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City of Banjul
Friday, October 7, 2022

An eye for an eye (Leaves everyone blind)

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With Aisha Jallow

The feeling of revenge is sweet, isn’t it? You give back, smack them in the face, make them bleed, make them suffer. No other part of your brain is included but the oldest and smallest part which sometimes is called the reptile brain. That is the remains of the first humans on earth, a time when life was about surviving. Your instincts were sharp, your ears could move in different directions to make sure where the unknown sounds came from. Yes, humans could move their ears, just as animals do, but this was a very long time ago and evolution changed our bodies when we didn’t need that skill anymore.

Life was so hard, you didn’t know if the foreign person you just met was an enemy or someone friendly. Better not take anything for granted and always be on your guard. Our bodies have changed through evolution, but our instincts are still the same. When we feel stress, our hearts begin to beat faster to push more blood to our brains and our muscles. We need to make decisions in a haste and our muscles get tense because our bodies make ready to run or fight. These skills are amazing, and life saving, when we are threatened by something or someone dangerous, but the problem is that this instant reaction is so fast so it kicks in before we even are aware of the danger. Our bodies are picking up signals from the surroundings, and that is how we have survived since the beginning of time, but what if there is no danger? What if it is only in our minds, but it feels just as genuine as real danger?

Most of us find security in what we have known for as long as we can remember. We are surrounded by people we know, we meet them every day, greet them, find joy in them or get annoyed by them. We speak the same language, eat the same kind of food, share some gossip and pray together at the mosque or in the church. We know what we know, what our parents have taught us and our teachers have tried to teach us. We believe in certain things and many times we are so certain that what we believe in is what is right and everything else is strange and wrong. As long as we remain at what we know and not begin to question it, everything feels fine and the security surrounds us like a warm and cosy blanket.

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What if someone suddenly turns up and snatches away your comfy blanket? What if someone doesn’t believe in exactly what you believe in? What if someone has taken what you believe in to another level where you don’t feel the warm cosyness of the well known anymore? That is when your stress level is increasing. Your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and you want to defend yourself and what you know. This is a normal reaction, but the great thing with our brains is that they have also evolved since the beginning of humanity. Our brains are much larger and have many more functions than our ancestors from million years back. This is because we need more functions as the world has also evolved. We don’t live in caves and beat each other in the head with clubs anymore.

Hmm, the last part could be discussed, but I think you get my point anyway. Whenever we feel some kind of stress, our bodies have the same reactions. We react like that to be able to survive, but sometimes these reactions are fooling us to believe there is a danger. This is when we must use the part of our brain where we can analyze the situation and quickly decide if we need to defend ourselves or run for our lives. In some occasions it can be necessary to defend ourselves physically, but mostly it is a matter of verbal fights. The intensity of the verbal fight can differ from a heated discussion to in a battle of who can yell the loudest, but as long as we don’t hit each other we can find a reasonable way of ending our arguments.

It is easy to say things we regret when we have calmed down. We feel the urge to say something worse than the other part, as a revenge, because our counterpart has hurt us and snatched away our warm and fuzzy safety blankets. These blankets are only imaginary, but they mean everything to us. In a world that feels chaotic, we cling to what we know and what we believe in. We don’t want anything to change because what if we would find that the other part might be right and what we always have believed in is not the whole truth? Our world would begin to rumble, we would begin to question ourselves and what we always have believed in. We suddenly feel threatened and our defence system kicks in.

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Psychology is a very interesting subject, it is a tool of understanding how people act and react. There is a question we always get back to when we think of psychology and it is just a single word: Why.

Why do I react as I do when you are discussing something with me? Why do you get angry when I question your behaviour? Why does a group of people gather and listen to someone who is telling them to use violence against others who don’t believe exactly the same way as they do? The answer is that we are afraid of the unknown. We don’t want to be bothered with something that feels strange to us. We want to stay inside the safety blanket, because the world outside feels cold and scary.

Humans feel secure in groups, the family, our football club, our political party or our congregation. We meet people we know and we miss them when we are away. In the old days, when we were completely dependent on our group for our survival, being an outcast was a life sentence and it was fatal. The person, that had been cast out, was thrown out of the community. No one spoke to that person, no one offered some food even if the outcast clearly was hungry. The loneliness, being and outsider, was something people feared, so therefore people tried to adjust to the customs and traditions of their tribe.

We still do the same, even if we actually can manage on our own in a different way than before, but we need to be a part of our community. It gives us a sense of security, it is our safety blanket, and when someone behaves in a way that feels strange we feel threatened. We don’t want to change, change is scary. Change is hard, change forces us to reconsider what we always have known and that is hard. Change is necessary, though, because change leads to evolution. We need to realize that even though we react to change as a threat, we need to analyze our reactions and ask ourselves why we react so strongly. What are we afraid of? Is it a real threat, or is it something we are not familiar with? Must we fight it, or can we learn something new from it instead?

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