Exerting Control

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If you really start to think about the expression ‘you catch more flies with honey’ it becomes clear that when it comes to exerting control over others appearances can be deceptive.

When most of us think of control we think of abusive people, people who use fear, doubt, and intimidation to get their way, who resort to emotional, psychological, and physical violence, who bully their victims into submission, who use negative reinforcement as their go to training tool.

But in the behavioral paradigm where the training goal is making behaviors more likely to occur in the future, which is what control is all about really, utilizing negative the reinforcements is only utilizing half of the training repertoire. There are also positive reinforcements,  offering rewards, dangling something the organism wants right in front of it and then doling it out at or around the time of the desired behavior.

At the end of the day, control is control, regardless of the methods employed to get there. The methods one person uses might be abhorrent and aversive to us while the methods another person uses might be pleasant and desirable to us. But when we look past the training methods, past the way these methods make us feel in the moment, we find that in both cases our behavior stems not from our own free choices on how we want to live and be in the world but through being manipulated by some outside entity.

And so if we truly are concerned with freedom, about walking our own paths and making our own life choices, we should be just as repelled by the honey as we are by the whip, just as repelled by the seemingly pleasant and desirable positive reinforcements as by the unwanted negative reinforcements when these reinforcements serve the more nefarious purpose of controlling our long-term behavior for ends outside of us. Control comes in many guises, and true human freedom starts with recognizing all of them, not just the aversive forms by which we are immediately repelled.