Monday, April 04, 2016

Insula Devi of Pain.....

Insula Devi of Pain.

Regardless of religious persuasion, she resides in all of us.  Actually,we actively participate in her life;  an amazing life, which she shares with someone called Prince Amygdala .  Together, they keep watch on how we feel pain, how we interpret stuff happening around us, how we react,  how we learn from what we see and experience , what kind of temper we exhibit,  and how , sometimes, they are helpless , and end up activating the 'gunda' side of things.

Growing up inside our heads, she is very alert, and learns from many things. Mainly the environment in which we grow up. 

If it is an environment where we are constantly threatened , or constantly viewing altercations , whatever the cause, she tends to believe, that's  the way to go, and Amygdala rubs his hands in anticipation.

Sometimes, it is an environment you are helpless about, for whatever reason; social pressures, economic pressures, perceived slights, and even peer pressures.

These actually define the makeup of the Insula Devi in your head, and the simplest thing she can do when a decision is to be made, about any pain, is to let go, mindlessly, with some unnecessary encouragement from Prince Amygdala.

And so if you have battled all your life to get where you are, left your family to keep house and company with those who struggle to maintain a semblance of life amidst inhuman conditions and tweaking morals , earn something which is never enough, and all the while, seeing others do well all around you, the Insula Devi in your head becomes a militant type, given to knee jerk reactions. 

But sometimes, you grow up, in an environment, where you feel secure; there are skirmishes, of course;  but there are reasons discussed, lessons learned, and people around , who ensure that ,  any action is always preceded by some thinking.  Sometimes, you are only human (pun intended) , and you still do knee jerk reactions; but then you are firmly told off, and penalized in some thoughtful way.  You learn not to be intimidated by someone else's successes, or someone different from you, who seems to have a happy  life laid out on a platter.

The Insula Devi is such people's head, is in a much happier situation, she takes decisions regarding pain perception in a different way.  She actually thinks, and also encourages the Amygdala to follow her.  Yes, there is pain, often due to no fault of yours, but there is a stopping-and-waiting-to think-and work-it-out attitude that is present.  Something the Devi learns by habit.

Which brings to mind the Delhi Dentist's case. A young Dentist, home a bit late from work, finds his child waiting to play a few balls with him; they toss around a bat and a ball in a small compound, and a ball, suddenly finds its way out, hitting a passing bike rider.  Altercations ensue. The bike rider goes away and returns with a gang of people with hockey and other sticks. They attack the Dentist and beat him to death.

The law will take its course. As they say.  5-6 people will see even worse environment, in a place populated with everyone even worse than them. They will be decreed, hopefully, a stiff punishment.  So the Insula Devis in other heads might learn.

In the meanwhile, a family stands shattered, a  young mother and a son left to fend for themselves, confused and worried about life and the future.  They too slogged for a future. Studied, passed exams, followed a profession , and, like everyone else ,  had dreams.

The Insular cortex,  seat of Insula Devi and her sidekick Amygdala ,  in our brains, is the seat of feeling/deciding  pain, deciding emotions, and activating responses.  It sits hand in hand with the Amygdala, which more or less acts in a "listen-to-me" fashion. Across our brains, is what is called the Gray matter . Turns out that there isn't enough of gray matter with the Insula Devi , in those folks , that perform gunda reactions.  Researchers have found that youths with behavioural problems, obsessive behaviour, aggression issues and anger have noticeably less grey matter, particularly in their Insula Cortex and Amygdala areas.

So how do we work with that?

 Part of it is a a complicated issue of overpopulation, lack of employment and resources in rural areas, migration, quality of life in cities, and even pollution. It is reported that Toxoplasmosis , caused by a common brain parasite, that gets transmitted via cat feces, undercooked meat and contaminated water, is often the cause of what is called IED or Intermittent Explosive Disorder  , a big cause of road rage . 

While some are complicated huge societal and country issues, one may yet concentrate on something that can be worked on at the personal family level.  For one thing, the proclivity to attribute everything to "beta hai, galti to karega"  must be rubbished.  Gender discrimination must be deemed completely unacceptable at the family level. Parents need to give time to children, and be aware of what they are up to, and who their friends are. And a tendency to mindlessly violently respond must be noticed, recognized and some treatment/corrective action taken.  

A philosophy of constantly  endeavoring to keep up with the neighbor Joneses and trying to match up by any means however shady, must be  discouraged.  Somewhere , a deterrent must develop, that says , "wait, let me think..."

I once lived on a campus with lots of open spaces. And lots of kids, who simply enjoyed all kinds of ball games .  Batting, kicking the ball and running with it. Sometimes , it rolled out on to the roads inside, which we used to walk  to the market.  I was on my way once , amidst a lot of exciting games going on, and all of a sudden there was a quiet, followed by a big thud on my head. A big ball had accidentally fallen on my head. For a minute I was stunned, and then my own Insula Devi calmed me down. I was fine, still standing.  Nothing was wrong and no one had any khunnas against me. Amidst cries of "Aunty, sorry, we didn't see you; are you hurt ...." etc,  I simply turned, smiled at them, said it was just a game and it was OK, and then to every one's surprise, I  tried to kick the ball back to them .  (I've always secretly wanted to do that. :-) ),  much to their vast amusement; it is not everyday, that you see an old lady in a saree kicking a football. 

There have been other times. An ankle hit hard by a "season" cricket ball, while taking a shortcut through Azad Maidan in the monsoons, while Kanga league matches happened all over the place; a fielder kind of looking in worried anticipation, at an old lady noticing the ball, then bending down and performing an almighty throw  to him, and the team members applauding.  I mean when was the last time a cricket team applauded you ?  Actually, your Insula Devi ? 

But this was because right from childhood, sport was a greatly encouraged thing, assorted injuries were part of the sport,  and you did not make a fuss and kept playing the game.  It gave you a very balanced view about what was important. All children , male and female , were given the same careful bringing up where these things were concerned, without special considerations for females.There was no fawning and sighing over what are really routine injuries , we developed a great respect for our bodies' ability to repair and recover.  Yes, parents worried when we were hurt, but it only taught us how to deal with these things.

Your own Insula Devi needs to be nurtured and worshipped in your brain.  There are things one may do to empower her. Research has found that meditation  and stuff like Vipassana,  leads to increase in the gray matter in the area where the Insula Devi and Amygdala  live. Research has also found that  youth with behavioural problems, aggression, drugs habits etc, show a noticeable lack of gray matter in that area.

It is easy to say all this. It is not easy to initiate or implement this, given the problems faced in big cities today, the lack of facilities, various undesirable attractions, and outrageous costs of living.

But I think much can be achieved by mindful bringing up of children;  it is OK to act tough with them at times. Some do this in a binary fashion. They either fawn over their kids , and then lose tempers when something goes wrong ; there need not be physical violence.  Growing up is not about power play.

Today there is  so much politics about religious places,  and the residents of these structures are either forgotten, or used for winning violent arguments.

Why am I not surprised, and is it possibly a sign of the times,  that Insula Devi of Pain remains traumatized in growing number of minds today ?   


1 comment:

  1. You have explained the control of emotions so well and also suggested management of it.