Sunday, August 1, 2010

THAT's why I do that.....

I was listening to WNYC Radio Lab's podcast titled "Where am I" and they were talking about - if I remember correctly - findings by Robert Sapolsky who has found that there is a physiological, physical, in-our-bodies aspect to emotions, for instance anger.  Now this would seem to be a no-brainer, and it is.  What he has done though, amongst other things, but what he did that gave me the big fat AH HA moment when I heard it, was analyse the gender differences in emotions ; at least in anger 'cause that's what they were talking about.

Seems that men and women get the physical sensations of anger with equal speed.  FAST.  About two seconds after being ticked off by someone, your body kicks in.  The difference is, though, that women gear down much more slowly than men do.

I do this.

Particularly with the kids. If they really tick me off, and get told off, it doesn't matter if they apologise.  I accept the apology, but they themselves will say to me that often the apology actually makes it worse.  I don't stop being angry with the apology.  

Now the podcast, and the neurologist said that this is what's actually happening: the argument starts, both partners get the anger response, raised heart rate, sweating etc etc etc.   If the man discovers that he screwed up, for instance, he stops being angry quickly and apologises.  For him, the issue is over.  You could substitute my kids here.....for her, on the other hand, while her brain is aware that it's all over and has accepted the apology, physically she is still very angry, and her body is madly sending her brain anger signals.  Her brain then, not the frontal part with all the reasoning, it may be trying to put on the brakes, rather something further back is still hitting the alarm buttons, so her brain figures that she is indeed still angry and  she finds something else to be angry about.

This would sound like, "Mom, I'm sorry, I'll never do it again."

Grumpily, "OK hon."

Contritely, "Really Mom, I'll never do it again, I am very very sorry."

Curtly, "OK.  OK. Thanks."


Ramping up again, "BUT, what I need is not another apology, I need the BEHAVIOUR TO CHANGE!!!!........"  or some variation on the theme...

Sound familiar?

Maybe now that rational bit of cerebral cortex will have a better fighting chance and I won't do this as often.

Do you do that too?


The Bodhi Chicklet said...

Oh yes I do do that. I always blamed hormones because there are just a few days every so often that I get ridiculously angry and stay angry. And no apology is humble enough for me to melt. If anything, an apology that seems automatic or by rote will tick me off even more.

J.G. said...

"If you were really sorry, you'd stop doing it." How many times have I said that?

It definitely takes me a long time to wind down from being really angry (also known as holding a grudge). Fortunately, it takes me a long time to wind up, too. I guess the biological response is only part of the picture.

oreneta said...

Bodhi, they didn't get into those, um....seasonal changes, that I also feel from time to time...I did find it so very revealing though.

JG, EXACTLY! I think you are absolutely right that the biological response is only part of the whole equation, it was fascinating to see that little bit elucidated so clearly though. So neat.