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"Red Light, Green Light"

Updated: Dec 10, 2022

This is my first endeavor into blogging and hopefully you will read it

with an open mind….

What inspired me to sit down and write this came about as a result of a telephone call from a martial arts instructor who is an acquaintance of mine through previous training. Before we continue, please keep in mind, the information was passed on third hand and although relevant, like any communication may have been altered slightly, as do stories passed through different channels.

The situation put to me was that the son of a friend, while walking down a street in a less desirable area of Chicago city, had observed a male walking towards him on the same side of the road. There was no indication of age or ethnicity at this time. The son, while continuing to walk towards this other male, had a feeling that he should cross the street to avoid the other. Upon further consideration, the son, reflected and believed that his actions were based on biases and that to cross the street would be racially profiling and might offend the other approaching him. As a result, the son continued to walk towards the other male and when close enough, stepped aside to provide passage, at which time he was ‘sucker-punched’ by the opposing male.

It was at this point that the caller had asked what the son should have done, adding that his father had suggested that he should have stayed on his path, looked squarely at the approaching male, and not stepped to the side offering passage. Keeping this in perspective, Chicago is the most violent city in the United States with its homicide rate 5 times higher than New York City and 2.5 times that of Los Angeles as I write this. That is 18.4 for every 100,000 residents, which is nearly 3 times that for all of Canada.

Firstly, I can’t say what I would have done in that same situation or what the son should have done as I am not familiar with him, his experiences or awareness of potentially violent encounters and quite frankly am not him. I did however add that we should pay more attention to our intuition as it is part of our innate survival system tied directly to biological fear and subsequently a warning system to danger. Having listened to his intuition, the son may have chosen to cross the street in advance of the encounter with the other male. Key word in that sentence is ‘chosen’. What he did do was rationalize what he was initially feeling with a perceived thought that he would offend the other person, with whom he did not know, and chose to stay on the direct path with that person.

This leads to why I titled this blog after a game played by children in the school yard. If you’re not familiar with the game; a child is designated to ‘police’ the movement of a line of other children who can only move when the one ‘policing’ says ‘green light’ and must cease movement when the same child says ‘red light’. The child calling out the commands and ‘policing’ the other children playing the game, represents cognition, essentially “acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and senses.” In this instance, the son’s intuition based on the circumstances that they found themselves in. ‘Green light’ would be acting on a cognitive response. However, introduced into this particular situation was cognitive dissonance ‘that occurs when your beliefs don’t line up with your actions’; the son continuing forward believing that his intuition was based on biases or racial profiling. ‘Red light’ conflicting with the cognitive response and continuing on despite the cognitive dissonance, resulting in being victimized under these circumstances.

If the results were different and the son had not been the victim of the attack by the opposing male, would cognitive dissonance have been involved? The reality is that it would have been. Regardless of the outcome, if the son had chosen to cross the street and the other male continued on his path, any potential encounter resulting in violence would have been averted, despite the opposing male’s intent. Should the opposing male had crossed the street to put himself back into the path of the son who acted on his intuition, the son’s awareness could have been heightened and he may have been better prepared for consequential actions that may have transpired.

The bottom line is that we, being human, should be more in tune with our instincts and how they guide our actions, ‘green lighting’ or giving us permission to step out of a potentially harmful or uncomfortable situation. Often times when we dismiss these feeling or ‘red light’ what we believe we should be doing, we may place ourselves in a situation which may have been avoided. Regardless of the dissonance that we may feel, we should be less concerned with the feelings of others than our own, especially with someone who whom we are not familiar with. Should the circumstances involve an acquaintance, the majority of the time they would understand and often times respect the position that you were coming from when explained to them.

If you found this article to be of interest, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of “The Gift of Fear’ by Gavin De Becker and giving it a read. Understanding your intuition and warning signals that are implied may save your life or the life of a loved one.

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