Being Emotional and Being Safe

Being Emotional and Being Safe

imageStudying the nature of human emotions is neither simple, binary or black and white. It doesn’t matter whether one is talking about learning ( ) or strategy ( )  if you hear talk of things being simple or binary in safety, you can be sure it is wrong, misleading and dangerous.

Just as there are schools of risk and safety ( ), theories of ethics ( ) and theories of knowledge ( ) there are also many theories (schools – worldviews) about human emotions.

Each school (theory) in any area/domain speaks about an underlying ethic and worldview (Discipline) that is often not openly declared or acknowledged. This lack of acknowledgement of worldview in risk and safety is a common characteristic of the culture of safety. If you really want to know what Safety believes, listen to its silences.

For example, the AIHS BoK Chapter on Ethics never articulates or owns its deontological ethic. Indeed, the simplistic nature of this chapter and its simplistic naïve approach to ethics is unprofessional and dangerous. Furthermore, this chapter neither maps the terrain of ethics nor does it discuss any of the most critical approaches in the field of ethics. This silly notion of ‘check your gut’ ( ) and ‘do the right thing’ ( ) associated with Just Culture discourse, hides complexity and the dialectical nature of worldviews as they compete in the moral world and in ethical action. How can one speak of ‘ethical responsibility down’ ( ) without declaring what your ethic of risk is? How on earth can one combine ethics and morality as the same thing (AIHS BoK) when the linguistics of ethics ensures they are not the same?

None of these matters (ethics, learning, strategy, risk, knowledge and emotions) is neutral, objective or simple.

In many ways the silence, simplicity and naivety in Safety on these matters is fundamentally dishonest and therefore unethical.

When we consider the nature of human emotions and their universal nature (Evans (2001) Emotion a Very Short Introduction; Ekman (2003) Emotions Revealed) we see how they form part of the Collective Unconscious (Jung).

Unfortunately, what we often hear in the risk and safety world is the projection that emotions are the enemy of safety ( ). In a similar way risk is posited as the enemy of safety ( ). Safety considers the unpredictable nature of the human unconscious, the nature of feeling and emotional energy as a problem to control. And, because the emotions are a mystery and uncontrollable the best thing is to put one’s head in the safety sand and dream up some naïve idea that they can be controlled and are predictable ( ) Of course, such a view is fuelled by a deontological ethic and the ideology of zero.

Unfortunately, the emotions themselves interfere with the worldview that posits the world as logical, rational, controllable and predictable. There are other worldviews regarding the emotions that reject this deontological worldview. Here is a list of some of the worldviews (schools) regarding the emotions:

  • Phenomenological Theory
  • Behavioural Theory
  • Physiological Heory
  • Cognitive Theory
  • Ambitions Theory
  • Specific Theory
  • Developmental Theory
  • Social Theory
  • Clinical Theory
  • Environmental Theory
  • Cultural Theory
  • Embodied Theory

You can read about these in Strongman, K., (2003) The Psychology of Emotion, From Everyday Life to Theory. Wiley. London.

The point here is not to explain each theory but simply to make the point that understanding human emotions and subsequently the feeling of risk (Damasio (1999) The Feeling of What Happens) is neither, simple, binary or objective.

To truly understand the complexity and wickedity ( ) of the human emotions, one would need to step outside safety and engage in Transdisciplinary research and thinking. Not so, the cocoon of safety. Didn’t you know learning, strategy, emotions, feelings, ethics, morality and knowing are objective and simple? How professional.

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