Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Just Look What You've Lost - Beware of Bullseye Syndrome

Evening all - a few years ago I was in a state that lay somewhere between an existential crisis and being full-blown depressed. While talking to the doctor I made a point about how there were so many people offering what was simplistic "if I were you" type advice, which, I might as well add right now, I had not asked for. The utter stupidity of those offering such peals of wisdom was not lost at me at the time. The phrase "if I were you" is its own inbuilt logical fallacy, seeing as the person offering the advice is by definition incapable of truly seeing the situation from the perspective of the person being advised. What they would do in the same material position is actually rather uninteresting.

My doctor nodded and told me this was a phenomenon he referred to as 'Bullseye Syndrome', named after the audience participation part of the game show where the team with £445 are invariably implored to GAMBLE!! the lot on the chance of winning a speedboat (which really came in handy for the couple who lived in a tower block), caravan, all-in-one home gymnasium or whatever. That the £445 already might won might be immensely useful to those in possession of it never occurs to those in the crowd, who just want a bit of excitement and have perhaps deluded themselves that this is what they would do in the same situation. How on earth would they know?

'Bullseye Syndrome' is basically the tendency of people to offer advice to the effect of "go for it and don't even consider the negative consequences" from the comfort of their armchair or soapbox, safe in the knowledge that the consequences for themselves of this being rather poor advice are precisely none. Self-justified by the ready-prepared excuse of "well you didn't have to listen to me", those debilitated by Bullseye are basically cowards living vicariously by encouraging others to take bold steps they lack the intestinal fortitude or the spine to go through with themselves. It's ten parts voyeurism and ten parts assessing the terrain of their own life.

This kind of advice exists in many forms - it could be an instruction to make a move on that person you like, or give up your secure income to throw yourself into some business venture, or something to the effect of "you might never get to do this again, so you MUST do it now". The humiliation, potentially ruined friendship and other social awkwardness of being rejected, the possibility of someone's family ending up homeless and without a pound to their name, or basically any other consideration, do not come into it. Life through the 'Bullseye Lens' is incredibly straightforward - 'going for it' = Bravery and any sane, rational assessment of risk = Cowardice. Simples.

The reality is that people offering such advice invariably do not navigate their own existences using a similar modus operandi. As I stated earlier there's a voyeuristic element to it and it can often take the form of sadism as well, with the 'executive consultant' in something of a no-lose position. If things go to plan then it was all down to the quality of the advice received. On the other hand mishaps can simply be shrugged off with "well you didn't have to listen to me", as we mentioned earlier - plus there's the small matter of a nice 'motorway pile-up' to get an eyeful of from the sidelines. In the world of moral hazard the question as always is...what could possibly go wrong?

Perhaps this strikes some of our readers as a slightly odd topic of discussion, but I take an interest in psychology and have always considered these pages to be a nice fusion of the personal and the political. Advising someone to "do as I say, not as I do" is a telltale sign of an authoritarian mindset if I've ever seen one, as is engaging in schadenfreude and reveling in the misfortune of others. I've seen where this type of 'advice' can land those too prone to trust, and note that when the shit hits the fan the armchair philosopher is off down the fire escape, several stratospheres from any offer or attempt to help clean up the mess. Talk about finding out who your friends are.

'Bullseye' advice, and those offering it, should be avoided like the plague.

If I'm honest I clocked this at fifteen when faced with a non-romantic situation in which I rationalised that the only smart, intelligent move to make was to ensure that my 'feelings' for a certain someone never became public knowledge. Watching the less rational and less cynical plunge off the cliff-face like lemmings (one made a series of unhinged late night 'booty calls' and another wrote a monologue tribute to, er, Dana, the love of his life) stiffened my resolve and, realising that two lives and not one would be turned into circuses I bit down on the gumshield and hung on for dear life. Let them think you're asexual, homosexual, anything to avoid armageddon.

You're both better than those parasites.

Doing the right thing involves not simply doing the right thing, but understanding that there is no presentation or medal coming your way for it afterwards. of the difficulties of 'Bullseye Syndrome' is precisely how many people suffer from it. Many years later I developed similar 'feelings' for someone I worked with, but it was accompanied by a lingering sense that something wasn't right, that I was being roped in by a counterfeit human being, an actress getting her lines from somewhere else. Quite regrettably I get greyskulled one night and confess the existence of these 'feelings' to someone else from work (I was stressed out and neither eating nor sleeping properly). Cue absolute mayhem, total havoc played with careers and massive interference from mulitple directions (believe me, people like this are VERY authoritarian).

Not only do I end up in a very messy personal and professional situation, I become utterly convinced that my previous act of dignity, mental strength and tactical awareness was actually some dismal stroke of cowardice, the processing of which impacted both my physical and mental health. Look, we all 'play for a draw' in life sometimes, usually because we're aware that the odds of success are greatly outweighed by the prospect of going for broke and ending up on the end of some sort of shellacking be it physical, emotional, spiritual or financial. There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, but respecting others means respecting their right to process these things the same way.

As a general rule I offer very little advice and tend to keep that which I do give to areas in which I have an established knowledge of the subject. Moreover, I limit it these days to when it is either specifically being asked for or I 'get' the topic of a discussion in which I'm involved. At the risk of breaking that rule I wish more of us approached the concept of guidance with a similar mindset, but then that probably means a great many dropping the nosy form of authoritarianism that they're sadly infested with. Other people are not guinea pigs and their lives are not 'experiments' in the laboratory of the world - they mean just as much to them as yours or ours do to us.

So...put the remote control down. Please.

And...stop asking everyone else what they think. Nobody knows you quite like you do after all.

I'll return on Sunday with something Toddler-Right orientated as I appreciate they've got off somewhat lightly in recent weeks.

Perhaps a two for the price of one piece concerning the 'White Working Class' and 'Men's Right's Activists' - let me know if you have any better ideas.

In the meantime I'll leave you with 'friend of a friend' Simon Roadnight and his distinctly above average band, Raspberry Tortoise. Thanks for reading once again and see you next time.

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