Discretion – by Beth

30 Aug

What percentage of our lives are dealt up to us vs. things we have some choice over? Do we ever really have control over anything/anyone/ourselves, or is control a big illusion/false economy?

I have thought about variations on this question roughly a thousand times since having a child. I haven’t come up with any real answers, but I know that I wrestle with it a lot. I’m all like: “Look at me, no hands, I’m going with the flow!”, followed one hour later with “I don’t like this feeling anymore! Get me outta here!”

Control. Choice. Freedom. All concepts that are so incredibly loaded in our society. We can be paralysed by too much choice, and surely we can be paralysed by feeling we don’t have enough. I’ve been to both ends of that spectrum, but the too little choice one sucked the most.

Just this week a friend of mine had a baby, and in an email mentioned how she had felt out of control during the birth and that she was looking forward to “getting some control back” post-birth. So challenging for any new parent, especially those used to working in a predictable environment and mainly interacting with adults (i.e. most new parents).

I listened to this podcast tonight about – an interview with David Eagleman about his book on the unconscious mind. There were a couple of things about it that really stuck with me in connection with this topic:

  • “there’s a lot of other literature showing that it’s quite bad for the body to hold secrets. You get an elevation of stress hormones … in fact there’s a group at UT Austin that’s been looking at this for a while. When they have people write down their secrets, even anonymously, or even just in a journal, their stress hormone levels go down. Their number of doctor visits goes down.”
  • Secondly he talked about two examples of men who were driven to terrible crimes purely by having brain tumours pressing on particular parts of their brains. One guy killed 13 people and wounded 33 in a shooting. In his own suicide note he said he was sure there was something wrong with his brain, and sure enough the autopsy showed a brain tumour pressing on a part of his brain dealing with agression.
  • “Currently in the legal system there’s this myth of equality. And the assumption is if you are over 18 and you have an IQ of over 70, then all brains are created equal. And, of course, that’s a very charitable idea but it’s demonstrably false. Brains are extraordinarily different from one another. Brains are essentially like fingerprints; we’ve all got them but they’re somewhat different. And so by imagining that everyone has the exact same capacity for decision-making, for understanding future consequences, for squelching their impulsive behavior and so on, what we’re doing is we’re imagining that everybody should be treated the same. And, of course, what has happened is that our prison system has become our de facto mental health care system. Estimates are that about 30 percent of the prison population has some sort of mental illness.”

I’m tired. Going to show some discretion and get to bed.

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