When is an insight “blinding?” One duality illuminated.

I have been told that the job of a creative is to pluck concepts from the “ether” that surrounds us, the inchoate, and build an image or story from those bits. In polite society, this ability has sometimes earned me the label "crazy." You'll be judged, on one axis, by whether your result resonates with anyone, whether you've picked things that speak to others.

Last night Short Stack had a 15-minute pre-bedtime tantrum which was clearly* an incredible simulation (because it was frequently interrupted by giggling). It pissed me off and I couldn't see a way out, so I took a Mommy Time Out and went into my bedroom to read for a few. I’d been saving this piece about “restorative justice” from a recent Washington Post Magazine. (Things do sit around). Some ideas in the article hit me hard if slow; in the 24 hours since, that blunt insight has expanded and brightened:

“Abramson is a big believer in the transformative power of such face-to-face meetings, as are others. While spiritual leaders have long asked folks to accept the benefits of forgiveness on faith, the secular world has lately jumped on the bandwagon -- and proffered scientific evidence to support this view. Everett Worthington, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been studying forgiveness for more than 20 years. He reports that a survey of the scientific literature in 1997 turned up only 58 studies on the topic, but that has grown to a total of 1,000 documented studies exploring the subject today.

Evidence of the potential benefits is piling up: Recent studies suggest forgiveness can decrease your cardiovascular risk, elevate your immune system and reduce your chances of depression, anxiety, anger disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder. Worthington attributes this to the conflicting messages the body sends. ‘Biologically, we have an immediate vengeful justice motive when we've been wronged, but over time we have a biological urge toward empathy and reconciliation,’ he says. The desire for justice gives us a buzz, he says. ‘Pretty much everybody can get aroused and motivated by anger and the prospect of getting back at this person. It is lighting up... those same dopamine-releasing pathways that are in the reward section of the brain.’

But at some point, an evolutionary response kicks in, he says. A human who is totally cut out of the group doesn't stand much chance of survival. The others in the group ‘want to do something to not cede them to the wild beasts out there,’ he says. ‘That's when we start to feel conflict and pressure.’

I reread. I tore the page out. I went into the other room once Mr. Fresh had wrapped up "Green Eggs and Ham." I reassured the person who'd been pushing my buttons with pretend emotions that I loved her dearly. Small arms reached up and pulled my neck downward. I delivered a goodnight kiss to a restless, slightly blubbering girl and stayed for three minutes.

Who among us, particularly those who live on with great loss, hasn’t felt that pull, that desire to stay angry, knowing you could not keep it up? Isn’t it fantastic to hear there’s a scientific basis for both sides, the two crazy ends that fight inside each of us? (No, not crazy: it's science.) I feel I’ve been running back and forth between the two walls of anger and moving on for years. It's a relay race where I'm the only runner. There's no medal and no ending. I direct ferocious intentions at these walls and end up with sore knees and ankles, fists clenched, no baton.

In restorative justice, sharing stories is a big part of the answer. Perhaps it’s the same for me. I don’t think I would have heard this lesson if I hadn’t opened this channel to write. So, thanks.

* not the Beatles but...

* * * Some comments * * *

1 comment:

Roads said...

Parenting -- yes, it really is the hardest job in the world for which there is no training.

A lot of this tantrum stuff is about being noticed, and for the child it runs the risk (near certainty) of attracting the wrong kind notice through a severely negative reaction. The trick is maybe to notice, but not to overdo the negativity.

In the meantime, my daughter is enjoying her theatre club on Saturday mornings. But as her grandmother would say, she always was good at drama.


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