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No. 59 – Hearing Feelings – 6

February 9, 2012

Why do we have so much trouble hearing feelings? One reason is that our own feelings get hooked. Whether we realize it or not, the emotional elements of another person’s communication do affect our feelings. When we hear anti-nuclear statements, we may feel frustrated, annoyed, perplexed, or criticized. When such feelings get hooked, our critical judgment immediately takes charge and we feel a need to defend ourselves.

Our defensiveness can proceed in two directions, fight or flight. In our minds most of us want to avoid confrontation and we would prefer to run away. However, if pushed to the point of response, we will likely attack. Our normal attack is to challenge the facts or the logic of the other person.

How do we respond to demands for zero exposures to radiation or claims for radiation effects? There seems to be no logical basis for such demands. Furthermore, such demands seem critical of our professional understanding and judgment about radiation risks. After all, as specialists in radiation safety, are we not the holders of the truth on matters of radiation safety? We usually see ourselves as right and we may see the criticizers of our technology as either misguided or having ulterior motives.

We are often annoyed at what appears to be abuse of good science to justify anti-nuclear demands. We are appalled at how easily people accept presumption of causation. Why do people believe that if radiation is there, it is automatically the cause of health effects? And worse even, if the people did not know of their exposures, they seem to see the risks or the effects as greater.

We live in an age of enlightenment where we believe that every effect must have a cause. And, many believe that cause is the result of negligence of bureaucracy and technology. They demand retribution by emotional appeals arising from their own sense of justified anger.

Will our logical responses prevail? How many billions of dollars have we spent to logically demonstrate the safety of radioactive waste disposal options? Have our logical analyses been successful? We may ruefully conclude the answer is NO. Then, if logic is not prevailing, what is? The answers, we may conclude with great frustration, are feelings. They are the feelings that we cannot hear and for which we have no adequate response. Is there a way not to be frustrated and defensive?

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