Nervous Systems and Choice

Last weekend I witnessed a BIG fight between a couple.  One of the two flew into (what felt like) a sudden rage. And yet I know interpersonal conflict turned violent is seldom sudden but rather tenacious and slow.  The conflict almost ended up in a shop they built together in ashes. Luckily A neighbour intervened and de-escalated the rage by calmly noting the repercussions of such a violent act, such as other people’s property burning, criminal charges laid, source of income lost, children temporarily losing a parent to jail.

The next morning the fight escalated once again and I found myself full of judgement. What the fuck you all doing? Really? All kinda nasty words and accusations thrown, words with the potential to ruin the  others’ character; normalized words, words/labels thrown forth in fury to prove ones’ goodness over the others’ rottenness. (And on this note please, please don’t throw the word pedophile around to harm/hurt another as if it is just another cuss word. If you believe this to be true you need to take that shit to the police. This is not a word to be thrown in fury as a means of damaging someone’s character to big up your own. Carelessly flinging this violent label at someone only numbs and normalizes and makes it harder for necessary truths to come out.)

And I do love this couple. I love their tenacity in putting up a shop so fast. I love the young man whose energy attracts many folks stopping by the shop to feel his good vibes. I love watching the two of them drinking and smoking and laughing together. One day I witnessed such belly full laughter from both of them. I called out ‘DELIGHT’ to myself as I usually do when witnessing beautiful scenes of play and joy.  

Soon after the fight I read this quote: “I sincerely wish more people understood how much willpower is just dopamine regulation that our in/ability to do everything we need to is almost exclusively brain chemistry and has nothing to do with moral character.”

I thought of this couple. I thought of my own judgements related to moral character. I thought of trauma, deep unprocessed trauma living in all of us. I thought of how some of us have access to opportunities to tend, process, pay attention to, seek help in processing;  books that deepen our own understanding; therapists, safe friends to share stress, anxiety, sorrow and then I thought of many folks who don’t have access to the above resources and I thought about how our historical/collective traumas separate and divide us further; world systems make us believe we are all equal when we are not when it comes to opportunity/ access to opportunity/ resources/education/mental health awareness that can help us regulate our dopamine levels so we don’t fly into rages that could put us in jail, tarnish character, murder, destroy livelihoods.   

If we do not personally and collectively have access to knowledge/tools/consciousness of nervous systems and the ability to self and co-regulate in order to access a pause, a space to calm in order to practice the power of our will then how can we judge another’s moral character so fast, so righteously?    

As a culture we are so ready to pounce on another’s moral character rather than choosing deeper understanding of our bodies, our nervous systems and access to our bodies, our nervous systems and opportunities to that access.   

The neighbor who was able to deescalate this particular conflict confirms that we can lend our nervous systems to others and help co-regulate bodies to pause and calm and thus allow for a choice to be made ie. not to throw kerosene and light a match…

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