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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

To this Koi Mistress

I realized that I spend a good bit of time most evenings, or rare daytimes immediately before writing a new post, staring at the fish that now live atop the crockpot's page. Only today did I happen to become entranced enough to notice they sometimes look like they are fighting. One fish will charge across their electronic aquarium, or birds-eye e-pond view, and disrupt other fish from chatting with one another. It seems these fish, like most people, may not be immune from jealousy, or the paranoia of conspiracy, or perhaps worse - boorish, unthinking interruptions (I specialize in these myself). Are fish as susceptible to social pressure as the rest of us? Do they really take it hard as adults if they weren't the cool kid in school? I could see how it could make sense. Especially to fish.

I certainly sometimes wonder about how much things are nature's own cleverness, and evolutionarily influenced to our advantage, and how much they are the trappings of the nurture and any number of social constructs. Today I read an article discussing biological and evolutionary reasons for children of the same parents, raised in the same household, to hold politically opposing opinions or beliefs. There was some speculation about Oedipal conflict and rebellion and distinguishing oneself from siblings for evolutionary advantage, as near identicals - were they to be at a disadvantage somehow by a charecteristic (I think it was applying this thinking to politics if I read correctly!) would both die or be killed, whereas if the two offspring became diversified by their own accord, at least one would be likely to survive. That thinking makes sense to me, but it's really fascinating to consider applying such innate tendencies toward political views. The article did also go on to say brain chemistry matters in decision making, so no two brains would function 100% the same. But still. Fascinating. I think this was in Newsweek.

I feel like I may have brought up such issues in the crock previously, or maybe I've just thought about them before so I think I've written about them before, but stop me if you've heard this one - if shame is such a merciless emotion, does it serve an evolutionary advantage? I think it's only after years of talking to others about personal low points that I had the realization that my inability to either forget or lessen the effects of shame, even from my youngest moments and deepest memories, was not unique. Lots of people are horrified by what they've done or said, or how they've behaved, previously. Even when they were five years-old and so young that their actions could not possibly be prevented due to their young young age. But the feelings of shame from their five year-old selves are as raw and potent as they were then. Shame sticks. Even when it's something a rational person could say, forgive themselves for. Really? You peed your pants once, inappropriately? Yes. Many have. Join the club.
But why do you still recall that moment and cringe? Why is it so powerful?

I'm guessing the shame memory hardwiring taps into the part of us that understands acceptable cultural or group behavior. So if you do something that would be unacceptable to the pack that could say, lead to the pack abandoning you or worse, you keep the lesson stored deeply enough that it's at the survivalist level. Why are most of the most painful shame moments SO emotional though (like when you were caught saying something you shouldn't, rather than peeing when you shouldn't)? I'm guessing to modify behavior with ironclad certainty. I don't know. Also, I realize this is not a novel, groundbreaking take on the concept of shame, but it's interesting to think about in more depth, at least to me. Is that in there because, somewhere at some point along the line, we figured out we cannot do it alone?

I think so.
That, and to keep Friars in the business of roasting.

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