Temporary insanity affects us all, at stages in our lives and at points in our day. It is an example of how we struggle against our genetic behaviors.
As my kids approach puberty, I sit them down and talk to them about what’s about to happen; not with their bodies, but with their minds. They’re going to go through something like a temporary insanity. I point out that they are going to think that my wife and I are crazy, mean, and controlling. But I tell them, “When you come up for air, when you settle down and reflect, remember, you’re the one who’s changing. We’re the same people we always were, and we are totally devoted to you and your well-being.”
It helps a bit. The lesson is remembered a little more often, and when we calm down between each fracas and tracas, we talk to them some more. It seems to make a difference.
Here’s what I’ve noticed: with the onset of puberty, kids become overwhelmed with a particular kind of temporary insanity, a several year-long mild narcissism. In fact, the standard psychiatric references separate the temporary narcissism seen in young adults, from long-lasting, often permanent, narcissism. But I’ve noticed that young teenagers are frequently completely absorbed in what they want or think, so much so that they become insensitive to what others want, as well as insensitive to what’s going on in the situations around them. More interesting, it seems this processing often by-passes logic centers, and possibly disables them. Pubertal teenagers frequently don’t hear what is told them, and when they hear it, if it does not fit what they want, they seem to dismiss it from memory.
And when they are caught disobeying something they were told, or even admitted at the time that they understood, mixed with their anger and resentment, you can see a certain confusion. They vaguely remember the instruction or agreement, and are defenseless and frustrated, that they didn’t do what they were told.
Here’s my point: this kind of temporary insanity is common for this age group. There are two critical points here. First, the fact that it happens at a certain age certainly suggests a strong genetic component. Second, the fact that the kids struggle against it, and that most of us learn to grow beyond it, suggests not only a strong learning component, but that human genetic behavior is not determinism.
But it can be very strong. All of us experience other forms of temporary insanity. We all struggle with anger, in which we say or do something for which we were very sorry later. The fact that we are ‘of two minds’, anger, and remorse for that anger, again suggests that one of them was genetically driven, the other was driven by education, experience, and analysis. And with age, the intellectual aspect strengthens, and we lose our anger less often; or even, we figure out when it is appropriate to lose our tempers, and make our genetic behaviors subordinate to our learning and analysis.
When we are tired, hungry, stressed, or in pain, a very brief temporary insanity takes over, and the genetic component gets stronger. We are more likely lapse into anger, or abuse, or neglect when we our bodies are uncomfortable. But again, ‘likely’ is the operative word. We do not always act in regrettable ways when we are in discomfort. With time and experience, we learn to stop the insanity, and we give into the genetic component less and less.
Then there are the various lusts, not just sex, but also materialism, pride, and egotism, all of which are expressions of the larger problem of narcissism. However much we may intellectually disapprove of these, we are all given to them at times, and are later embarrassed. But succumb less with experience. Again, we see the genetic and intellectual aspects expressed here.
We will continue this conversation with more observations in future posts. But from these it seems evident that humans are subject to genetically driven behavior; the error that the pure Lockians1)From John Locke, 17th century English philosopher and physician, who argued that we are tabulae rasae, ‘blank slates’. We are born without any knowledge or tendencies, upon which only our education and experiences are expressed. miss, is that genes are definitely influential, it’s just that they are not controlling.
And the problem the Lockians give us, is that if we ignore an important influence on human behavior, particularly a temporary insanity that can produce serious consequences, then we miss the opportunity to deal effectively with it, and better modulate and moderate it.
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||From John Locke, 17th century English philosopher and physician, who argued that we are tabulae rasae, ‘blank slates’. We are born without any knowledge or tendencies, upon which only our education and experiences are expressed.|