ARGUING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

By Gregory Rapp

People are angry these days. Have you noticed? We will yell, scream, and throw punches over anything. Everyone seems spoiling for a fight and one can break out anytime, anywhere. We disagree, argue, and choose sides. We blame and punish. We care more about being right and beating the other side than we do working together solve the problem at hand.

Anger is a natural response we’ve developed to respond quickly to threats. A bear jumps out in front of us and our brain instantly dumps adrenaline and cortisol into our bloodstream. The adrenaline revs the engine, increasing heart rate, deepening breathing, and releasing blood sugar into the bloodstream so our muscles will be able to fight or take flight. The cortisol shuts off the rational thinking part of our brains because thinking takes too much time when faced with a hungry bear. It also shuts off our empathy and compassion making it easier to wound and kill if necessary, without feeling bad about it. It’s all about survival and self-defense in the wild, but in the relative safety of our modern lives this response is overkill, especially when it comes to a squabble over a parking space.

Anger is a feeling of hostility toward another person or situation that, if allowed to run its course, will end in violence. It is very difficult to “just calm down” because there is a very real cocktail of drugs coursing through our bloodstream that turns off the rational thinking part of the brain and we will not cool off until these substances are out of the bloodstream. It is no different than taking a powerful sleeping pill then changing our minds about wanting a nap. The sedative is already in our bloodstream, so a nap is happening. When angry, we are no longer “in our right minds.” We are literally under the influence of mind-altering substances, so our perceptions and decisions made while angry are unreliable. When two people are angry with each other and processing the situation under the influence of these hormone induced delusions, it sets off a series of dominoes escalating the conflict toward violence. We do not drive while under the influence. We take a cab. Someone else can help us get home safely. We should not make important decisions while under the influence, either. Sometimes, we could use some help working through our disagreements and problems because the anger is getting us in trouble.

Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC) has trained mediators available to help you work through strained family relationships, neighbor disputes, or other conflicts for an economical fee based on income.  If you would like more information about Mediation, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County, 717-334-7312, P.O. Box 4113, Gettysburg, PA 17325, online at mediationac@yahoo.com , or check out our website, www.mediateadams.org.