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Old 03-13-2006, 02:05 PM   #1
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can your brain create a new normal??

That is the question i am wondering about....

Watching the tsunami i heard a doctor say that he was the first couple of days in shock and later ate a sandwich in between post mortums on the scene.

For me absolutely unthinkable as i saw the footage, from my living room gasping for breath while thinking of the small and the scene in general.

The things the soldiers did in those prisons: unthinkable for me. But maybe you become numb.....and create a new normal.

Also the soldiers in Sebrenica giving children toxid stuff to make a fire as candy and had a laugh....

Just three examples how normal people in extreme circumstances do crazy and unthinkable things.

I would like your opinion on this.

Does the human brain say its ok because there is a new normal? What creates this new normal if there is one?
Or do you think there is something els going on??
Does everybody has this "other side" and is it the same energy that a person gets that makes him of her do great things but yet unthinkable heroic??
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Old 03-13-2006, 02:50 PM   #2
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I don't know about creating a new normal, but people in disasters have to detatch somehow in order to keep functioning.

As for people who do horrible things- people have an endless capacity for denial and for lying to themselves, for rationalizing their behavior and for avoiding personal responsibility.
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Old 03-13-2006, 03:21 PM   #3
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Humans have the tendency to habituate to their circumstances. People who have horrific events happen to them, or receive devestating news are often able, after a period of adjustment, to go on relatively normally with their daily lives. Similarily, people who receive great news, or have happy events happen to them do not walk around in a state of elation forever. The elation wears off, and they go back to a more baseline level of mood.

There are exceptions to this, however. For instance, some people who experience tragic events go on to deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), or other difficulties.
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Old 03-13-2006, 07:54 PM   #4
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You have to have a predisposition to get PTSD. One of my great-uncles had it. Back in the '20's, he shot first his wife, and then himself. He'd been in WWI. I didn't know anything about it until I found a newspaper clipping that my family kept years later.
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Old 03-13-2006, 07:57 PM   #5
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Americans, in the larger scheme of things, are extremely pampered, which is why I chuckle when I hear about the latest outrage over violent movies or video games. We've been extremely lucky for a very long time, which is why I think a lot of the world wasn't willing to give us a whole lot of sympathy over 9/11. It's not because it wasn't a horrible event; it's just that it pales in comparison to what a lot of people in other nations have had to deal with over the last century.

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Old 03-13-2006, 08:59 PM   #6
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A friend of mine from Belfast is absolutely confounded by the whole effect of 9/11 on American politics. Not that he doesn't consider that a tragedy, but look at the people in Belfast have been through all these years. It makes us look very pampered indeed.
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Old 03-13-2006, 10:13 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrsSpringsteen
I don't know about creating a new normal, but people in disasters have to detatch somehow in order to keep functioning.

As for people who do horrible things- people have an endless capacity for denial and for lying to themselves, for rationalizing their behavior and for avoiding personal responsibility.

I couldn't imagine a better explanation than that.

For Dutchfan's first example, I think that the mind will do almost anything to maintain its emotional and psychological survival even more so than its physical survival. The doctor eating the sandwich between postmoderns was just experiencing an automatic switchoff, the mind unable to take in any more horror and just accepting it as the norm for now to survive. The mind hardens to function, to survive.

The other examples involve something more. To do something like that requires you to almost deliberately turn your back on everything you have been taught is human, requires you to look at the victims as something other, something not quite human. Something twisted and unnecessary for emotional survival, indicating either a very weak personality who will follow whoever the strongest or a sickness of soul suddenly allowed to do what it has wanted to, thinking that there is no accountability. Or the old saying that you can really only judge character when you see what someone does when they think no one is watching.
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Old 03-13-2006, 11:15 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint



The other examples involve something more. To do something like that requires you to almost deliberately turn your back on everything you have been taught is human, requires you to look at the victims as something other, something not quite human. Something twisted and unnecessary for emotional survival, indicating either a very weak personality who will follow whoever the strongest or a sickness of soul suddenly allowed to do what it has wanted to, thinking that there is no accountability. Or the old saying that you can really only judge character when you see what someone does when they think no one is watching.
In some situations, that's not entirely true. Ordinary people can commit acts of cruelty to others quite easily, under certain circumstances. Milgram's famous 1963 study of obedience showed this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

In designing this study, he had in mind the atrocities committed by Nazi soldiers. The results are startling.
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Old 03-13-2006, 11:37 PM   #9
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This is hard to explain, but I can add some personal input.

I don't think it's so much detachment from the situation that's going on around you. It is to an extent. But for example, when you live in a war zone, people forget that life during war is a lot like life during peacetime. You still have to eat, you still have to sleep, you still manage to laugh with other people, you cry probably more, etc. In a way, those mundane things continue, except under extreme amounts of stress and of course, the possibility of death. But when you are experiencing it, you don't think "how will I ever make it?" Those thoughts come later, after you've survived and you look back and wonder how it was possible to have made it. During the actual event, it's survival of the fittest, and life goes on, not pleasant life, but life nonetheless. When a bomb falls, it's only strange to hear it in the beginning. Months or years later, it's background noise.
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Old 03-14-2006, 04:23 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by VintagePunk


In some situations, that's not entirely true. Ordinary people can commit acts of cruelty to others quite easily, under certain circumstances. Milgram's famous 1963 study of obedience showed this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

In designing this study, he had in mind the atrocities committed by Nazi soldiers. The results are startling.

I agree. That's why I also added the example of following the strongest personality as being one of the possible reasons, which is in line with obedience. I was just differentiating between what would be the reasonable behavior of the doctor who ate a sandwich and the cruelties perpetrated by the others.
That being said there are cruel people who are allowed to act on those cruelties in extreme situations that they would not be allowed to in others.

That being said, I think given the right circumstances most people are capable of most things--horrific and heroic.
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Old 03-14-2006, 05:54 AM   #11
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The brain can create a new normal as it is a dynamic system, the most of men can probably face short term shock events - how they react though and how the memories are processed long term is different.

When the going get's tough the tough get going.

The question I suppose is how much it takes for us to crack, single one off freak events like a car crash or being right there during a stabbing can be dealt with - but dealing with a sustained events, thats where the lines really get drawn.
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Old 03-15-2006, 12:50 PM   #12
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Thank you all for your serious responses. I appriciate that a lot.

Not lived through major disasters or heroic events the image of the doctor eating is sometimes lively in my mind.

Wether you call it a new normal of ptsd or survival......its seem clear reading your comments that something happens in your brain (or whole being).

My next question is: can you go back to "normal" ones you have been in this position?

for people living in a warzone i guess it is life as usual but very different. Just as anitram says. My uncle told me that in ww2 the planes over Holland where very loud the first couple of night, and indeed a familiar background some nights later. My families lived where with blinded windows, not enough food, not enough heating and so on. Germans soldiers giving food and other bulliing them, so you didnot know who to trust. The fear of the older uncles to be deported to work in Germany. Living as a family in a war is i guess somethings different than being away from your family in a war, or after a disaster....or am i seeing that wrong??
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Old 03-15-2006, 03:58 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint


That being said, I think given the right circumstances most people are capable of most things--horrific and heroic.
I completely agree. Most people underestimate the impact that situations have on their behaviour, believing instead that their behaviour is more consistent across varying situations.
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Old 03-15-2006, 04:22 PM   #14
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I think because of what extremeties we are exposed on TV and other mediums make us immune to it
I don't think the brain shifts to a new norm when its experiences it is how you deal and react to situations and it can vary across the spectrum for people
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Old 03-15-2006, 04:40 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by VintagePunk
Quote:
Originally posted by BonosSaint
That being said, I think given the right circumstances most people are capable of most things--horrific and heroic.
I completely agree. Most people underestimate the impact that situations have on their behaviour, believing instead that their behaviour is more consistent across varying situations.
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