Doug Fields, author of Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain, contends a mother will become enraged to protect her child against a threat. The instinct emerges from deep within her brain senses. Fields declares that “We evolved these neural circuits for survival in the wild. We still need them.”
Do we need that angry instinct when it comes to being afraid to step out of our front yards in the dead of night? We may not feel the need to become enraged over the endless neighborhood dread but what about a mild form of anger? We are held hostage but evidently the threat is not enough to even give it a thought. So, maybe it’s not all that much instinctual.
Are we living in the wild these days? I recall when I was about six or seven years old my father purchased a lock for our front door. He seemed to be very pleased with it. “What kind of lock is that, Dad?”
“It’s a dead-bolt, son.”
“Why is it called that?”
“Because it might keep us from dying.” Was he joking? I had no fear in those days. I had a military supply WWII backpack with a helmet and a wooden bayonet.
That’s the phase in my life when I felt pretty safe in my home and surroundings but as time went on, alarm systems were installed in our neighborhoods, gated communities cropped up, and block watch signs and dead-bolts have remained essential. I don’t recall feeling anger about being held hostage in my homes in the graveyard shift hours during my young years. Did we gradually evolve our neural circuits for survival in the wilds of our property in our mature years? Do we still need them, the dead bolts, that is?
What makes us fearful of our nocturnal moods? Well, let’s start with the evening news reports. Just before going to bed we get bombarded by the most heinous crimes the networks can uncover in our city and if they run out of atrocious ones in our state they will find a neighboring state’s reports. At times we can be barraged for ten to fifteen minutes on up-front news and if it’s on CNN we can have two or three days of it.
I recall back in 1968 when a neighbor had a ‘breakdown.’ A psychiatrist reminded him that our society was in a volatile time with race riots, students commandeering campus buildings, Vietnam War protests and urban gangs escalating. The patient was always angry and fearful, and was urged to stop reading newspapers and viewing television news for six months. My neighbor admitted after the six months that he felt he had lost a bit of hope for the future.
Do we have any rage or even mild ire for having had our front yards stolen from us in which we need to deal? While walking or biking in the predawn hours I pass homes with tough-looking elevated over-sized trucks with RNA stickers obviously owned by young men but I never see them out front in those hours. What does it do to young people who would like to be macho but fear to sneak out front? How much anger gets repressed? How much day-time road rage is generated by those night-time neighborhood lock-ins?
Are we living with a low-grade form of trying to survive in the wild at night? Do we still need it?
An author had this to say about fear: “I am…afraid of airplanes, deep-sea diving and psychiatry. The earth alone comforts me, regardless of how much dirt it may contain.”
Francoise Sagan. La Garde du Coeur, 1972
Do we have enough dirt to comfort us on our property?