THE NEUROSCIENCE BEHIND
WHEN WE LOSE CONTROL
A loss that feels like death can bring out the ugliness in people. This election has brought out the worst in people from both sides of the spectrum.
Our brains literally go haywire when we encounter a loss of this magnitude. The neurotransmitters that control the part of our brain that operates logic misfire rapidly once stress sets in. The release of large amounts of corticosteroids (the army that fights to get us to feel better) serves as mediators to balance the stress response to grief. In the meantime, we respond with emotion and a lot of impulses, until the balance sets in overtime with the help and support of others or sometimes as the stress abates. We say things we ordinarily would never tell when our hearts are well and our heads are clear.
We have seen, heard and read how people are behaving across the country, with some who hold a sense of entitlement, while others are running scared and don’t know what their future holds.
Those who have a sense of entitlement, feel empowered to lash out without fear of reprisal. Those who fear the worst, experience a loss of control and to some extent, post-traumatic stress disorder, because of past experiences. Everyone is at war. An invisible wall has already been built.
During grief, many things happen within us when we lose control. The loss of power causes some of us to lash out and ‘let go” as in “letting go” of all those pent-up emotions. We will resort to whatever weaponry is available and in this case, hate speech or as reported by media, physical violence against others. Our ability to reason is frozen, while our emotional warfare, such as fear, hate, and resentment, override our logic and our ability to stay grounded. Effective communication is essential if we are to remain civil during this discourse. In the world of good grief, when working with dying patients, families and friends are collectively anchored by one pivotal point. This one crucial point is this magic. The magic is caring enough to stay close at hand to those dealing with loss and support one another. This means standing by to bear witness to all types of behavior and in the end, stay connected to that person. This isn’t always possible, hinging on many kinds of circumstances and this is when we see people disconnect and break away, while others seek support. There isn’t any right or wrong way to grieve, except when we cannot take back what we said, did or didn’t do. In the world of grief, we see some people, including the person who is dying, fall apart. We have heard the parties say some awful things to one another and about one another, we have witnessed people be a master of stealth, wrapped in a blanket of anger. I just hope at the end of all of this that some of us can stay friends.
While some of us have expressed how we feel over the outcome of this election, others have offered support to their community, taking an active role in joining groups in solidarity. Others lash out at anyone who disagrees with their statements and actions. We have the right to feel upset, angry and downright concerned over the welfare of many people. This election has served as a trigger for riots, gatherings for support and rallies.
Grief can bring out the ugliness in people and sometimes we just have to recognize this. I am not excusing violence, hateful speech, attacks on another human being; putting up with condescending behavior, lies or displays of a lack of concern for our welfare. I am talking about what is occurring among ourselves; those of us in line with one another on the outcome of this election. As a post-WWII baby, who grew up in Europe, I too, as many of you, am very concerned for our welfare. I hear the slut-shaming and see the posts of Melania Trump’s modeling photos by those from within my community. I see misappropriating the use of these to point out the differences between her, when she was young and in a successful career and the present times of those images taken of the First Ladies, to justify their outrage at the outcome of this election. Slut shaming sends a strong message to all female-bodied people, young and mature alike that women who pose nude for a living are of little value and non-deserving of respect. It is denigrating to girls and women and tears away at the very core of a women’s right to choose what she does with her body. Spewing this kind of hateful speech directed at Melania Trump by those from the LGBT community isn’t any better than those who attack us with statements that we practice necrophilia and bestiality. Many of us in the trans community or the LGB community have had to endure being called names just for being who we are. Those of us who have fought for human rights, continue to uphold the importance to right the wrongs of the ill-treatment of any human being encountering oppression and discrimination. I am taken back by some of the reactions of those from my community who stood up for human rights, their own rights, only to turn around to behave as badly as those who denied their rights.
Grief can bring out the ugliness in people. I hope that in the end, we can all agree that the last thing we need now, is to slut-shame women, displace our anger and direct it at those of us who reject any act of misogyny. We need to stay focused and grounded.