Page 24 - 2017 Spring-Summer Issue
P. 24

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                            That One Person Who Doesn’t
                            Rationalize or Deny Our Grief

                            by Bob Baugher, PhD

                            Since your child or sibling or grandchild died have you        some reason for existing. In the midst of its discomfort,
                            noticed that people seem to say a lot of things that lead you  pain and confusion, our brain does whatever it can to
                            to say to yourself, “What was she thinking?” or “Where did     reduce it. As a result, the brain quickly invokes phrases such
                            that come from?” You’ve probably wondered why people           as, “It was God’s will.” “Everything happens for a reason.”
                            would say things to you that make no sense and, in some        Or “God needed another angel.” Upon uttering such words,
                            cases, proved to be hurtful. Well, the answer lies deep in     the brain concludes, “Yes, that’ll help make sense of this
                            that three-pound organ—the brain. On one hand, our brain       tragedy.” And, here’s an added bonus for the brain: it will
                            can solve complex problems, invent new things, and create      also reduce some discomfort. So, with one phrase the brain
                            wondrous works of art. However, in responding to people        has dealt with its two major functions: reducing pain and
                            and events, our brain is sometimes quite simple in the way     making sense of the world.
                            it works. Think of your brain as having two major functions:
                            (a) to reduce pain and (b) to make sense out of the world      In response to the grief of another person, the brain
                            around it. A lot of what we do each day stems from these       finds a way to soothe itself by what psychologists call Ego
                            two functions. When we’re uncomfortable, hurt or when          Defense Mechanisms. They serve the dual brain function
                            someone offends us, what does our brain do? It cries out to    by simultaneously reducing pain and making sense of a
                            stop the pain. When we encounter physical or emotional         situation. Let’s look at two of the more popular Defense
                            distress, our brain insists, “Stop this discomfort and stop    Mechanisms and how they figure into the unhelpful things
                            it now!” The death of a child is not only painful, it makes    people say to us in the midst of our grief.
                            no sense. When people hear of this tragedy, their brains
                            may attempt to come to the rescue by finding something—        Rationalization—the queen of Defense Mechanisms. Why?
                            anything—that will give this horrible event some meaning,      Because people use it all the time in an attempt to feel
                                                                                           better. Its function involves the use of false excuses for one’s
                            2 4 |We Need Not Walk Alone
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