Reassuringly Random

Posted on: July 4th, 2016 by admin No Comments

Have you ever wondered why someone who you thought liked you, suddenly started to react towards you in an unfavourable and random way?


Before I tell you my theory on the cause for such behaviour, firstly I must point out a slim difference between randomness and unpredictability.


Unpredictable means that the result could have been predicted, had it not been for a change in circumstances or environment that altered the result. For example, you were set to have a great day but then your boss screamed at you because they’d had an email from the director complaining, and they took it out on you. The circumstances of your boss screaming at you could (unless you know better about how to manage your state) cause your otherwise sunny disposition to falter. Likewise we could predict that the cat will want to go out after breakfast in the morning every day next week, unless there is a sudden rain shower that makes the cat want to stay in, which could mean our prediction was incorrect. However if we had control over all of those outside influences we could have made very accurate predictions.


Randomness on the other hand is simply that. Totally random. We cannot predict at all because there is no set pattern to gauge by and the external influencers (such as the weather) make no difference in our ability to measure.


I’m currently reading “Chance” (edited by Michael Brooks, 2015, New Scientist) in which it is highlighted how animals behave in random ways to outwit other animals- typically their predictors. For example a bunny running in random directions to escape a fox instead of making a straight forward dart to its burrow. If it went straight to its burrow its behaviour would be too predictable and the bunny would be caught by the fox.


In the case of humans, we are not at risk of being someone’s lunch, so our desire to outsmart and compete is reserved for our behaviour around…other humans.


Here’s the bad news. It works jolly well so there’s no signs that we’d want to abandon this behaviour anytime soon. In the Second World War, submarine commanders would decide patrol routes by the throw of a dice, making it difficult for their enemy to predict where they would be and from destroying them. Being random keep them safe and alive.


As an NLP therapist, I quite like the Gestalt idea that a random angry outburst has its roots in history – that somehow in the moment of now, you are transported back to a violation in your history that has been resurrected perhaps by some familiar circumstances.


However, Geoffrey Miller, a psychologist at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, who talks of the “Mad Dog” strategy explains that in this strategy, the anger threshold varies randomly.


If, on the other hand, your anger threshold is predictable others quickly learn that they can constantly push you to the limit.


However with the Mad Dog strategy people have to tip toe around you because they never know what might instigate a flare up – it could be a minor thing, or something bigger.


In terms of understanding others and our own emotions, this means that some moods may not have any specific stimulus. The random changes make us less predictable, less easy to exploit and I assume generate a deep unconscious belief that we will therefore be, in some way, be safer because of it.


Of course our state/mood/emotions impact upon how we chose to behave and react. So if you’ve met someone new and they seem to adore you one minute then erase you from their contact list the next with no obvious reason, or someone makes a commitment which they then revoke unreasonably (since they suggested it in the first place) or they simply do the opposite to what was promised, it may be that there is nothing you have done to trigger this behaviour whatsoever, apart from causing some deep, unconscious concern that their very existence is in question, and that the only way that they can save themselves is by behaving randomly.


By Gemma Bailey

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