When You Can’t Just Let It Go

I have struggled my whole life with the fact that I can’t unsee what I see. I mean that if I see something bad, some sort of injustice, I’m not going to pretend it didn’t happen, I’m going to feel compelled to do something. The reason this is a struggle is because I am always told that I’m being negative by constantly bringing this stuff up. I’m told there is something wrong with me, that I should just let it go.

Today I learned that I can’t. Not just because I believe it would be morally reprehensible to do so, but because I actually am physiologically incapable of doing so.

I’m reading the wildly popular Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It has been recommended on several of the podcasts I listen to and blogs I read. The book is basically about how we think we are in control of our thoughts but we aren’t. It explains the processes of thought and how our mind prefers to always do things the easy way. In short, our brains are lazy and our decisions are the evidence of that fact.

In the section I’m reading right now, Kahneman writes about how a person can only be forced out of the easy thinking under duress. I really didn’t want to believe him at first, but when he got to the part about how when our system one (the part we make most use of) is feeling too much stress, it can’t handle it and the even lazier system two (the part that can reason) finally kicks in, I finally had the answer to all my questions about why I can’t let these things go.

From the time I was a girl, I was fully aware that what the grown-ups around me were doing was wrong. My guess is that the abuse hyper-stimulated my system two so much that it doesn’t know how to shut down. And when I try to force it to shut down, I am miserable and I know I’m being fake.

Now, I’m not saying I’m some deep thinker, I’m saying that this hyper-stimulation pretty much forced my system two to suppress my system one and now the two are in the wrong position. This happens to people all the time. It just happens differently. In mast cases, however, it happens because a person is personally affected by something, say poverty or abuse, then they become vigilant about such things.

But people who grow up without this sort of over-stimulation tend to not give a rat’s ass about suffering. Some do, but it is actually more rare than we think. What I mean about caring is actually doing something.

As I’ve suspected from a sociological and biological standpoint, that we are mostly only interested in keeping our personal selves protected, turns out to be true in other areas of study.

So, five days into my 49th year, I’ve made peace with the fact that I will never be like those people who can easily turn a blind eye to suffering and just talk about the good things in life. I will never be able to turn it off, it’s just the way I am. Life turned me that way. If people don’t like it, I no longer care. This is how I am and it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.

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