Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Jekyll and Hyde syndrome

Have you ever noticed how many people show two noticeably different personalities? There is a kind and friendly disposition -- it's typically reserved for those on the "approved" list. Then there is the other side. I think one reason people avoid discussing politics and religion in public is the number of people who have their Mr. Hyde button pushed by those topics, or by being in the presence of those who disagree with them on those topics.

I was recently around someone whose Mr. Hyde button had been pushed -- though I suspect another person around was trying very hard to push that button. (I saw this same thing happen with more than one set of people today.) I also suspect, if I'm reading cues right, that at least one of our Mr. Hydes very much enjoyed having his button pushed. Maybe some people suppose venting releases the dark side rather than simply exercising it. When someone pushes our buttons, I think that our inner Mr. Hyde is more like an athlete who has just had some strenuous exercise: he may rest well for awhile with a satisfied glow, but he becomes stronger and more accustomed to the exercise with each opportunity we give.

I wonder if people appreciate the extent to which hatred is corrosive and incendiary, the extent to which "provocative" conversations are throwing verbal Molotov cocktails. At what level of heat does conversation stop working? Once someone's Mr. Hyde button has been pushed on a topic, am I just imagining it, or does it take ever less provocation to switch over to Mr. Hyde the next time? Is there a threshold at which someone can't discuss a topic rationally again without some sort of intervention or healing?

The part that concerns me is this: how close are we, as a society, to the threshold at which rational discussion breaks down except among people who are already like-minded? What would that mean for democracy?

4 comments:

Tony-Allen said...

It seems that society is thriving on polarization and conflict, not so much in war but in opinion or treatment of our fellow man. We seem to enjoy hating someone for something so minor.

I used to have a serious case of the Hyde button, and I'm still fighting it to this day to be rid of it. Part of what helped me was seeing people who didn't even bother to change back to Jekyll, so to speak. In my opinion, the sins of others should not serve to condemn them, but condemn ourselves.

Weekend Fisher said...

There are times when I still struggle with the Hyde button. I think the most sobering thing is, like you said, meeting people who are "stuck on Hyde". And how many of them manage to think they're either rational or at least justifiable. And it seems that all it takes to justify being Stuck-On-Hyde is meeting someone of opposing views who is Stuck-On-Hyde. Bleck. So they're growing.

How do you heal something like that?

Take care & God bless
Anne / WF

underground said...

i wish that i can find someone to aid me. i have spent most of my lifetime fighting my own existence. as you call it my "hyde" psychiatrists tell me that since i dont share my emotions it has made my already explosive syndrome go nuclear. everyday i strive for that "american dream" while holding back this beast every moment. its hard to hug a grlfriend if a part of you just want to tear her to peices. are there any others struggling with this that have found a better way?

Weekend Fisher said...

That kind of hatred comes from somewhere. I really struggle with the past sometimes, what they call "skeletons in the closet".

I'm betting you have a memory of a monster somewhere in your past -- a human monster. (I do too. More than one.)

You have to promise yourself you won't become the monster.

When something triggers the monster, you have to figure out what stops it. With me, it's doing something physical, like running. With someone else I know, it's playing his guitar. You have to figure out what stops the monster, and be ready to do that when someone pushes your Mr Hyde button. You have to promise yourself that you will not become the monster.

If you have to tear someone to pieces, picture yourself tearing Jesus to pieces. Picture yourself as the one who tore him up. And make sure it's only Jesus, never anyone else.

The thoughts that go through our heads when we're "Stuck on Hyde" -- that pure evil taking us over. We have to fight back. And nobody is up to the other side but Jesus. In your mind, on your knees in prayer, take it to the cross. It's the only place you'll find the intensity and strength that can stand up to Mr Hyde.

And pray. Try Psalm 51 or Psalm 22, those are some of the best for times like that. After it's over -- not before it's over but after it's over -- pray Psalm 103.

I'm serious, man.

Take care & God bless
WF