We have this reward system in our mind, always hungry, always looking, and always crying out like a kid looking for a cookie.
This is how I see it:
When the good news is in and when things are right, the kid is happy. When everyone is friendly and everyone is supportive, when the votes are for and not against, the kid thrives. But take something away, throw in an insult, throw in fear, throw in anything you can think of that would be unsettling for a kid to hear; throw in an uncomfortable turn or an unexpected stream of bad news and take away the reward. Suddenly, the kid starts to worry.
Next the kid starts to panic. Next, the kid starts to act out cry because the wealth of good news and good feeling has become a description of the kid’s importance. This becomes an interactive problem. This becomes an interpersonal problem.
Fear is a funny problem. It’s not always real; the fear, I mean. Not everything that seems lost is actually lost at all, but the kid in the rewards system is afraid that everything is gone. It’s not the facts but the illusions in the reward system that brings fear to the kid because let’s face it; no kid wants to be hungry.
I see it this way. I really do.
The kid in the reward system cried and the parent in the intellect system has to figure out how to keep this kid quiet.
The reward system has no concern about cost. It just wants more. And the kid, that’s all the kid understands is more; and if you take something away, it is literally like taking a toy away from a child.
I have encountered a fact with successful athletes that suffered an injury or a transfer to another team and either lost their place on the squad or found their place was now on the bench as second string, and by losing their place, they did not only lose their spot in the competition, but they also lost their spot in the celebration as well.
I have spoken with athletes that suffered losses in one on one, combat sports, as well as other practitioners that have committed themselves to the art of self-defense. It is a strange thing when the mind is regulated by reality.
I spoke with a man that while rolling in a jiu-jitsu match with a much younger and much smaller opponent; he explained how he lost three times, consecutively, and quickly.
The weight advantage was perhaps close to 100lbs. There was a height advantage and a strength advantage as well; however, none of these factors seemed to change the outcome in this case. The smaller of the two competitors won each time. He not only won, but he won quickly, humbling the bigger man.
I was told this was perhaps one of the greatest lessons to learn. It was explained to me that we often have a false diagnosis of self; we either think we are the best or the worst. We see this very literally as a black and white thing. I was told this is why so many people quit when coming to jiu-jitsu schools because they quickly learn who they are and who they are not.
I went to visit a friend that teaches at a jiu-jitsu school once. We were talking for a while about something he called, “White belt” syndrome and how big strong people come in thinking they will run through the class at 100mph, which, as I stood there listening to a few different stories, right there in my viewing, I watched a strong kid come in. I saw him start his first class. I saw him roll for a short while. In all honesty, I wasn’t paying much attention, but my friend was.
A short while into the session, the young kid, muscular, and probably considered one of the toughest in his crowd, got up from the mats, ran outside, threw up all over the sidewalk, which I remember clearly because there was snow on the ground, and then the youngster went back inside, went downstairs to change, went home, and he never came back again.
This was explained to me in simple terms. The young man walked around believing he was “That good,’ until he saw others that was better than him. So rather than face the humility and feel the fear of vulnerability; the muscle-headed kid ran back to where he could shine instead of undergo the humility of apprenticeship.
I spent an afternoon in an engine room with two others. One of them was an educated artist that came from a somewhat of a polished background. He was smart for sure and cultured as well. The other was a man I was closest to. He was Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx.
We sat in the break room for a while and the two were playing chess. I have never been any good at this game. But the two others enjoyed playing. They played three games. Each time, the Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx won. And he won pretty quickly too. Each time the educated one lost, he remarked, “ I shouldn’t be losing like this!”
Taking away the social and educational snobbery, what the polished one was really saying is, “I shouldn’t be losing like this TO YOU!”
The two never played chess again after that.
There is this false sense of self, which we all have, and we all protect. I have this. I have the need to feel rewarded, to be the good one, to be the star on the team. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the one to score a winning goal or hit a baseball out of the park to drive in a game-winning home run?
What happens is: the mind centers our sense of importance on this. We center ourselves around the reward because without the reward, the efforts we put in were meaningless.
The saying, “it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you lay the game,” in an intellectual thing.
But to the kid in the reward system, winning or losing is the only thing.
This is what needs to be addressed when discussing behavioral patterns and problems. We have to address the reward system if we want to help our kids improve.