Episode 5: How to be OK with who you are

Episode 5: How to be OK with who you are

Scientia Professor Joe Forgas AM

Recent world events have highlighted the impact of people’s tendency to align with groups, supporting ideas or causes that ring true with their values. But what about that other tribe, the one we refer to as family?

Scientia Professor Joe Forgas AM chats to us about tribe identity in the context of family and the wider community, raising the question of whether it’s better to hear the hurtful things people say, because suppressing their freedom to say it doesn’t remove their feeling about it anyway. Get ready for your first dose of “Joe bombs”!

Andy and Louise talk about their own relationship to and with different ‘tribes’ in relation to family and work and how they have used those affiliations to limit themselves in the past.

You can connect with Louise & Andy on our social media directly below:

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Reframe of Mind contains discussion around mental health that may be disturbing to some listeners. If you are concerned about yourself or someone you know, please seek professional individual advice. 

Some of the main crisis lines in Australia are listed on our Mental Health Crisis Resources page, including those that operate 24/7 like Beyond Blue and Lifeline.

Guests this episode:

Joe Forgas AM

Scientia Professor, School of Psychology, University of New South Wales

Gallery

Show Notes:

Here’s some extra things you might not know about Scientia Professor Joe Forgas, as well as some of the things he mentioned during the episode.

Awards & Fellowships:

  • Order of Australia, AM (2012)
  • Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, APA.
  • The Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship
  • Special Investigator Award, Australian Research Council
  • Australian Research Council Professorial Fellowship
  • Alexander von Humboldt Research Prize, Germany
  • Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia
  • American Psychological Society 
  • Society for Personality and Social Psychology
  • Hungarian Academy of Sciences 

Joe Forgas’ official University page

List of publications

Books on Goodreads

Video on Joe’s personal history of escaping communist Hungary

Transcript

Louise 

We acknowledge the Yuggera and Kaurna nations as traditional custodians of the land on which we work, live and learn. And their continued connection with the land waters and community. We pay our respects to them and their elders past and present.

 

Andy

All content related to this programme is for general informational purposes only and contain stories and discussion around mental health that may be disturbing to some listeners. If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you know, please seek professional and individual advice and support. More details are contained in our show notes.

 

Grief Survivor Host 

Last week on Grief Survivor

 

Nurse 

I’m sorry, dissociation. She’s gone. She had a good death.

 

Detachment 

Oh

 

Nurse 

Would you like to spend some time with her?

 

Detachment 

No. If she’s gone, she’s gone. I need to go and organise a funeral and get the house ready for sale.

 

Louise  

Yeah, hi, opportunist. Now, look, she’s gone. I mean, she’s over at the house. Yeah, we need to move quick. You know what they’re like,

 

Grief Survivor Host 

Later back at the house.

 

Opportunist 

Bloody hell. Where do we start? There’s a shitload.

 

Detachment 

Yeah. All right. Can we just need to dive in and get it done?

 

Avoidance   

Maybe we can wait a while. She’s only been gone a few hours.

 

Detachment 

Yeah. Well, you can join him when you ready avoidance. Just make sure you’ve got your red dots on whatever you want. Come on, Opportunist

 

Opportunist   

I thought the red dots were mine.

 

Detachment 

No, you’re the blue dots

 

Opportunist 

Shit!

 

Detachment    

What

 

Opportunist 

Well I’ve been putting red dots on shit for the last week while she’s been in hospital.

 

Detachment 

Like I said, the quicker we move, the quicker we sell. And the new cars come in next month.

 

Grief Survivor Host 

With alliances forming quickly. There was no time to waste and Avoidance wasn’t doing themselves any favourites.

 

Detachment   

Hey, Avoidance. You want this?

 

Avoidance  

What sorry. What have you got there? I was just thinking about mum. I really don’t think I’m ready for this. He’s just not popping out for Goodwill.

 

Opportunist 

Whatever!

 

Avoidance 

I’m not feeling well. I’ll come back tomorrow. I just can’t be around this right now. I’ll help when I’m ready.

 

Detachment   

Yeah, righto. Hang on, Opportunist! There’s breakables in there.

 

Opportunist 

Oops! Not any more!

 

Detachment 

Shit!. What was that?

 

Opportunist 

Oh… looks like Sylvester’s ashes.

 

Detachment  

Oh, well, off straight to the skip then.

 

Grief Survivor Host 

Later that day, the grandkids arrived to pick something from Nan’s cat ornament collection.

 

Detachment 

Alright, kids. Lucky’s geting nan’s Cat collection, but you can all pick one each to remember her by.

 

Entitled 

I want this one.

 

Detachment   

The Royal Copenhagen one?

 

Entitled 

Yeah. This always reminds me of Nan.

 

Privileged 

I wanted that one, Entitled!

 

Detachment 

There’s literally hundreds to choose from Privileged

 

Opportunist 

Yeah, first in best dressed. Nice choice, Entitled.

 

Detachment 

Why don’t you take the cat-shaped bottle opener?

 

Entitled 

They’re not worth anything! I want something better to remember Nan by.

 

Detachment 

Hurry up! We’ve got more shit to get through. The rest’s getting packed up for Lucky.

 

Privileged 

I suppose I’ll take this crystal one then.

 

Avoidance   

Has anyone seen Puss-puss?

 

Detachment 

Yeah, we rehomed him a couple of days ago.

 

Avoidance 

While mom was still in hospital?

 

Detachment 

Yeah, well Mum wasn’t coming back. And the cat was only going to cost more money and time none of us have got. I thought you left.

 

Avoidance 

Yeah, I was gonna feed the cat first. But I suppose I don’t need to now.

 

Grief Survivor Host 

Avoidance is still slow to act and alliances are building really get filtered out all together. Stay tuned as the tribal council launches its campaign on social media after the break.

 

Louise  

Everyone’s heard the stories about infighting and damaged relationships after a loss in the family. Sometimes these relationships heal over time. Other times the rift seems irrevocable.

 

Andy

However things transpire our reactions and responses are generally more intense. And the consequences are more marked depending on a procedure, willingness or otherwise, to fall in with the way of the tribe. I’m Andy Le Roy.

 

Louise

And I’m Louise Poole, and this is reframe of mind.

 

Andy

The podcast series that cuts through the clutter, cheat and gets to the core of living authentically challenging our assumptions and improving mental health with the guidance of good science, philosophy and learning from other people’s lived experiences.

 

Louise

Last time we spoke to CEO and founder at Jois scheme at y Ltd, Daphne capade. US who shared a heap of insights about backing yourself and speaking your truth.

 

Andy

Something she said around her experience of grief made us think

 

Daphne Kapetas   

I didn’t hold my grief. I was I was devastated that I was having to clean out her family home. You know, the family home that my father had built that he only lived in for two weeks and then he died. Right? And here I’m cleaning at her home and she was a hoarder, oh boy. He was extremely difficult and I had two young kids But I didn’t, I didn’t suppress my emotions. I allowed myself to cry. And at the same time I did go to, you know, to a counsellor, a wonderful human being, who gave me the tools to be able to set boundaries, to be able to help my grave. Because you know, when somebody is diagnosed with something like that, it is a slow death. And the thing is with grief, I’ve got to say, because I’ve had a few people say to me, and actually a few people, I’ve had my kids say to me, like, Don’t you ever get over this mum? N ow there’s a young kids like them when they were eight. And I said to them, you don’t get over grief you it’s part of you. I am who I am because of the grief.

 

Louise

You just learn to kind of fold it into your personality.

 

Daphne Kapetas 

And you do and I’m not ashamed of talking about it. I, you know, I talk about it. And, and I know that and I think we’re the cultural background does help to, actual given times in the Orthodox calendar to grieve. Yeah, so it’s quite, it’s sheduled. Okay, so it’s like, you know, they do like, you know, 40 days, they have three months, six months, and every year on his anniversary, we have a memorial service for my dad, do you see, so it’s so so and then people will come up to you and, you know, and they’ll discuss it, and I’ll give you an opportunity to just talk about it. So it’s not seen as such a negative thing. It’s not like, you know, the person just died, and we’re not going to discuss him again. Right. So I think so I think with grief, you, you learn to live with it like it does. And again, as long as whatever is happening in your life is not debilitating. That’s when you know, you need to get help. You know, there’s a lot of things that I’ve that I have learned from, you know, going to counsellors and learning how to, like I’ve said before to set boundaries, that was a big one. For me. setting boundaries was huge.

 

Louise

I love a good counsellor.

 

Daphne Kapetas 

I love a good counsellor. Oh my gosh,

 

Louise

Someone who’ll listen to me talk for

 

Daphne Kapetas  

Oh, my gosh. Well, the thing is, my counsellor actually give us tools. And so that’s what I absolutely adore, you know, the tools to be able to say, right, you know, there’s certain situations that you will get anxious Daphne, we’re going to call them a fire drill. So if you’re going into a family event where you think you may get anxious, think about it, like in an hour and a half. If they start getting if they start drinking, they start becoming toxic. What do you do you leave? Do you say so they’re fire drills? Yeah, I love that. Every single one of us has got something to deal with. But at the end of the day, and and pretending that everything’s okay. Well, I don’t do that. I think it’s a waste of energy, I’d rather be honest. And then that way I can get through my grief faster. So I think pretending that something is not bothering you and what it does I think it actually causes long term damage. So for me, a sense of humour is imperative. I mean, there are some times that you know, life throws some wobblies that aren’t really funny. But I think that if you can find humour in something some way that’s why you know, comedians are so my favourite performers. I love them. Because I think what they do for us is fantastic, you know, being able to like, laugh at something is just, I think it’s one of the biggest pleasures of life so if I can keep on doing the rings and, and laughing at me. I think that’s just fantastic.

 

Louise

And when we started out making this podcast, Reframe Of Mind and our business, Welcome Change Media. Andy was at what we might call the pointy end of grief.

 

Andy

Yeah. Um, I’d only fairly recently lost my father at that point back in June 2020. So as you might recall, it was also the first wave of COVID-19. That was sweeping around the country

 

Louise

No! What is that?

 

Andy

Well, got a couple of hours. Look for anyone playing catch ups. My dad lived in Sydney, that’s where I grew up. But I live in Adelaide now. So with the restrictions that happened around the time of his death, my partner couldn’t actually come to Sydney with me for emotional support. It also meant that amongst all of that, I actually in the end, had to actually leave my two brothers to pack up the house for sale, to pack up the estate because I needed to return to Adelaide for work. And I’ve gotta say that added a heap of guilt to the grief that I was already feeling.

 

Louise

And Daphne, last episode told us about the grief she experienced when her father died.

 

Daphne Kapetas

My father died in the middle of my HSC end of year 11. He left a mother that was quite ill. And she wasn’t allowed to go to school when she was born, where she was she lived in Greece because my grandmother had 17 births. She had her last child at 55. Wow. So my mum being the eldest female wasn’t allowed to go to school because she had to look after all the siblings. Hence why my parents believe that education is power. Education is a power so one thing that they did reiterate was as a female you, you find freedom, especially when you are educated. That’s where you get your power through the love of learning. So, reflecting on that when he passed away, which was quite dark at the end of year 11, and back then we didn’t have provisions we didn’t have, you know what we have today. I remember sitting on the bus at Manly where the Manly beach is and going toward Seaforth where my family home was, and one of the boys from the opposite schools, male schools came up to me and started  chanting Daphne, how’s your father, how’s your father Daph how’s your father.. he did it for 45 minutes for the I there and I did nothing. I just looked at him. And I breathed because breathing is full on empowering. I lowered my breathing, visualise that I was on a dance floor. I visualised my movements, because I was performing. He was bullying me and taunting me. But you know what, in my head, I was dancing on stage. I had the audience clapping, I would have sweat pouring down my face from the amount of dancing I did. So by the time we got to Seaforth, I got off the bus went into the home closed the door and that’s where I cried. When I told that to my mum, she said to me, forgive him, forgive him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing. The day will come that he’ll regret that. Be the bigger person and don’t retaliate. Now, a lot of people think that’s crazy. How did you do that? But I did, because I visualised that I was somewhere else. Other times I’ve visualised, I had a raincoat on. And when people would spew out their toxins to me, I felt that the the, the rain coat was protecting me. I was using the power of visualisation, and then once they stopped, I would take off my raincoat and wash it out.

 

Louise

Grief is a big emotion, sometimes it brings out the best in people, and more times, it brings out the worst in people and the worst in ourselves, which is why it’s often not uncommon to hear of rifts within families, when grief strikes, what was your experience, like around the time your father died, Andy?

 

Andy

I feel very isolated. Because, you know, like I said, my partner couldn’t come with me when Dad fell ill and we didn’t know how long he was going to last when he was in hospital for want of a better term, it was impractical for him to come with me at the time, and then he did pass away. And there were all sorts of restrictions in place at the time that are only now just starting to lift. You know, we’ve recording this episode, it’s only yesterday that the borders to South Australia have reopened all of the roadblocks in there literally, to him being able to come across for a short period and support me and then come back and go back to his own job terribly difficult, because it would have meant a period of isolation and all that kind of stuff as well, which his workplace wouldn’t have been able to accommodate. You know, I mean, we all have our own responses, whatever place we are in the family, you know, like I have nieces and nephews, they lost their grandfather, you know, I’ve got brothers, they lost their dad, too. But sometimes we don’t actually have the benefit of being able to think before we speak in those highly emotionally charged times. We’re basically a raw ball of emotions,

 

Louise

Yeah, with those griefy chemicals running through your body as well. It’s, we’re not our best selves.

 

Andy

No, no, we’re not. And unfortunately, sometimes things happen as a result of that things are said and families do kind of drift apart or sometimes get completely severed. Yeah, I think for me, something that really became clear was that, you know, I’ve learned this term family of orientation, which is the family you’re born into, you know, many people will have their own children, so that becomes their family of procreation. For somebody who hasn’t had a child, they experience the world very differently. And that’s not often reflected very well, in the things that we see from day to day in what we watch or hear or see, the families that get represented are normally these nuclear families of mum, dad and kids. And we know that even that stan dard version is very cliched now

 

Louise

Yeah, very out of date.

 

 

Andy

So when it comes to somebody, like me, haven’t had any kids, I’ve got a partner can’t with me there in Sydney, suddenly, I just feel very alone. You know, I’ve lost basically the last direct link in my own family that I was born into, you know, while the other parts of my family travelled through life and continue to have what they have through what they’ve established. I’m the end of this line on this particular bow.

 

Louise

Yeah, was that when you kind of felt like the family had fallen apart?

 

Andy

Look, kind of, you know, like, I’m a victim of my own thoughts. Sometimes, you know, like, we’ve spoken about how both of us have had depressive periods. And I think something that’s common with depression for anybody that experiences it is the amount of thinking and diving that you do and sometimes it’s not healthy. Sometimes it’s insightful. We can only kind of judge after the event, which way that’s kind of leaned I guess. But in what transpired around the time of dad’s passing, I really started to see some patterns, family patterns and behaviours that I’d been a part of myself, you know, I’m not saying that they did this to me, and they’re all terrible, because that’s not how it is at all. But as individuals, we model the behaviour of the people that we hang around, you know, a lot of people have said to us over the course of the last few months, you are the sum of the five people you hang around with most. So if you’re hanging around with your family, mostly while you’re growing up, then chances are you’re going to really adopt those attitudes and beliefs and behaviours. But I got to the point where I was seeing some of this stuff, and I thought, hang on a minute, that’s not me. Yeah, here I am, having lived interstate for over 10 years now. And suddenly coming back into those dynamics just felt very constricting, it’s not through not loving them. It’s through having changed. Yeah, it’s through having actually grown in a different direction without falling into the patterns of tradition, or habit, you know, doing things because it’s the way it’s always been done.

 

Louise

Oh, my story around family is, I think, much different than yours. Those things that you’re describing about the patterns and, you know, wanting to break away from that, that feeling of constricted, I think I felt that a lot earlier. You’re feeling it in your 50th year or 49th year, and I was feeling it in my 17th year. So I broke away, I suppose you could say from the family unit at 17,

 

Andy

Which again, is not really uncommon. You know,

 

Louise

It’s not not uncommon

 

Andy

I’ve had friends over the years who have said similar sorts of things.

 

 

 

Louise

I feel hesitant to say these things, because I’m aware that expressing how I feel, in particular about my family might hurt other members of my family. And particularly expressing how I feel about my father is something he doesn’t have the chance to respond to, because he passed away a few years ago. It’s complicated, but I always felt like he was cruel to me. I don’t think that he meant it. But it certainly was how I felt about it. It was something that never really got better. It the dynamic of that never changed, I might have moved away when I was 17, to move 3000 kilometres across the country and go study uni at Wagga and make this independent life for myself. But you know, every time I would go back and see my parents, I would still feel like I was treated like that 14 year old girl. And I would feel small, and like, this wasn’t who I was. And it was constricting.

 

Andy

And again, I think that’s kind of something that I can relate to as well not to say that I felt like a 14 year old girl

 

Louise

You can if you want

 

Andy

Maybe I did. It’s pretty easy though to fall back into this is your role. This is where you fit kind of thing. And when you want something different to that, you know, when you don’t want to reject the family, but you want to reject how it feels like they’re relating to you, you know, like I was the baby 50 years ago, I’m 50 years old. Now I’m not a baby, that kind of thing. And that sounds kind of stupid and petty, it also transpires in certain things that are said, and certain ways that people feel they can treat you sometimes. And that’s something that we you know, when we go back into those situations, we kind of feel obliged to just keep on keeping on.

 

Louise

I was an only child, and I didn’t feel like I was good enough. And I mean that that’s that’s not only come through in a lot of my life experience, but I think it was something that I felt was reinforced by him. So a couple of days before he went into palliative care, which was really the last week of his life, parents had me round to their place, and he did this, you know, he could hardly talk as well, because he had cancer and it was affecting his lungs and his oesophagus. And but he had like one of those, you know, this is going to be, this is the talk. This is the last talk. These are the last words I might ever say to you talk. And he still couldn’t say I love you. He said, you haven’t been there for us. You haven’t done enough for us. You haven’t. You know, I need you to look after your mother from here. And look, I yeah,

 

Andy

That’s crushing within itself, isn’t it.

 

Louise

Yeah. So I mean, I didn’t agree with him, then I think it was through his eyes that he thought that I hadn’t done enough, or that I wasn’t going to be the person that that he wanted me to be because I’d moved all around the country. And I’d done these different things. And I was unmarried without kids. And I didn’t I don’t think I have that kind of nuclear life that maybe they expected for me. And he never really ever said he loved me. But I must say that I did think that a last words conversation would be a little bit like a Hollywood movie where the protagonist would say, you know, here’s the last chance that I’m ever going to have to tell you how I feel about you. And I want to tell you that I love you and that I’m proud of you. My father told me that I wasn’t good enough, backed up with requests look after your mother. Yeah, like that request was coming from a place of you need to do all these things for her. But my place of looking after someone has always been, I need to support you in whatever way I can support you, so that you can be empowered to do things for yourself. I mean, they never knew my mother now knows, because I told her a couple of weeks ago, because we were going to, we’re releasing this podcast, and I wanted her to find out from me and not the podcast, they never knew how many times I’d been suicidal. They never knew how much I struggled with any of those things. Because I couldn’t tell them. I didn’t tell them because I felt that “suck it up, princess” everyone gets sad, just get over it was going to be the response because I often felt from him that you would have a bad day at school, I would come home and I often felt like I would get bullied at home because of those kind of things. So I was never going to tell them that I was weak, was feeling down

 

Andy

It kind of sounds like he was like a bad sibling in a lot of ways.

 

Louise

So I suppose my experience with grief at my father eventually dying from that just over seven days later, wasn’t actually the last words that he ever said to me. By the way, that was just the last words conversation. The last thing that he ever said to me before the morphine kicked in is he thought I was a nurse and he groped my ass and said how about it.

 

Andy

Hot. That’s the stories you don’t hear every day.

 

Louise

And then he realised it was me, hit his morphine button and rolled back. I mean, for me that that experience of grief wasn’t. I wasn’t devastated that he died. He’d had cancer for a long time, I knew that he was suffering. So it felt a lot like relief, the grief that I experienced with that was knowing that it was never going to change, that I would never have another chance for him to turn around and say he loved me or for the relationship to change. It just wasn’t possible. But you know what it never was. If your last words and when you’re literally laying in your deathbed is you’ve not been good enough, then it was never going to change no matter what happened.

 

Andy

Yeah, there’s that is, which is completely different to my experience as well, in so far. As you know, I do have siblings, I got a real sense when dad went that things were changed completely for, you know, for better or for worse. He was old, you know, people, people die, you know, that old thing that people say”oh well they had a good innings” Well, that’s bullshit because it’s still sad that someone’s died, you know, but he was 86 when he went, and that doesn’t change the fact that, you know, we all suffered the shock and the grief of all of that. But then when he kind of got to the point where he kind of felt like I had completely lost my sense of my place in my family, because for so long, over so many decades, there have been so much competition, I could see for the attention of my parents, I was damned if I was going to actually be the one that people were competing over as the prize guest at Christmas, for example, I didn’t want to be that. And I didn’t want to interact with that. And here was my opportunity to say no, but jeez, it comes with a lot of other stuff as well that you just, what do you do with it? You don’t just kind of slip back into these patterns and pretend that everything’s okay. And nothing’s changed because they have and you know, as much as we’d like to think that we are rational thinkers, then something like that comes along and proves that we’re not

 

Louise

and then someone like Joe Forgus comes along and drops what we have affectionately started calling Joe bombs. In the first one, because he’s one of the most insightful people that we’ve ever spoken to, and has made us question everything about our existence and our decision making and everything that we think

 

Andy

so without any further ado, here is your first Joe bomb from Scientia Professor Joe Forgus AM from the University of New South Wales.

 

Joe Forgas 

I think, probably the first thing that we should clarify that we live in an age after the enlightenment, and we have a value system where we believe that people are fundamentally rational, logical decision makers. That’s our model. The reality however, is that based on evolutionary psychology, and a lot of cognitive and social psychological research is that human beings are fundamentally not like that. To put it simply, if you think about what it took for Homo sapiens to evolve over over 200,000 years. We assumed that understanding and and exploring reality truth was the most important skill, but in fact that is not so the most important survival demand for us was to live in a group and to be a good group member. So a lot of the decision making strategies that human beings display, and there is a lot of research on this already actually not particularly accurate when it comes to understanding reality, they serve another purpose, to behave and make decisions in a way that’s acceptable to the group, because group membership, and group integration was the primary adaptive requirement for survival. So in to put it really briefly, in many ways, humans are not particularly rational decision makers. And that that is reflected, of course, in the political area, as well. The notion that people rationally weigh up the pluses and minuses of the options available to them, is actually not the way it works. This is not a particularly new realisation, Plato 2000 years ago, had exactly the same view about human beings, he was an enemy of democracy, because he thought that people just cannot be trusted with being clear sighted and rational when it comes to making political decisions. And unfortunately, when you look around the world today and look at some of the political events, the election of Trump, Brexit, and generally the spread of anti democratic forces, you cannot see that something similar might be happening at our time. And of course, you need an explanation for that, why here and why now, which will take us into another discussion, I suppose.

 

Andy

It does seem quite odd that we’re repeating history, it seems I remember reading a lot of articles when Trump was in power, comparing his behaviours to that of Hitler, you know, that of Nazi Germany and some of the tactics that he was using to suppress public opinion and to change, change laws in his favour, that type of thing? Is it? Is it common for humans to have such a short memory because it really isn’t that far back that the Second World War ended.

 

Joe Forgas 

I don’t know that that humans really learned from history because, as you say, many of the historical events keep repeating themselves. And I actually fundamentally agree that, for example, Trump’s behaviour is very reminiscent of exactly the kind of populist autocratic behaviour of Mussolini and Hitler and Stalin. And people on both the political left and the political, right. It’s not only on the right, that you have that kind of populist behaviour, you have it on the left as well. And it’s hallmarked, essentially by a complete abandonment of the standards of rationality. So lies are acceptable, inconsistency is acceptable, reality becomes irrelevant. And people simply follow an emotional attachment to a leader. And so what psychologists and political scientists need to explain why is this happening? Why are people so easily swayed by somebody like Trump, who both obviously transparently, dishonest, narcissistic, and totally condescending towards the rule of law in the United States, and despite of that, he still got close to 50% of the vote after four years of this kind of behaviour. So you need to go and ask yourself, what is it about populist rhetoric that captivates people so easily. And we can go into this later, there are several psychological issues that that are relevant here. The fundamental tendency towards tribalism, for humans to basically, very easily identify with an in group and hate an out group that’s very easily brought out again, the cognitive shortcomings confirmation bias, we like to believe what we already believe, and selectively search for information to back up our existing biases and worldview. And there are many other cognitive effects which really all serve this purpose. I mentioned before, that for humans, it’s more important to be in a group and to be accepted by the group and to follow the ideology and the belief systems of the group than actually dealing with the complexities of reality

 

Louise

As an onlooker when I look at the situation in America with Trump and all the rhetoric around that, I look at it with I suppose, disbelief that people would fall for that but other people look The same facts that I’m looking at and seeing it in a completely different way. How do we take a piece of information that one would argue is reality? Even if reality is irrelevant and spin it in such like what goes on that we spin it like that?

 

Joe Forgas  

I think, for example, when we speak about Trump, specifically, Trump is a consequence of something. So what you have to ask yourself, why is it that 71 million Americans are swayed by this rhetoric? And I think several political scientists and psychologists have done research on that and but what they come up with, is that Trump in a sense is the consequence of the kind of aggressive identity politics, which has, which is a tribal politics itself, which basically had the result of a whole group of Americans feeling disenfranchised, ignored. When Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton said that those people that voted for Trump are the deplorables. That’s a very nice example of the exactly the kind of tribal thinking that started from the left. And the inevitable result of this kind of politics that the people who you call the deployables end up wanting to rebel against this ideology. So in a way, Trump’s followers responding to a decade’s long ago, several decades long process in the United States where the polarisation of ideologies and values has become stronger and stronger. And it’s naturally very unfortunate that somebody like Trump was the one who was able to exploit that dissatisfaction. But there is a real core of a political problem that would need to be dealt with.

 

Louise

So who is right? Is anybody right?

 

Joe Forgas

You know, that takes us back to the Enlightenment again, and the answer is John Stuart Mill, who wrote a fantastic essay on liberty. And he said, nobody’s died, nobody ever is completely right. What we have to do is to recognise that nobody is completely right. And the only way we can make any progress forward is by listening to each other, and being tolerant towards others. That’s, that’s the principle on which Western liberal democracy rests. Nobody is absolutely right. Everybody might have a bit of the truth. And we have to listen to them, and try to work out the best possible way to go forward. And once you lose that insight, once you become intolerant, once you adopt the kind of conflict theory, where social progress is a question of one group fighting another group, you lost the plot, what you end up with is tribalism and hatred. And that is a property of both ends of the political spectrum, it started probably going back in the United States, with Reagan. And every single presidential election just made this polarisation even more extreme, when you no longer accept even the right of the opposition to exist and have an opinion, that’s when it stops working. And I suppose you’d have to acknowledge there is no absolute right? We are trying to do the best we can we have to listen to each other. And the number one rule is tolerance and reasonableness and attention to the facts. And once you lose that, there is nothing left but hatred and fight.

 

Louise

So there’s no absolute right. And we’re all doing the best we can.  Another Joe bomb from Joe Forgus, there’s more of those in the season coming,

 

Andy

oh, we’ve got a heap of job bombs coming up. So buckle up.

 

Louise

Because none of us are right all the time. And we really are all doing the best we can. And it’s hard to accept that sometimes when you feel like someone has done something that’s hurt you

 

Andy

Well, especially when everybody is in a situation where emotions are high. And quite frankly, when it comes to grief, you’ve got chemicals going through your system that are there to shield you and protect you and things happen in your brain chemistry as you’re going through grief that don’t happen every day. And so this is combating things like shock. You know, suddenly we are faced with this question of mortality. And well, okay, if you want to think about yourself dying because someone close to us just died. And then suddenly somebody says something that normally we really wouldn’t kind of make any difference. But suddenly, it’s a big thing. Bang. But as Joe says, you know, we all come into these things from our own perspective.

 

Louise  

And it’s hard in a situation like I’m describing to because my father is not here to give his opinion anymore. He’s not here to give his side of the story. And I never had the courage to confront him about But when he was alive, I never had the courage to say to him that I think some of the things he says I mean, because I decided earlier on that I couldn’t argue with him because he did enjoy getting a rise out of me. So I stopped engaging in those conversations, because I didn’t want him to see that emotion from me, because I didn’t want him to delight in me getting upset. I guess I never could confront him and say how you’re behaving is inappropriate, how you’re behaving is cruel. And I never wanted to make that final statement of Get out of my life, because I’m tied to that blood family idea, just as well as everybody else in our culture is that you know, you stick by your family no matter what, but should you?

 

Andy

You know, we’ve come a long ways as a society. And when it comes to questions of individuality and what we shouldn’t do and shouldn’t be prepared to put up with, you know, it’s a very personal question. The only person that can really answer that is yourself. I think sometimes it becomes apparent for people very early on that their nuclear family, their family of orientation isn’t the best fit for them. We all carve out our own pathways in life. And we all strive for our own things. Some people have families of their own, or others do different things. Sometimes we get caught up in our own worlds, as well, you know, like, it’s very easy to get caught up here, what we’re doing from day to day, not actually realising that actually, you might not have actually paid that person due respect or their due time, I think it was pretty early on that I actually saw within my own family, where family’s not always the best fit. My grandmother would tell a story, when we were quite young, she had no bones about telling us that she only went to her own father’s funeral to make sure he went up the chimney. Which is terrible. It’s not the nicest thing to say about your dad. But, you know, I can see where she came from. All of the kids hated him, because he was the sort of guy that would go out for the day, he’d  line up all the kids before he went out, clip them over the ear and say, “Now, if you play up while I’m out, and your mother tells me when I get home, you’ll get another one.”

 

Louise

But I think your grandmother and I would have gotten along very well, because I felt a lot of relief after my father died, to be honest. And that feels like a really awful thing to say, yeah,

 

Andy

it’s one of those things that I’ve read about with grief, where relief isn’t uncommon, and people feel guilty for feeling relief, for whatever reason. But suddenly, there becomes a sense of with this change, that’s happened, sometimes there are opportunities, you know, for me, for the longest time I felt growing up that I couldn’t be myself. And I felt like I was displaying behaviours for my family, because it protected them from who I really was. And they knew who I really was. I was a poofter. I came out to them when I was in my early 20s. And the family were fine mum and dad loved me, you know, there’s no issues with my brothers, all that kind of stuff. But suddenly, after dead died, I started hearing things like, “Well, if you’re not careful, I’ll tell you what they really thought of you” and that kind of bullshit. You know, it was fucking hard enough losing Dad, let alone putting up with threats. Yeah. And sexuality is one of those big things, I was really fortunate to be able to say to my parents, and you know, have them accept me and love me and know who I was fully for that. And I was really grateful for that.

 

Louise

Yeah, I wouldn’t have had that experience. I don’t I don’t believe I would have had that experience. I really felt like my father in particular was really cruel about my body. And so I think I had a lot of body trauma around that, particularly around my weight, all the diets that I was put on when I was a kid. I think my first diet started when I was about eight, not pleasant. And I know that he didn’t like when I stood up to him and said things and talked back and called out bullshit. I know that those things resulted in conversations where he would get more and more argumentative to pull more things out to try to make me feel small and know that he was racist. It was a big deal when I told them when I was younger “oh, and I’m dating someone and he’s Chinese”. And then my father said, “why would why would that matter? Why would I have a problem with that? Those people know where they stand with me.” Well, yeah. I used to make this joke. I made this joke for decades, that the thing I could do the most to piss off my father would be if I was to bring a black woman home as my girlfriend. I made that joke for decades.

 

Andy

It kind of speaks to the polar opposite of what everything expected of you though, doesn’t it?

 

Louise

It kind of also speaks to the truth that I was hiding. That maybe I wasn’t straight. And that that was never something that I was going to be able to admit or act on, for fear of being thrown out of the tribe of family.

 

Andy

I guess it comes down to sometimes with these family dynamics as well that we stay in these family patterns of behaviour or whatever, because to some extent, they’re a source of comfort. They are what we’ve always known, and we know how to navigate that. So it can be pretty difficult to step out of that to break those patterns and to find another way.

 

Louise

Yeah. Okay, yeah, there’s the trauma wasn’t the depression, the depression episode wasn’t the trauma. It’s acknowledging that I am, I would have been thrown out of the tribe that I never could have come out as anything other than straight. Because I would have been thrown out of the tribe. And so is it a surprise that it’s not until after he dies that I started body positive? I started body positive Instagram where I try to empower other women to go you know, fact that shit love yourself as you are. Because, you know, I want to help other women. But I didn’t do that until after he died. Did I? Yeah. Right. Because why? Because he still tear me down about my body. And it wasn’t until after he died, that I started to question my sexuality. Why was that? How do these family relationships have this power over us?

 

Andy

And hold us back for decades, decades, but we could just be getting out there and doing our thing like everybody else?

 

Louise

Maybe we need another Joe bomb?

 

Andy

I think it’s time. Well, we know where the last Joe bomb landed us, so here’s another Joe bomb

 

Louise

How do we balance that confirmation bias in our own real lives, then if we can’t change what’s being presented to us by media outlets, then as a consumer, we need to find another way.

 

Joe Forgas

You know, the problem is that most people don’t want to find another way. And that goes back to my my first statement, human beings have not been designed to seek truth and rationality, human beings have been designed by evolution to be good members of a particular group. So searching for information that agrees with your particular virtue is the natural fallback condition, you can make a real effort to go out of your way. But you need to be probably highly informed, highly educated and very disciplined. The easy thing is just go with what you want to believe. And that’s what we do a lot of the time. And it’s in some ways, I think it’s almost a tragedy that the foundational values of Western liberal democracy of listening to the other person have weakened to such an extent that we have the current situation. Australia, of course, is a lot better than the United States or perhaps even the UK. But we going down the same road,

 

Louise

is there a way to find a common ground with someone

 

Joe Forgas  

about that might sound strange, but I think you’ll see people, people can be influenced by education, by norms, by observing behaviour in others. And what we ought to be doing is reaffirming those foundational principles of liberal democracy, tolerance, openness, respect for the other person. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are doing a particularly good job with that, in education, and certainly not necessarily at the universities. And there’s a lot of talk about about woke culture, cancel, culture, political correctness. And that does have a very serious effect on even the universities which ought to be the repositories of free speech and tolerance, very often not living up to that expectation. And of course, if that’s what you learn, and you go out into life, and you become a lawyer, or a corporate person, or a teacher, you’re going to push a particular ideology in preference of listening to what the other side has to say,

 

Andy

I want to pick up on that concept of free speech because it is something that we hear quite a lot when people are arguing or trying to argue their position or their point, particularly on social media. And the concept of free speech to me, the way I perceived it was that freedom of speech is, you know, in a political sense, the ability to be able to speak against authority to be able to say, You know what you feel needs to be said without prejudice, but it’s Seems to me people are interpreting it differently insofar as they’re saying, Well, I can call you a terrible name, or I can say something awful about the group that you belong to, and have no consequences. Because that’s my right to say that. Is that what the Enlightenment was hoping to achieve through freedom of speech?

 

Joe Forgas

Absolutely. In fact, that’s exactly what John Stuart Mill said, he said, I might violently disagree with what you say. But I will defend your right to say it to my last breath. It’s exactly like that. In other words, however, you might find hurtful, but somebody else says, it’s far better to hear it and to be able to respond to it, than suppressing it and not knowing that this is what some people think. So from where I stand, I think free speech is an almost universal principle. And once you go down the road, when you say, Well, this is hurtful to somebody, then how do you define hurtful, then anybody can find anything hurtful. And you might prohibit that being said, and that will not produce any kind of progress or any kind of tolerance

 

Louise

Another job bomb Hey, even if it’s hurtful, it’s better to hear it, and respond to it, than suppress it and not know, he knows how to call us out on our bullshit, doesn’t he?

 

Andy

Yeah, every time. It’s just like, the whole lay of the land has just been levelled. And here we are, with just what it is. It’s all, you know, raw or not. That’s just how it is.

 

Louise

But we need to make a distinction between hurtful and hateful.

 

Andy

Yeah, I think that’s definitely something that’s really useful, because there’s something that rang true for me in what he was saying in that as well. Because I think with any of this stuff with any of these bombs that Joe’s laying on us, they can be applied to the broader context of society. But also, you know, we can draw comparisons to our own personal experiences. And I’ve been talking about the experience of when my father passed away and things that were happening out there and how my mental health was suffering at the time as well. And I do remember when somebody pointed out some of my behaviour at that time, or from that time later on in conversations, it did hurt to hear it. Yeah, you know, I didn’t want to feel like I was being the asshole. I didn’t want to feel like I was being hurtful to other people. But I was. And that’s where I was, at that time in that stage of my grief, and would hate to think that I was hurting anybody. But there it was, and I had to hear it.

 

Louise

I think we’ve all been an asshole to somebody at some point. Even though we would like to think that we haven’t, I don’t want to ever be thought of as hurtful, but I’ve certainly hurt people, the way we feel mentally really makes a huge difference in that I know when I’ve, I suppose acted out of anxiety. I’ve said things that have hurt people, when I’ve felt like I’ve been at a too much of a mental capacity to listen to other people, I think they’ve probably felt dismissed and not validated. And that’s been hurtful. It was accidental, but it certainly was true example that rings to me is before my father died, he was in a coma in that hospital for about three days beforehand. In those last days, Mum was really, I think, distraught with grief. And she got very angry at me. And he started yelling at me in the hospital corridor next to his room about things that I did when I was seven. And yeah, it’s unfair, and really upset me. And it was hurtful. But you know what, it wasn’t hateful. Because you’ve got to have compassion for somebody, when they’re in that space, that space of grief when they’re latching on to anything that might make them feel better when it’s all so overwhelming. She never meant to be hurtful, that she hurt me in that space because she was in a place of hurt herself and suffering grief. And I probably said things that hurt her back.

 

Andy

Yeah. And I think there is that line, definitely between hurtful and hateful, because I can think of other interactions that I’ve had, where people have, whether on the defensive or on the attack, who knows, whatever state of mind, they were in at the time when they said it, but they’ve made threats, whether that’s threats to expose me in some way, or threats to expose the real feelings of people from my past or whatever, you know, it’s stuff and that kind of stuff is hateful. That’s not hurtful. So the difference for me in that experience was yet it was hurtful for me to hear that I had hurt somebody. And that was something that I needed to front up and own. And I do own that. But the other version of that is you did this, your’re shit. And if you don’t stop, I’m going to really tell you what I think of you.

 

Louise

So when Joe tells us that it’s better to hear the hurtful things. Let’s get some more clarity on what he means by defining hurtful.

 

Joe Forgas

There’s many examples of that by that historically, and I’m amazed that people don’t realise it. If you think about the Soviet Union for 70 odd years So that was a totalitarian dictatorship, that every form of speech was controlled on a level that you can’t even dream of, or the radio station. So the TV stations or the media, everyday conversation, everything had to conform to an ideology. And then you ask yourself, did this succeed in changing people’s minds? And the answer is not at all. 70 years later, when the Soviet Union collapsed, the same prejudices, the same hatreds came to the surface immediately. Another example is Yugoslavia, you might remember a country called Yugoslavia, in the Balkan states, a country of seven Republic’s who hated each other. Since time immemorial, when Yugoslavia was formed, it was also a totalitarian communist country, and for 50 years, all forms of speech that completely controlled, the moment the country disappeared, the first thing that happened is that people started killing each other, prohibiting free speech did nothing for tolerance, people still think whatever they want to, and you’d better know about it, if you want to deal with it,

 

Andy

it seems that the concept of speech is being conflated with with action with action that would be backed up by what they perceive that speech to represent. So for example, if somebody says that they hate somebody in particular, that’s very different than actually making a physical representation of their with their fists, or by shooting them or something like that. So is that kind of a distinction that that we need to look at when we’re talking about freedom of speech?

 

Joe Forgas

Yes, absolutely. I think speech should not ever be regulated and suppressed, because speech is the medium whereby people express their beliefs and their values, and however much you disagree with it, if you want them to change, you’ve got to hear it, you will not change them, if you prohibit it. And that’s why I think a lot of the current chains of political correctness and woke and cancel culture are totally counterproductive. Because if you start regulating speech and you equate speech, with actually action and behaviour, which might be criminally punishable, you stop all possibility of social progress and discourse, we have to be able to hear what anybody thinks, even if you disagree with it. And there are actually in liberal democracies, very few examples up to this point of states trying to regulate speech. I mean, one example I can think of in Germany, you are not allowed to be a Holocaust denier. In Canada, Jordan Peterson has been on the record for objecting for compliant speech where people have to use particular personal pronouns. I personally would be a libertarian, I think all forms of speech, even Holocaust denial should be allowed. So we can debate it and know about it and do something about it. Suppressing speech is never the solution to solve any problem

 

Louise

from a personal level, if someone is speaking something that is hurtful to you, and they’re coming from a place of hate, and you’re coming from a place of hurt. So I would say that you’ve got to set a personal boundary and say, This is not something that I want to or need to listen to in my life, but then that opinion of theirs doesn’t change. Like specifically, I work in activism with marginalised bodies. And if you intentionally bullying or harassing somebody, and you’re, you’re saying your opinion is right about this, and their existence is wrong, it causes a lot of hurt to those people. Like if every if everyone’s allowed their free speech, how do you work through that? And say, yes, you’re entitled to your opinion about me and my right to exist, but how do we, how do we get along? How do we change that?

 

Joe Forgas 

Well, we always have done throughout human history, there have always been people who had hateful ideas, there have always been people who were not polite. There will always people who have presented views that we disagree with. And the only way to deal with it, is to firstly you have to hear it so you know what you are dealing with. And then we have to stick by the rules of how we debate matters. So when you start suppressing speech, you eliminate any possibility of actually solving the problem or dealing with it. It’s totally counterproductive if you don’t know what people think you can deal with it. And who is going to decide what’s going to be prohibited and who is going to decide who is getting hurt and by how much. This will never solve the problems of intolerance or prejudice. You need to hear it. And again, I think history is the proof that Countries which had liberal democracies and open discourse, have done a far better job of getting out of deeply held prejudices, for example, anti semitism than countries that had prohibited speech, like the Soviet Union, or Yugoslavia. dictatorships never succeed in changing people’s minds by prohibiting them to express what they really think the only way you deal with it, is by allowing the opinions to be expressed. So I honestly think you cannot have social progress by prohibiting speech, that’s not the way  to go.

 

Andy

As much as we’d like to think that we’re all

 

Louise

level headed. Absolutely rational, when or not. And very personally, we do.

 

Andy

Yeah. And I would say it’s quite rare for people to stick to the rules of debate when they speak out about something.

 

Louise

When Joe was talking to us, the first thing that did pop into my mind was when someone speaks hurt to you, in that case, like, you know, I’m a plus size woman have been for a long time, and a lot of people are going to have an opinion about my body. And I honestly think that it’s none of their business. So being in that space, and also, you know, putting myself on the internet and trying to encourage other people to love themselves the way they are, it does attract a lot of trolls, a lot of people who say horrible things when Joe said, you know, we need to listen to those things that kind of makes me feel like no, I don’t, why should I listen to somebody who’s just being like that. But that’s where that distinction is, there’s a difference in opinion on whether you like barbecue sauce and tomato sauce, but telling someone that they don’t have a right to exist, or to be happy to be fulfilled, that their very core is wrong. That’s not sticking to the rules of debate.

 

Andy

No, that’s actually going far beyond anything of decency, really. And I think I can use the word decency there. Yeah. Because to deliberately go out and say something that is going to have the effect of making somebody doubt themselves or feel bad about themselves, or worse. That’s not fair play. And that’s not something that should be considered free speech, because that’s hateful. That is something that can cause harm. You can debate, you know, whether something is healthy or not whether you know, barbecue sauce is better for one particular foodstuff or not, that’s just stuff that is opinion. But when you say My opinion is that you should not exist, and you’re taking up space that you shouldn’t. That’s a completely different mindset that is dangerous.

 

 

Louise

And I’m talking about this from a body perspective. And this does apply it applies to you know, gender, sexuality,

 

Andy

or anything.

 

Louise

Any other thing that you can be bothered by. Yeah, absolutely.

 

Andy

I’d be very surprised if anybody listening to this podcast hasn’t been othered in some way by somebody else. At some point. You know, I’ve been othered by members of my family at certain points for different reasons, in different ways. And I can say that with complete honesty, because I call it out when it happens. But it seems to be something in society where people throw each other under the bus, maybe I’m going a little bit too far down the path here. But sometimes, we will say something to throw somebody else under the bus to protect ourselves. And we shouldn’t ever, ever be in that position. And we should never put anybody else in that position.

 

Louise

And not for me to go on about fat phobia again, but I’m going to go on about fat phobia or

 

Andy

Any Excuse For Fashion, on Instagram. Check it out,

 

Louise

like, okay, so, there’s a lot of supportive people. But also, you know, I have people jump on to my Instagram and say things like, Hey, Fatty, you’re going to have a heart attack and die soon. If you don’t lose weight, you won’t live till you’re 30 or, you know, fucking joke’s on you. Because I’m forty, mate. Also,

 

Andy

so that means you looking good, right? They just paid you a compliment. He looks like look like you’re in your 20s Fat don’t crack

 

Louise

fat don’t crack. But like also, then, you know, they mask things. Sometimes the hatefulness is marked behind a, “this is for your health. I’m just concerned about you”. I know this was conversation today. This episode has also been around families. And this is a very common thing that people with other bodies experience is a lot of that kind of, I’m just looking after your health criticisms in regards to your bodies, particularly around family gatherings, particularly around you know, Christmases and New Year’s and anywhere where there’s a big group of people that get together

 

 

Andy

it’s things that aren’t said at Christmas time.

 

Louise

Do you need that second helping of dessert. Yes, I do. Yes, I do. BEcause it’s fucking Christmas,. But you know, so you get people saying, Oh, well, I’m concerned about your health and is the same kind of reasoning were at the start of when the COVID vaccine was made available. So one of the conditions that you could have early on was actually obesity. That’s because it’s considered a pre existing condition, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and you’re more vulnerable to those kinds of things. So just say I’m concerned about your health. And then a lot of those trolls would turn around and say, why should you be able to have the vaccine first, that’s not fair to me? Well, you aren’t actually concerned about my health then, are you, you’re just being hateful.

 

Andy

I’m just gonna make a wild assumption here that those same trolls are probably the same people marching in the street saying you can’t tell me what to do. Well, it make me get vaxed. It’s the same mindset.

 

Louise

But I’m not going to make that assumption, because we all have internalised everything in this case internalised fat phobia. We have internalised sexism, we have internalised prejudices, that can manifest and do manifest in all of us in some way. It’s polarising, for sure. And this is, you know, something that Joe talks about is these, we’re talking about these extremes when we’re talking about things like, you know, Trump and Brexit. But yeah, but they’re  extremes in that context. But they’re things that we experience in our day to day life, because we don’t communicate with each other, we can’t communicate with each other without getting hurt.

 

Andy

And also there is a basic lack of taking responsibility for and owning what we say and what we do as well. So you know, there are times when somebody will take ownership of something and say, Look, you know, I’m really sorry that I did that. And I didn’t mean to hurt, I’m sorry that it hurt you. But then on the other side of the equation, some hurt has also been exchanged. But sometimes it’s not acknowledged either in return. So sometimes people are not ready. And will never be ready to actually consider that and to take ownership. And I think as we consider some of these things that are happening throughout our lives, we have to really assess for ourselves how much more energy we can put into that relationship. Because if it’s only ever going to be one sided, if you’re always going to be wrong, if you’re always going to be the one that’s going to be on the backfoot and apologising for who you are and what you believe in and what you do, then that really is no way to kind of boost your self esteem or to actually make you confident in living the life and who you’re meant to be. So I guess what I’m saying is that as life progresses, and as we learn different things about ourselves, and we grow, sometimes the tribes that we’ve been hanging out with for most, if not all of our lives aren’t a good fit anymore. And far from saying, just ditch them and find another tribe, because I don’t think that’s the answer at all. I do think it is useful to expand your tribe, I really love that we’re using Joe’s terminology here. But in the sense that, you know, I’ve got certain values that I live by, and certain expectations and standards within my own life. If those values aren’t met with the people that are current in my life, then I need to find ways and connections with people who actually do support that. And it’s completely available to me whether I hang around with that previous tribe, more or not,

 

Louise

I think there’s value in that the thing that I suppose triggers inside of me when we start to talk about this tribe stuff from a position of being marginalised about my body is I start to think, well, if they’re going to make a really loud tribe that says, you don’t deserve to exist, maybe I can make a bigger tribe that says, No, your opinion doesn’t deserve to exist. And I don’t think that’s the answer either. is a way to do it to create the loudest tribe if tribalism is what drives people. Do you just recruit more people into your tribe? Like, I’m thinking specifically of my work with marginalised bodies? Like, do you just encourage more people to join you in that tribe?

 

Joe Forgas

You know, honestly, I would not necessarily, people always will be tribal, and forming social groups for the purpose of exerting pressure is a perfectly normal and legitimate ways for societies to progress. But what is really important to respect the individual choice of joining or not joining a tribe. So what I’m trying to say with this, that we all belong to a super ordinate tribe, you know, we are humans. And we are a party to a tradition which affirms that we are humans, and we have entitlements, because we are all humans, you know, that’s the Martin Luther King view, or social justice. Promoting tribalism is potentially very dangerous being it’s very easily lost. It’s very easy to become irrational and potentially violent. So it’s very important for these associations to be respecting the universal humanity of everybody. Certainly, you might join a group for the purpose of advancing your own interests. But do not forget that people on the other side are also part of the same group you belong to, you know, they also human beings and the danger with tribalism is it’s very easy to get to the stage, where you ignore the fact that the other person that you disagree with, is also a human being and is entitled to exactly the same rights even if you don’t like what they believe.

 

Andy

So is democracy then just another form of tribalism?

 

Joe Forgas

Democracy, I think is not a form of tribalism. I think democracy, again, you go back to the foundational values. If you think about human history, you know, I’m copying on that 200,000 years, we have always lived in groups. If you go back before the 18th century, if you were born anywhere, at any time, the accident of your birth, totally determined who you are and what you can do in this life, you’ve been a member of the group and totally included in it. The amazing revolutionary idea of the Enlightenment is the message that it doesn’t have to be like that you can be an individual, you are free, you can choose, you can make up your mind, you can choose not to be the group, you can do something about it. And democracy is based on the idea that individuals are the basic unit of society and not groups. And it’s individual choice that determines the outcome of how we are going to leave. In some ways I would say groups are very important in channelling opinions and exerting political pressure. But we should never forget that the foundational unit of a democracy is always the individual. And individuals should never be assigned into a group, unless they choose to be

 

Andy

is there a definable limit to the the acceptability of certain groups that people can break away from. So for example, I’m thinking of family units, where there are very defined traditions and ways and values that people adhere by and if somebody tries to be too individual and break away from a lot of that, then there’s the risk of rejection.

 

Joe Forgas

Yes. And that that, again, is the has a deep evolutionary background, detection by the group, for most of our history has been dying, you could not survive. I mean, the only trick we have humans to survive, is that we are incredibly good in being in a group and doing things together. So we are incredibly sensitive to rejection. But individualism, of course brings with it the danger that if you violate a group, you are going to be rejected by that group. But then you have the benefit that you can choose to join another group, you are free to make up who you want to associate with, you can free to decide who your reference group is going to be your who, which people you want to associate with. So, yes, the risk of rejection is always there. But the freedom of individual choice, in my view, at least far outweighs that.

 

Louise

And we are we out of joy bombs for today? Yeah.

 

Andy

Can we just cue the trauma porn music? I’ve got to say, like, I can talk about this sort of stuff pretty freely now, because I’ve dealt with it. You know, I think anyone listening to this podcast, may at some point question whether any of these things we’re talking about are actually legit, because we’re not wringing our hands and falling into tears. That’s passed, we’ve actually you know what, I think we’ve actually we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve screamed, we’ve done all sorts of things together. Oh, we’ve been putting this series together, we were getting these grabs out and actually going through these experiences that we’re talking about in between the grabs. Some days, I just wanted to log off and go straight to bed.

 

Louise

And in some days, I did log off and go straight to bed. Because we did go through this process of putting these, what, 42 episodes together in a storyboard form, we did grab the parts from our life and write them down in, in chunks of okay, well, which part of trauma is going to go with with this section? And what does that bought up for us?

 

Andy

So I made word art for the trauma, that’s how prevalent it was throughout those weeks of storyboarding.

 

 

 

Louise

And so for we storyboarded this, I’d say for at least three weeks straight, all these episodes. So we did in that. It’s like, it was like going to your psychologist for eight hours a day, and bringing up everything that had ever bothered you and reframing it. And so that’s why we sit here now, I suppose talking about things that at one stage would have been really upsetting for us, but because we put in that work already, we can talk about them without feeling triggered by them.

 

Andy

So here’s a case in point when my father passed away, it really felt like a breaking point where as Joe would put it, we can be ourselves finally because we don’t have a certain restriction or other. My father wasn’t the restriction. I was my own restriction. I want to make that very clear. And my family were the tool I used to restrict my self within this because when it came to my family, I felt like that I’d been for a long time projecting an acceptable version of myself, even of my gay self that aligned to, you know, what I would term now was or a lot of people would term as a hetero normal expectation. So growing up I wasn’t able to share that I had a crush on someone because guess what the person was usually the same sex. In fact, that person was always the same sex. During my teens, it manifested in odd little ways. I remember getting busted. Okay, here’s a story that I probably haven’t told anybody, but any of my school friends who might be listening would remember if they were on this particular excursion. I was so wanting to project an image of myself being straight that I went and bought a porn magazine from a newsstand on a school excursion. not realising that I’d actually raced ahead not fallen behind the pack, and everybody saw me buying it and laughed. It was a copy of a magazine that also had a supplement called “Sexy Mel” in there. And Sexy Mel was a special publication of Mel Appleby, who was half of Mel and Kim, who, prior to being in the singing team, with her sister had done some raunchy stuff for Mayfair. You know, teenage boys found that all great and I wanted to be titillated by it. I bought it so I could try and be titillated. I wasn’t titillated by it,

 

Louise

I think you should stop using the word titillated. Andy, I know we’ve already given this podcast and explicit rating but

 

Andy

I know… what was I…

 

Louise

the swimsuit calendars.

 

Andy

The swimsuit calendars! I had a Cindy Crawford swimsuit calendar on my bedroom wall. Come on. I mean, it was opposite the Bananarama poster. I mean, they were girls, sure, but it was fucking Bananarama. So you know, I mean, so as a gay person growing up in that era, I didn’t feel safe. I didn’t feel like I could be myself. I didn’t feel like that it was right. In fact, you know, I didn’t even acknowledge that was me. I was trying my hardest to pick up these things that would make me not feel that way. And make me not look that way.

 

Louise

What was it like when you finally had a partner?

 

Andy

Ah, well, actually, so when I came out, my parents were great. They accepted me, they loved me. And they were the wonderful people that I always knew that they were my partner was always welcome at the family gatherings, they were always welcome at the dinner table, just like any anybody else, like my sisters in law. But I never feel comfortable holding his hand in front of anybody in my family or demonstrating affection in that environment. I think it really is kind of, again, one of those blocks I put in for myself, because I guess if we don’t push the boundaries, we never get to where we want to go. And I was never able to show affection for my partner in front of my family in front or my in front of my parents. I have other family that still survives, it may yet happened. But at this point in time now, you know, and I think also, that’s part of the reason why in a broader context, I also decided not to have children, because there were gay couples back then having babies. In fact, there was a documentary called gaby baby. And do you think I actually wanted to bring a child into this world and have that kind of undue attention on them, because their parents were the same sex? I could have. And I could have been brave like those other couples and done exactly that. But that wasn’t me. I can spend hours like anybody else trying to blame this person, or that person, or this institution, or whatever. But all I’m going to do is make myself angry, and sad and upset. And it’s not the kind of life I want to live, I’d rather find my own peace with those sorts of things and move on from them.

 

Louise

And you know, I feel this way about my childhood, and that those things definitely affected me. I never felt like I would be good enough, no matter what I did, it was never going to be enough. A lot of weight related insults that came from my father about how I looked affected the opinions that I had about myself, I think I would have needed to be someone completely different, to be acceptable. And I don’t think as well that I felt like I could be myself truly even look at the concept of exploring who I really was until after he died. Now, part of that, you know, he has to have a responsibility for but I need to take responsibility for the other part of that, because, yes, those things might have been a part of my formative years. But why did it take me so long to feel like I could be myself? Like how much do you hold somebody else as responsible for the way that you feel? And not except that you’ve had the you’ve had the capacity to break away from that to change those feelings to work on that in those other those other 25 years?

 

Andy

Yeah, it’s like we find ways to shield ourselves and deflect but in the end, and it’s by no means an easy task, because here we are, with the benefit of hindsight and three weeks of therapy at eight hours a day. Without storyboarding

 

 

Louise

and and the therapy along the way and talking to all these wonderful people.

 

Andy

And also the work that we’ve been doing with our own therapists, as well, like this hasn’t come out of nowhere. These things that we say now and these things that we realise have come from a point of, ah, okay, I get it. So I don’t have to actually take that stuff on what other people say. They will say what they say, if somebody says something hurtful or hateful to me, then that’s on them.

 

Louise

Easier said than done, but it is on them

 

Andy

yeah, but I don’t owe them a response even, because it’s far from being a wimp, and far from being someone who doesn’t stand up for themselves. Because why would I choose to enter that kind of interaction? If somebody launches at me with something that is so hateful? Why should I even give that the time of day? But we do.

 

Louise

Yeah. Because when you choose to be an individual, you break away from a tribe and breaking away from a tribe can be really lonely.

 

Andy

Yeah. And in breaking away from one tribe, are we just stepping into another one with our blinkers on?

 

Louise

It makes us wonder if there are other social biases outside of tribalism that we aren’t aware of? How do we know that the choice we’re making is indeed our individual choice and not something that’s been biased by society, really

 

Joe Forgas

Well that’s a tricky, tricky question. Because of course, we are biased and influenced by society, we are profoundly social creatures. And almost everything we think and no comes from somebody else. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot put together a mosaic of individual ideas, ideologies, beliefs, that allow us to make our own choices and select our own groups. But I’m really mainly objecting to is the kind of ideologies, which say, You got to be a member of this group, because of the accident of your birth. That is what the Enlightenment denied. And that’s why liberal democracies have been so successful, because they argued that doesn’t have to be that way. Nobody has to be a member of any group that they choose not to be, you know, I might be a migrant, as I’m abusing them. But whether I want to identify with that group or not, it’s my choice. I would go as far as that even if you born into, say, a minority group, it’s up to you to what extent you want to take that identity as yours, you don’t have to, you could choose not to consider yourself as a member of that group. And trying to define and reduce people into a general group membership is the most terrible violation of individuality. It’s not groups that have views, it’s always individuals and individual, a group of individuals might join up for the purpose of representing a view. But you cannot decide a priori, that if you happen to be, I don’t know, black or any other group, you must have that particular set of beliefs, because it’s up to you.

 

Louise

Are there other social biases that perhaps outside the group and tribalism, that form a part of our decision making, that we aren’t aware of?

 

Joe Forgas

that in some ways, all our biases, social because they have been shaped by the demands of social survival. So the human brain we are born basically, with hardware, if you like, which has built in programmes have been probably a very interesting example. I’m sorry, it’s tribalism again. But the experiments by a social psychologist called our research fellow at Bristol University. He was a Holocaust survivor and an experimental social psychologist. And he asked the question, why do people hate other groups so easily? And he wanted to find out what is the absolute minimum it takes for prejudice to occur. So when you take away history, and conflict and and opposition for resources, and resentment, you take all this away. Would people still show prejudice against another group. And he’s done a fascinating series of experiments, which were basically he assigned people into groups in totally meaningless way. So he would flip a coin. And he would say, Okay, you are in group A, and flip the coin. Again, you are in group B. So that was the group, just a label. And then he asked participants in his experiments to make decisions about allocating resources, for example, lottery tickets, so the boards are money to two people about them. The only knew that one of them is in Group A and the other one is in Group B. totally anonymous, you don’t know who you don’t know who they are, and you have no idea about this means anyway. And what he found is that people significantly discriminate against the odd group member automatically, despite the fact that neither group nor the individual has any content or meaning. So I mentioned that as an illustration that when something occurs so reliably, and so universally, it does have an evolutionary origin. And we bring these predisposition with us to social life and politics. And this is why Trump calling on Make America Great Again, can resonate with so many people because he activates this group identification. And that’s why it’s a very, very dangerous thing to do.

 

Louise

Last Joe bomb of the episode, I swear, but there’s gonna be more Joe bombs that have caused as much existential angst in the upcoming episodes of Reframe Of Mind. He’s really left us with, I think, more questions and answers about who we are as an end.

 

Andy

Well, yeah, for example, as he so eloquently put it, if we don’t have to be a member of the group, because of the accident of our birth, who are we? And what do we want to be and who do we want to be? from our own perspective, you and I, Louise,  believed we needed to decide how we want to shape ourselves, but also our business outside of these traditional tribal dynamics.

 

 

 

Louise

And by speaking our truth, I mean, sometimes we’re going to hurt other people. But does that mean we need to keep it all inside and hurt ourselves instead to avoid hurting somebody else? Can we be hurtful, not hateful,

 

Andy

I’m gonna be reaching for the doona soon I think.

 

Louise

Right back to bed after this one. Next time on Reframe Of Mind though, we discuss where you start when there are so many options, tasks and choices to make.  New

 

Andy

We’ve got New South Wales Young Australian of the Year 2021 Nathan Parker who shares his story and how he pushes through this exact conundrum.

 

Nathan Parker

I think was just about no matter how hard it got, no matter what challenges were in front of me, just find that next smallest choice that I can do, to regain control and keep moving forward.

 

Louise

If you’re concerned about yourself or someone you know, please seek professional advice and support you can contact Beyond Blue on one 1300 224 636 or at beyond blue.org.au.

 

Andy

Or you can contact lifeline on 13 11 14 or at lifeline.org.au. We’d like to thank today’s guests for sharing their personal stories and insights and for more information on any of the subjects guests or references used in this episode. Please see our show notes or reframeofmind.com.au

 

Louise

Reframe Of Mind is a Welcome Change Media Production.

Check out some of our other guests who appear throughout Reframe of Mind: