Some Thoughts On Aggression
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Some Thoughts On Aggression • Posted: Oct 02, 2017 14:23:20Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

I have two friends who refuse to read the news, one male and one female. Why? Both say, because it upsets them. But what exactly about the news upsets them? He will throw up his hands in frustration, pointing to “stupid decisions”, “absurd pronouncements”, “lies presented as truth”, and “self-aggrandizement in lieu of solution”. She, on the other hand, will shudder at the amount of violence and pain and suffering highlighted that she’d rather not hear about. Neither fault reputable news organizations for presenting such stories. Both fault the world’s citizens and leaders for not making the world a healthier more satisfying place to live. As bystander, I wonder what mechanisms within our human brains prompt their differing reactions and help create a world that so upsets them? Not surprisingly, my thoughts turn to the topic of aggression, aggression from without. A simple topic, to be sure, it is not. Just try reading the entry on aggression in Wikipedia with its numerous study references.

To help make sense of aggression from without, my thoughts wander back to a concept from high school chemistry: equilibrium. And, to a related concept from high school biology: homeostasis. Both involve thermodynamics, or the rules by which energy behaves within nature. Chemical reactions proceed toward a state wherein there is energy balance between chemicals on one side of the reaction and those on the opposite side of the reaction, almost like setting a ball down on the slope of a hill and releasing it to roll down then up the side of an adjacent hill, then back down again until it finally comes to rest in the valley between. Similarly, homeostasis is about maintaining an inflow of fuel and nutrients that match the consumption of fuel and nutrients needed to healthfully maintain a living biological system. Too much or too little of any specific needed ingredient and biological systems shift into stress mode, perhaps retracting into hibernation, migrating to a new location, or surging into violent combative aggression.

In the case of my male friend above, he reads the news and feels threat from those in power for their not upholding a pledged obligation to maintain the stable security he has come to reply upon, his comforting state of homeostasis. Within his brain, the language and pictures he reads and sees in the news cause chemicals to be pumped from storage into chemical reaction sites at the tips of certain neurons, prompting him to feel aggressive, primed to take “corrective action” toward “those idiots in charge”. Within her brain, when she reads the news, similar changes happen. But, the chemicals pumping within her brain cause her to feel agitated, fearful, helpless, hopeless, wanting to crawl away and hide or take up knitting until the agitated feelings within her subside. Both know such agitated feelings are destructive of health and wellbeing if maintained for any length of time. And so, both avoid reading the news.

Understandable? Yes. But, from a larger perspective, is what they do healthy for the maintenance of a greater societal homeostasis, wherein all citizens are ideally able to peacefully maintain their own individualized homeostasis? Maybe not. But, neither is war. Peaceful earnest engagement wherein differences and needs are presented, acknowledged, and discussed to the end of achieving a kind of equilibrium that sees all parties approaching healthful homeostasis would seem far more desirable, especially if the outcome produces no hegemonic winners and no subjugated losers. But, such a universally productive and satisfying end could only be achieved if the language used within such engagement served to pique interest and cement commitment rather than incite rage and fear.

What happens chemically internal to individual human brains matters. It matters a great deal. But, it is not only the responsibility of individuals to control their own response to felt aggression from impinging society. Equilibrium is a two-sided process. Impinging society bears responsibility too. A thorn in someone’s side is a thorn in someone’s side. The thorn should not be surprised for the reaction it gets.

I’m not a botanist, but it does seem that most plants do a remarkable job of achieving a kind of equilibrium with one another that allows for great diversity and much healthful flowering, all without the agitated aggressive trauma humans far too often inflict upon one another.

Wouldn’t it be nice if ... Yes, wouldn’t it be nice.

Sunday, August 20th, 2017