The Saving Face Meltdown
The consequences of having to save face can be catastrophic as seen with the Fukushima power plant.
So what exactly is this “face”? We can be lulled into thinking this is just a problem in certain cultures.We all have the need to be seen in a certain way. When someone is disrespectful – when they don’t give us the courtesy we deserve, we feel that loss of face. That the other is not seeing us how we imagine we should be seen and is not treating us as an important human.
And of course to ourselves we are the most important person in the world – just get in a situation where your survival is at stake (like holding your breath) and see if your unconscious mind thinks you are really irrelevant. It is healthy to want to be treated with respect.
Your sense of identity
Identity is amazing. It’s like our self organizing principle. It enables us to know what we want to do think and say. How many times have your said “I’m the kind of person who…”? When something happens to challenge our view of ourselves, it can threaten our whole sense of identity.
In fact in terms of making a change in your life, one of the most powerful target points is changing identity. Robert Dilt’s neurological levels model explores this.
For instance, if you want to lose weight, you can clean out your kitchen as one way to stop over eating, but a more powerful way is to become the kind of person who doesn’t over eat.
Our sense of self or “our face” is actually defined by the reactions of other people and our interactions in the world. It’s like a 3-D model of us and what we are capable of, what we value, what we believe and how we are likely to behave. For more about how we develop and create this representation, see “Consciousness: creeping up on the hard problem”
So when someone threatens our sense of self, it can be devastating especially if that sense of self isn’t strong through lots of connections.
Many people experience the terror of being humiliated, preventing them doing things where they might fail. A friend and I went roller skating and because he didn’t look cool (being the first time he’d skated) he sat on the sidelines all night. Because of course when you do something the first time you aren’t going to be or feel that competent.
Fear of incompetence and particularly fear of not being perfect can have truly devastating consequences. Like not trying, not admitting you don’t know, or having to be right. Or even not asking for help when your nuclear power plant is in meltdown.