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amygdala mania
why walking away is saner.
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)

I recently enjoy Jon Ronson's book, The Psychopath Test, and it settled something for me that's been an issue for a long time. In the book, he talks about having a test which confirms that his brain works, in some ways, exactly opposite to that of a psychopath. In short - the part of the mind which triggers empathy and sympathy, that feeds right from wrong signals and risk-reward ratios, works much more slowly and with less traffic in the mind of a psychopath, as compared to a "normal" person. But in Jon's brain, those signals move much more quickly and there's more traffic than in the average brain. The doctor who administered this test suggested that it could likely lead to the agitation, inability to let negative emotions go, moments of manic emotional energy and a tendencies toward anxiety that Jon has experience for most of his life.

Reading that clarified so much for me. Why stupid little conversations drive me crazy for days or weeks, why every time I feel belittled or talked down to it works its way under my skin and can hover for years. Why, when I'm having a discussion where the other side clearly doesn't see why the things they say are insulting or offensive, I have finally started just walking away. Because the sooner I do walk away, the sooner it can go away. It used to be that I couldn't walk away, that I would make myself stay there and be insulted even further, because maybe 1 in 10 of those times did someone actually stop and think about it from the other side. And sure, it happened more some places than others, but I don't care if I'm on the most like-minded website in the world - it's not worth the argument anymore.

Some would say I don't care about dialog when I walk away from conversations. But there's a big difference between retreat and sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting that the other person is wrong, and that's what most of these conversations deteriorate into. Because I refuse to be told that there's something wrong with me for having a differing opinion, and the other person has it stuck in their head that I'm just wrong and can't accept it. And while I'm sure at least a few times in my life I have been oversensitive, sometimes the things people say are so blatant that it also insults my intelligence to have to point it out, or to have to defend being insulted. But regardless, in the most heated of these exchanges, it's usually someone who refuses to grasp what it is like to think the other way.

Despite what some might suggest, I go out of my way to understand the mentality of people on other sides of certain lines. I take great care to understand why people on the right keep electing candidates who claim attitude and spirit are more important than intelligence and reason. And whether you agree or not that it is their intention, it is their result. Even looking at the list of GOP front runners depicts this perfectly. But I don't go around saying their stupid, only that their making a choice I think is dead wrong for them and everyone else. I also completely understand why people in the pro-life camp see things as they do - in their mind life begins at conception. But that's a belief and not even remotely a fact, and so I disagree with their entire perspective - but I get why it informs their sometimes militant behavior.

Yet, most of the the conversations I've had with "other side," that I've eventually had to walk away from, the person kept making assertions that I just didn't get it or wouldn't own up to it. I've been told that my regret at voting for Obama is showing and now I'm seeing the error of my ways. I've been told that I gave birth once, so I know that life exists before viability, and what if my mother had aborted me? Well my mother was going to, because she thought my dad was flaking - lucky for me he came through, but it doesn't mean I think she was wrong to have not wanted to raise a baby on her own in the 70s, nor did I feel anything during my pregnancy that told me my son was a "person" before he was able to exist independently of my body.

Some people convince themselves that you just can't understand what they do, or you're emotionally suppressing the truth, instead of simply acknowledging that you don't believe what they believe. Or in the case of the earlier conversation specifically - if you gave me a time machine not only would I still vote for Obama, I'd have started a petition four years ago that Palin gets the hell out of politics entirely.

Now it is not remotely just religious or political conversations which cause my frustration to hover for days and days, but that is the side I avoid the most now, because it's the most unending and pointless, particularly when the non-affected public steps in. Why is it, I wonder, that we have this notion that the minority opinion has the be the bigger person? Why do we constantly tell people who are being oppressed and degradated to stop exaggerating and try to get along. It's been told to women, to racial minorities, to homosexuals - stop being so combative and take the higher ground.

Well I'm sorry but standing there while getting slapped around isn't taking the higher ground. I've been writing a lot lately, but none of it has gone up because there's a new piece of the situation every day and it keeps gaining more dimension. But the series that will result from recent news speaks to one thing - never in my lifetime have I felt so in a position of being spat upon - as an atheist, a progressive or a woman - in this country. And no, I'm not going to just sit quietly, or offer my hand to be bitten off. I'm not going to sit quietly while a presidential candidate expresses revulsion at separation of church and state. I'm not going to sit quietly while people use the word socialist as a slur. I am not going to sit quietly while a woman argues that rape of female servicewomen is in some way their own fault for being there. But I will stop engaging in conversations with people who tell me these things aren't happening, or I'm being too sensitive to them.

I spend most of my time now, driving (for work) the highways of Henry County. There are a minimum of 5 "Protect Life" billboards, posting that same picture of a 6 month fetus that many pro-life activists claim is a 6-week "fetus" (as 6 weeks it's an embryo). There are two "Honk if you don't believe the liberal media" billboards. I don't know how many Jesus-centric billboards there are, I intentionally ignore all solid black ones now. I've been treated like the worst bitch in the world for telling an employee that company policy requires her to stop putting crosses on her work emails. I've been told that - as a woman- I have all the equality I asked for so just shut up already, and hey if it makes them feel better let them make you take an ultra-sound to have a medical procedure which doesn't require it. And as a person that supports a woman's right to make her own medical and life choices, I've been called everything from pro-abortionist to murderous bitch.

But never have I had a single pro-life person say I was entitled to my perspective and they could understand why I felt as I did. Never have I had a religious person, that started making some inappropriate generalization about non-believers, admit that maybe their statements were excessive and they shouldn't make such comments about an entire group of people based on a stereotype. Never have I had a die-hard conservative come out swinging and eventually admit McCain/Palin was a ticket no progressive or moderate was ever gonna vote for. The few times I've had a conversation where an adamant person took a moment to see the other side, it was usually on something way more innocuous - like whether Reality TV is disintegrating our culture or if it's just harmless fun.

And so, for the sake of my sanity, I'm taking a step back from conversations that have become pointless and infuriating, and from anything that would engage me in them to start with. Not because I'm insecure about my perspectives - nothing could be further from the truth - but because I am tired of dealing with situations where the other person can't be bothered to see things from another perspective or because it doesn't directly affect their lives and rights they act like it can't possibly be that big of a deal. Because in a country that's constitution doesn't just make room for other views - it demands that those views be given just as much sway as yours, because it was written by men who believed in seeing both sides - I'm not going to engage in conversations with people who would try to diminish me for my views.

I am firm in my convictions that reason is more important than opinion, and that progress comes from honesty and not rhetoric. I am secure in my belief that I will give no validity to anything supernatural until I have proof of its existence - that's documented empirical evidence. It is not that I won't accept "His" existence - in my opinion he does not exist, and therefore I have no obligation to act in accordance with any laws/rules ascribed to him. And I am entirely secure in my knowledge that yes, women have more opportunities and voice than at any other time in history, and at the same time there are people actively trying to move us back even before the 1950's and strip away our rights to our own body, to serve our country and to create and raise our families as we see fit.

My absence is not lack of conviction, it is a lack of willingness to have the previous paragraph trivialized and trampled by strangers on a computer screen, and to make myself crazy obsessing over pointless conversations.


When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

more about katherine l (aka clevertitania)


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topic: writing
published: 3.11.10

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topic: writing
published: 6.21.09


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