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H2O Man

(74,300 posts)
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 05:34 PM Feb 2021

Amy G. Dala's Almonds

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love." -- Martin Luther King Jr

Lately, because of the mix of frigid weather interrupted only for snow fall, I have been trying to make use of time by watching documentaries and speeches on the tube, and reading and discussing the teachings of the ages with my daughter. I find, for example, that a presentation by Robert Sapolsky has a somewhat different meaning in the post-Trump era, than it did in the pre-Trump era.

While many in our nation turn their lonely eyes towards a groundhog in Punxutawny -- a region that the Lenape's language translates to "place where small, annoying insects gather" -- I find myself thinking about those small, almond-shaped parts of our brain known as the amygdala. Might they not assist us in understanding why some people take part in a fun, safe, and happy traditional gathering, and why some of what King described as "our sick white brothers" storm the Capitol?

Being too old for snowball fights -- including those on the internet, which routinely become iceball wars -- I'd like to add and subtract something to that King quote: "our sick brothers and sisters," though not in an attempt at political correctness. For I am not concerned about "politics" today, just about human beings. And the amygdala.

The amygdala takes in information quicker than does our conscious mind. Thus, we jump backwards when encountering a rattlesnake. Since accuracy of threat perception is not among the amygdala's strengths, we often have that same reaction to, say, a small section of rope in the grass. As my son points out, that lack of threat analysis is an evolutionary bonus, despite its tendency to over-react to small sections of rope.

There are, of course, numerous other brain functions going on that influence the way that modern human beings process information on an unconscious level. By no coincidence, these relate largely to our sense. If one is going up for parole, it is far better to have one's hearing in the 45 minutes after the board's lunch time, than the 45 minutes before. In a comfortably heated room, people often tend to interrupt information more or less positively, depending upon the temperature of the drink they are holding. Likewise, those sitting in wooden chairs tend to interrupt information more negatively than those in cushy chairs. Hopefully, I never am the subject of a parole hearing, but I will keep all of this in imnd.

Now back to the amygdala. It has been studied since the early 1800s, and is part of our limbic system, regulating a range of emotions. The amygdala on the right side of the brain has been identified with what are often called the negative emotions of fear and sadness. The one on the left has associations with both the pleasant and unpleasant, from our brain's reward system and to anxiety.

Since relatively few people will remember 2020 for its pleasantness overwhelming their senses, let's consider the opposite. How many factors that might contribute to creating anxiety, gear, and hatred can you list? Covid. The economy. Trump's daily tweets. Isolation. How many of these lead to more time on the internet, being exposed to the never-ending series of outrages? Or, how about that wide range of people -- from nurses to teachers to cashiers in grocery stores to police officers to the homeless veterans? How has all of the hyper-active outrage of 2020 influenced their state of mind as they conduct their daily duties?

What collective processes were at play when the white nationalist Trump cult invaded the Capitol? How does that relate to Karen not caring about why you are wearing a mask while in public? Or the fellow, donning a MAGA cap, who aggressively expresses his disagreement with a bumper sticker in the Wal-Mart parking lot? Or your in-law who finds it offensive that you do not subscribe to Q-anon theology?

Clearly, these people, both as a group and as individuals, range from mildly obnoxious to toxic. More, a percentage of them do pose dangers to civil society. It is, I will speculate, beneficial to recognize the very unattractive reactionary behaviors of our sick brothers and sisters as the unconscious human behaviors that do not, in the current context, offer any evolutionary value.

Why is this important -- if it is important at all?

Because despite the solid job that the FBI is doing investigating the violent thugs that invaded the Capitol, and the increasingly serious charges that DOJ prosecutors are charging them with, the federal justice system alone will not resolve the social-political decay that threatens us. The Biden administration and the Congress are limited in what they can do. In the final analysis, it comes down to community-based efforts to coordinate efforts to heal the wounds that this threat has inflicted.

Our relative may still say she thinks that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Our neighbor may still wear a MAGA cap as he yells at children to get off his lawn. And, being human, we will be tempted to react to their crude behaviors. Yet, there is an alternative. We can recognize that these are mildly-to-fully pathetic people, ruled by the anxieties and fears that once helped our ancient ancestors to avoid rattle snakes. Just as we do not give in to slap them, we must refuse to respond in a manner that fuels the destructive forces at play in our society.

Groundhog Day is now over. The riot at the Capitol represents a path that many want our nation to follow. But these are not our only options. As individuals, we can rise above the mechanical processes of our unconscious minds. We can join together, in the spirit that Martin Luther King taught, and reach that higher ground of human potential. For that is, in the end, the path that offers us as individuals and a society the best bet for a meaningful future.

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Amy G. Dala's Almonds (Original Post) H2O Man Feb 2021 OP
Thank you for taking the time to make clear the power of love, H2O Man. Kid Berwyn Feb 2021 #1
Thank you! H2O Man Feb 2021 #3
Do you think it would work coeur_de_lion Feb 2021 #2
Yes, you should! H2O Man Feb 2021 #4
Oh well, another 4 years + of avoiding my siblings coeur_de_lion Feb 2021 #5
Five to one ...... H2O Man Feb 2021 #6
Interesting! coeur_de_lion Feb 2021 #7

Kid Berwyn

(16,125 posts)
1. Thank you for taking the time to make clear the power of love, H2O Man.
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 06:59 PM
Feb 2021

What the Cellist Said...

“Every second we live is a new and unique moment for the universe, a moment that never was before and will never be again.

And what do we teach children in school? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France.

When will we also teach them: Do you know what you are?

You are a Marvel. You are Unique. In all the world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you.

And look at your body what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers, the way you move! You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything.

Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

You must cherish one another. You must work. We all must work to make this world worthy of children.”

— Pablo Casals

H2O Man

(74,300 posts)
3. Thank you!
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 08:59 PM
Feb 2021

It is often challenging to be a human being. This includes the difficulty of doing our best. Yet it also includes the problems we create when we do less than our best potential -- something that I have to admit to finding out numerous times in life!


(3,737 posts)
2. Do you think it would work
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 07:00 PM
Feb 2021

If I tell my sister to stop being ruled by her amygdala?

I won't explain what I mean, just say "get control of your amygdala!"

If she says she doesn't understand I will tell her that's because she's entirely ruled by her amygdala and she can't process logical information anymore.

But seriously, since you and I have talked a lot about the mental illness pandemic, do you recommend simply avoiding toxic relatives until they calm down?

I have way too many trump trolls in my immediate family! And some in my extended family too.

H2O Man

(74,300 posts)
4. Yes, you should!
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 09:08 PM
Feb 2021

That might prove fun if she doesn't understand, or if she does. Maybe you could call her Amy?

I might not be the best person to ask about contact with relatives. I have a handful of relatives living less than four miles from me, that I haven't spoken to in decades. I did chat on line with one sister last month after our brother died. It was the first time in 17 or 18 years, if my memory serves me correctly. None of them were or are Trump supporters. Families are curious things. I've had more contact with members of the extended family. It's not a result of big fights or anything.

There would, in my opinion, be relatively few if any reasons to interact with people who are pro-Trump, if he is a usual subject of conversation.


(3,737 posts)
5. Oh well, another 4 years + of avoiding my siblings
Wed Feb 3, 2021, 09:23 PM
Feb 2021

won’t kill me.

My niece has a new baby, she’s a staunch Democrat and her mother, my sister, is a loony person who thinks Antifa started the insurrection at the Capitol. I feel so bad for her. She needs her Mom and can’t stand her politics. And her Mom is mentally ill and racist.

It’s a terrible helpless feeling to know someone you love is deranged like that.

I’ll just try not to think about them.

H2O Man

(74,300 posts)
6. Five to one ......
Thu Feb 4, 2021, 02:21 PM
Feb 2021

Actually, this ratio is a factor in ways distinct from this song. In a relationship between two individuals, the relationship is generally stable if each person has five satisfactory interactions to one less pleasant one. This ratio tends to hold true for spouses, siblings, co-workers, neighbors, etc.

Obviously, if the ratio is ten to one, it is better. But the relationship can maintain at five to one. When interactions become less than the five to one, they deteriorate.
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