The need for control and the push for autonomy
Over the past few classes we learned about the bipartite brain and how through our brain’s interaction with the outside world we continually modify who we are. Recently, I made a trip to the local library to do some readings online for class. I selected a comfortable chair by a window overlooking a busy intersection. Surfing through serendip I came across the idea of “science as an moving up and down (infer from experience, test by experience) approach to advancing understanding”, and ‘humanities’ as a ‘moving laterally’ (infer from comparing stories, test by comparing stories) approach…” (2). This difference was debated among experts in their respective social and natural sciences in Bryn Mawr College, and the consensus was that in order to better understand ourselves, our environment, and others around us, we need to allow ourselves to explore with both; “moving up and down” and “laterally” in learning to discover and enjoy their benefits in a way that is healthy and beneficial.
After reading through the postings, I looked up and my eyes wandered to the book selection on the adjacent bookshelf. With Neurobiology in the back of my mind, one title caught my attention: How to Change Anybody. Expectantly I got up, pulled the book to investigate further. As I opened the cover, I was met by the following text: “Don’t let crazy people drive you crazy, don’t let annoying, obnoxious, petty people get under your skin. Stop having to ask the same thing over and over again. Whether it’s your kids, spouse, friend, client, patient or co-worker, why try to ‘deal’ with people when you can change them?” (3). The book, written in 2005 by Dr. David Lieberman, claims that it can assist one in making others more loyal, less prejudice, more assertive and spontaneous, stop passive-aggressive behaviors, and lazy tendencies, among others. I looked up to the other titles available and realized that this book was one of the many self-improvement books available on two shelves, filled with instructions on how one can manipulate others’ perceptions, understandings, behaviors, alas others’ world. I continue to look around and for the first time began to truly consider the physical implications; impact on the brain and the nervous system, of the self-improvement market. What are the physical impacts on individuals in particular and on society in general, as we aim to mold people into the ‘ideal’ human being?
Our society is fixated on homogeneity. Regardless of how we want people to believe that we are eclectic and open individuals, deep down inside we feel more comfortable around like-minded people, as we strive to change the minds of those who disagree with us. Lately on campus there has been much talk about instituting a social justice class. I disagree that such a class will have any impact on changing aspects of the school culture although the community can embrace certain aspects. What I believe will change it is something that require students to respond to the ‘who am I’ question from different perspectives. We ‘can-talk’ at someone all we want, the only thing we will do is successfully silence him/her for the moment in time. We will not change his/her mind, nor accomplish anything lasting. The only way to truly affect change is from within. I agree with the idea discussed in class that in whatever we do we ‘feel’ first and bring in ‘logic’ second through the use of our I-function; the story-telling aspect of our nervous system. This is especially important when it comes to something deeply engrained, something that socialize us into whom we are and continue to become. Except for notable exceptions, people do not wake up in the morning and set out to offend through racist, sexist, and other forms of small-mindedness attitudes, behaviors or language. However, because for many, they have been socialize so heavily into these beliefs that actions are often unconscious.
I am not arguing here that there is an escapable ‘human nature;’ however, as people keep common, where and how we were born and the opportunities we have been given in life, greatly influence how we see the world (socialization), therefore, in order for us to make changes to that lens we need to first be approached on a personal and intimate level (feel) before logic can be accepted and explored. As professor Grobstein nicely phrases “it is not thinking that is the sine qua non of being, but the other way around. We are, and (because of what we are) we can think” (1).
1: Grobstein, Paul. Writing Descartes: I Am, and I Can Think, Therefore…. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/sci_cult/lesswrong/descartes/ June 2004
2: Grobstein, Paul. The two cultures: A conversation. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/local/scisoc/snow.html#2 Center for science in society, Biology., January 2001
3: Lieberman, David. How to change anybody. Martin Press, New York 2005