Commentaries posted do not necessarily represent the opinion of LDN.

 Any opinions expressed are those of the writers.

Desensitization of choice

By Jim Killebrew

Send a link to a friend  Share

[May 31, 2014]  In the treatment of such things as fears or phobias the behavioral psychologist might use a procedure called "Desensitization" to help the individual "unlearn" the "fear" by systematically subjecting the individual to the very thing feared. The science behind the procedure is that a fear is learned or acquired through some sort of conditioning process that exposed the person to an event or series of events that elicited a fear response. In contrast, relaxation or something opposite of the fear counteracts the fear and causes it to dissipate. So, desensitization is a technique of behavior therapy in which the person is gradually exposed to the feared object while simultaneously practicing relaxation.

The procedure is systematically applied so the individual will not be confronting the fear with full force. So the therapist constructs a list of feared experiences or objects that are only slightly feared and arranges those lesser fears in order from least to most feared. So it makes sense to expose yourself to something that is only a mild fear until the person "gets used to it" and can be approached by it while experiencing no fear. Then the person moves on to the next slightly fearful thing to approach; when fear begins to arouse the person, relaxation is practiced. The sequence of movement toward more fearful experiences leading to the most fearful object or experience "desensitizes" the person to that thing feared the most.

I have said all that as a set-up for what I really want to write about; that is choices. Everyone knows we have choices to make, we make choices almost every minute of the day. But we need to understand that choices we make have consequences and those consequences sometimes come around to bite us. We cannot have the right of choice without also having the consequences, if you will, of personal responsibility. Sometimes we are flippant about the choices we make and believe our personal choices remain only our affair; the fact is most all of our choices reach out to those we care about the most. Personal responsibility is the Hallmark of maturity.

In much the same way we become desensitized to various stimuli in our environment, we also become sensitized to the choices we make. As we expose ourselves to various ideas, concepts, activities, objects, attitudes, friendships, routines and practices we become sensitized to whatever object or condition about which we make choices.

Just as an example how this works, take the choice of violence; the type of violence we have seen in public schools, colleges, offices, theaters and malls. We see a person about whom neighbors and family report being very surprised the person acted out in such a way as to take up arms and enter a work space or public place and open fire or slash people with knives. In the aftermath the authorities most often find "triggers"
to that behavior and more often than not those triggers consist of graphic materials that end with outcomes of mayhem and violence. Graphic movies or graphic games that lead the person into battles that simulate the "real" thing, even though the simulation is not the "real" thing; but eventually, through a sensitizing process, the person makes choices that lead to the "real" thing.

[to top of second column]

We call it a craving or a lust to experience more. In the same way pornography begins as what some call "innocent curiosity" morphs into a full-blown desire to experience the "real" thing. Our choice for the graphic games begin with the innocuous, almost cartoonish, games like "breakout" or "PAC-MAN" then move to the graphic shooting, bombing, slamming, killing, bloody, almost outlandish scenes of violence that sensitizes the person to the lower level and builds in a craving to move on to more until it is only a very small step from moving onto the actual experience.

Within that process of sensitizing from "least" to "most" we make choices. The choice is to consider moving on to something more graphic or stopping where we are. It may be only an incremental step from one level to another, but that small step might be the little "straw that broke the camel's back." Ultimately the cumulative effect of one small choice to devolve further into the abyss of destruction is taken one step at a time until the fantasy moves into the reality of experiencing what has not yet been experienced. One day it is slaying Godzilla; the next day it is slaying shoppers in a mall.

Without a standard by which to measure the distance of one's personal moral compass the materialistic, unfettered downward spiral travels unchecked until the people in a society finally look around at the mass killings, any-thing-goes, no-holds-barred climate of culture when the people see the dismal condition in which they are living. Gangs, crime and corruption abound when the people have rid themselves of their need for a higher, moral authority and strike out on their own to make the ever elusive utopia they long for. One choice after another based on only the sensitized previous choice

The Bible informs us in the letter from James that our desires draw us away into sin. "But each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15) We make a choice when we are enticed and if we have been sensitized and ready to move on to something more exciting and real, we make the choices from more intense stimuli until finally we make the choice to do unthinkable things.

So the next time a parent buys a graphic Xbox game or video with such graphics, it is entirely possible that parent is enabling that child to become sensitized to that level of game and will make the choice to want more with the next one. Don't be surprised if one day the parents and all the neighbors say something like, "He was such a sweet, gentle boy, I can't imagine him doing such a thing in that crowded theater."


Click here to respond to the editor about this article.



< Recent commentaries

Back to top