Positive Feedback

Hashim Khan, grandfather of the Khan squash dynasty, wrote a funny book on the subject, which was typed in the Pakistani English that he spoke. Here is a sample:

“Here is number one rule I teach you in squash: Always keep eye on ball.”

C’est la vie, huh?

Now in engineering terms, the term ‘negative feedback’ refers to the capability of a system to act on a stimulus or the environment in such a way as to reverse the original effects. Or something like that. On the other hand, ‘positive feedback’ refers to the system compounding the effects of the stimulus or the environment.

As an example, the common or household thermostat gauges the ambient temperature, and then adjust the temperature towards the prescribed setting. So it is a negative feedback system because it acts to reverse the ambient temperature towards the prescribed setting: if the ambient temperature is too high, cooling takes place; if too low, then heating.

On the other hand, a positive feedback thermostat (if such a thing could exist) would have the effect of driving up the temperature higher and higher above the prescribed setting; looping as it were, indefinitely, or until the whole thing overheats and blows up.

Now my point is this: relationships between couples sometimes contain a positive feedback element. In particular, the ‘issues’ between couples tend towards blow-ups and heated arguments because the postive feedback mechanism greatly amplifies minor problems. The minor problems add up to a BIG problem. Obviosuly years of this arrangement results in petty issues of yore resulting in divorce. Normally, this is ‘relieved’ by argument. This happens on a frequent basis whenever the system (= couple) reaches the blow-up point. A tiresome arrangement if one has ever been in such a cycle.

Recognising this, it seems that one way out of such cycles is for one of the members of the couple, or both, to short circuit the system by introducing an element of negative feedback.

How so? Act cool.

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