When successful people do stupid things it's not intentional – they're just desperate for a stress release

Karen Ferguson
Lord Sewel resigned from the House of Lords this week (Source: Getty)
Why do successful people like Lord Sewel do things that are stupid, or even life destroying?You might have expected a person in such a position of power to realise snorting cocaine with prostitutes while wearing an orange bra was a risky thing to do, but the reality is that he's one of a litany of powerful people who have tarnished their names by doing irresponsible things.
You needn't look much farther than the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto Rob Ford, or former Co-op boss and Methodist minister Paul Flowers, who last year pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine, crystal meth and ketamine, to realise success doesn't make you immune to stupidity.
But the reality is that they rarely act deliberately, waking up one morning determined to undermine everything they have worked for. Instead, they are usually under the influence of something more powerful, something over which they may have little control.
Studies have shown that most of our decisions, actions, emotions and behavior depend on the 95 per cent of brain activity that is beyond our conscious awareness, which means that close to 100 per cent of what happens in our lives stems from our subconscious minds.
A dangerous aspect of this is that if we want to believe we can do what we like without ever getting caught, our subconscious has the ability to make us believe it. And all the while, our subconscious does not have the ability to rationalise that others might not see our actions and behaviours as acceptable or even legal.
Reliance on not thinking everything through and just going with ‘what we know’ might save time and effort but it also opens us up to reverting to old, perhaps even childlike behaviours when things get too much.
We tend to experience the same emotions over and over again, as we repeat patterns from our history. So if sex, drugs or alcohol have in the past made us feel better, then our subconscious triggers the need or desire to have that feeling again, the feeling that takes us away from our stress.
It makes sense then that those people with more stressful lives, successful people for example, reach their stress overload more often, resulting in the need to do something to remove the stress.
Given that many successful people are risk-takers or thrill-seekers anyway, it often follows that they may take risks or seeker greater and greater thrills in order to deal with stress. Added to the fact that they often have access to money and are seen as influential, they perhaps believe that their actions are less accountable.
But whatever the cause of their stupid actions, this doesn't mean they are not to blame and that they don't have the power to control their urges. Everyone is required to abide by the laws of the land and by what is deemed morally acceptable.
They still have the power to make conscious decisions should they choose to, but perhaps some are so used to living and behaving instinctually that they have forgotten their ability to behave consciously.

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