and eating healthy.

But you also have to do introspection, recognize the situations that trigger aggressive behavior and then observe the bodily reactions that go with it. “When we get angry, we breathe hard or our hearts race. These physical manifestations linked to our belief system determine how we express this emotion, ”explains Erika.

However, when we realize what is happening to us in the face of a stimulus, we bring the unconscious to the conscious, and we can then develop socio-emotional skills, essential for living in community.

In addition, it is necessary to do detoxification work. It’s about consuming less social media, watching less negative news, and staying away from toxic people in order to oxygenate the brain, spread positive emotions on others, and change reality.

In turn, people should practice being fully present or attentive at all times by avoiding multitasking, as well as increasing patience and openness to other lifestyles and cultures.

“To be more compassionate, you need to learn about other cultures and races other than your own. When we come out of our bubble in which we only interact with the people of our country, as is the case in Miami, we can understand others and be less aggressive, ”underlines Jairo Ledezma.


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