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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    The Book of James: Revelation IV

    It is my belief that people act consistently across situations, drawing from their disposition. We can only be expected to perform in ways that are congruent with preexisting constructs that define who we are. This makes sense to many of us and, perhaps naively, the field of psychology believes this to be inappropriate, and has even labeled such a line of thinking the Fundamental Attribution Error. The field is wrong on this one – people act within their emotional and behavioral repertoires, period. Once you adopt this, any sense of moral fervor you may experience will be inevitably muted, for people are not always capable of engaging in a wide array of actions. It is therefore not a worthwhile endeavor to say, ‘If you had only said x, y, and z, then everything would be different.’

    If only life were so easy that simply saying the right thing or changing one action would ensure a favorable outcome! Life is all about momentum and nuance. There are literally thousands of small communications being made by people in every conversation, from body language to small inflectional changes in speech. All these things are borne from your personality. When you amass the sum of your actions and communications over a long period of time, only to think, ‘Had I only said the right thing at the time everything would have changed,’ you must realize what an absurd statement that is.

    You have been building momentum, refining and shaping who you are across situations, since you were born. The idea that you can simply make a snap change in your behavior and have any real impact is meaningless. Here is a popular example: a couple fights and then both people regret saying things. That only makes sense if you take a heated exchange out of context. The truth of the matter is that there has been momentum in this relationship that has led you to this point, only to culminate in open warfare in the end. Keeping your mouth shut would not have eliminated the momentum that was building -‘ when it comes to the situations that matter most, past experiences and communications have already provided you with determined outcomes by the very virtue that they brought you to this in the first place.

    How can you regret one action, or even a series of actions, if you are simply doing the best you can within the confines of your persona? Using present knowledge and maturity as a benchmark for your past actions is foolish – the point of living is to evolve, and that means a constant process of growth. If you must indulge in regret and self-loathing, then by all means, do not let me stop you. But do acknowledge that any rationalization for regret flies in the face of logic and is purely an emotional exercise. Not that that’s a bad thing.

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