EMOTION REGULATION #13: ON FACING GIANTS

Guest author: Oliver Fink, University of Basel

Recently I have been again in the relaxing Elah Valley, a short drive from our place of residence in the Judean hills. Together with friends we were hiking up Tel Sokoh or as it is also known “Lupine Hill”, a short part of the Israel trail – lovely spring flowers in all colors, blossoming apple and almond trees, overall a lush and beautiful countryside.

It hasn’t always been so peaceful – The Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp between Sokoh and Azekah.Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines– the Elah Valley is also known as the famous battleground between David & Goliath. My friends are further surprised when they learn that the road, they are driving on to visit this ancient site is most likely the same one David took to get from his home town of Bethlehem to meet the army in the valley. Today’s road still follows the antique direction – the main link between Jerusalem / Bethlehem and the southern ports of Ashdod / Ashkelon – as Roman stairs and other antique remnants along the way still testify.

David took a bold stand against all odds, at least this is what the story tells us and it wasn’t even his responsibility! He wasn’t in a “combat unit” but rather in “auxiliary logistics” if we want to count him in the army at all. There are all sorts of avenues to pursue from here, but my main point today is:

Which giants are we facing either in our professional or private life?

A difficult analysis? Funding problems? Both common issues in research. A challenging private decision?

And how do we face these giants – confident and smart or rather hesitant and clueless?

Malcolm Gladwell eloquently states in his book “David & Goliath” we can count on giants having hidden weaknesses if we muster the courage to face them. Goliath was slow, he might have had a medical condition leading to impaired vision and therefore expected his opponent to face him in direct short distance combat. David however takes a different approach, having come to the conclusion that it is unwise to face a giant on the giant’s terms (plus he came in the name of the LordAlmighty,but that’s a different story).

In most Bible drawings, David’s sling is tiny but watching some footage from Gaza will tell you a different story. Plus, antique slingers were pretty accurate in their craft. In fact, David probably was quite good at it, as he was facing lions and bears before with his sling.

So, in David’s case it was less a victory against all odds (again, leaving out the aspect of divine intervention as a reward for courage) but the capacity to see an overwhelming reality with different eyes and staying true to his own terms.

And this is exactly how we are attempting to see a devastating and unflinching giant called “intractable conflict” in a different, more effective way: through the eyes of emotions and emotion regulation, hopefully shaping the odds at least a little bit in our favor! The giant has roared obscenities for too long.

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