Dual/Reciprocal Altruism, Fear, Pain and Anger

This is a really complicated topic, but it is one I have been reading about to help me understand who I am and why I ended up being this way.  So far it is the only way I have been able to describe some traits I have that appear to be out of the norm in some ways which other people have noticed about me and especially in context to having ADHD and what I have read here in this forum about the spouses (men in particular) with ADHD.  In order to explain this I have to add some of my childhood abuse to this story because it is the reason why I ended up the way I did?  Just to be sure,  at this point in my life I have made peace with everyone in my family both living and dead so I don't want to dwell here or make this about all my grief and suffering but to the point....I can't relate these things without the very context that is responsible for these traits in the first place?

To start, I have to define some definitions:

Altruism =  the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. 

Reciprocal Altruism= is a behavior whereby an person acts in a manner that temporarily pays a higher cost to themselves while increasing the benefit to another person with the expectation that the other person will act in a similar manner at a later time.  ( what I believed about my father growing up and later discovering.....not so much)

Prisoner's Dilemma= If A and B each betray the other, each of them serves 2 years in prison
                               If A betrays B but B remains silent, A will be set free and B will serve 3 years in prison (and vice versa)
                               If A and B both remain silent, both of them will only serve 1 year in prison (on the lesser charge) *this was always my first choice.  Take the sentence and keep your mouth shut.  At the very least, no one will be angry with you later on.

Fear of Pain Response=  Reporting in the current issue of the journal Science, Dr. Alexander Ploghaus and colleagues at Britain's Oxford University and in Canada said they hoped their findings could lead to better ways to treat chronic pain. They did brain scans of people who were expecting pain and found that a certain area was activated, which may help prove a theory that the fear of pain is worse than the pain itself. ''The area that has been involved in anticipation of pain is an area that is believed to be involved in 'gut feeling' decision,'' Dr. Ploghaus said.Previous experiments have shown that people often realize something unconsciously before they realize it consciously, and a certain part of the brain is activated. This could be involved in pain response, too. ''I think we are seeing here some autonomic conditioning,'' Dr. Ploghaus said, ''the typical changes that you see when you have to run away from a threat.''

Autonomic Conditioning=the process describing the achievement of conscious control over autonomic processes (e.g., heart rate) through biofeedback training.

Dual Processing Altruism=  differential impact of two thinking modes, intuitive (System 1) and rational (System 2), on these three altruistic behaviors:  ( me being mostly (System 2)...intuition gets pretty murky when you are born into dysfunctional family dynamics )

         The first form of altruism is costly sharing and it refers to help giving, when one party gives from their resources to another without receiving anything in return.

          Secondly, human altruism can take the form of costly punitive actions against norm violators with the aim of enforcing social norms, which is referred to as altruistic punishment. This behavior has been suggested to be crucial to encouraging and maintaining social cooperation

          Finally, there is moral courage, which is the willingness to speak up or take action in a situation that conflicts with one’s moral or feelings of justice.  Justice sensibility, moral mandates, and anger seem to be among the promoters of moral courage.

We found that of the subjectively preferred thinking styles (trait), faith in intuition (System 1) promoted sharing and altruistic punishment, whereas need for cognition (System 2) promoted volunteering in a situation that required moral courage.

Under non-reciprocal and anonymous conditions. When no direct social interaction is taking place, so that the consequences of the altruistic acts are not directly observable, cognitive control processes may be required to pursue other-benefiting behavior in accordance with one’s own moral and fairness standards.  This would include the need to inhibit affective or egoistic impulses in favor of uncertain, delayed, and impersonal benefits (e.g., for society as a whole). Under those circumstances it might be that people who like to think things through and consider distant and long-term consequences of their actions before making a decision might engage more in prosocial behaviors, despite lower empathy.  ( this becomes the replacement for intuition and empathy when you can't count on your innate abilities or don't trust them.... it is a learned process over time )

Okay....now these things are established (and for good reason as you will see)  you might guess right off the bat,  I'm not big on people focused on cost punitive actions against norm violators...to put it mildly. lol  Having ADHD in my family was definitely a norm violation which kind of makes it difficult to navigate a system based on this kind of altruism.  Saying it another way...I failed miserable no matter how hard I tried.

The highlighted areas are of particular interest to me since I believe they explain most of the answers to why I am, the way I am.

Enter here, my father....who by speculation by my T...what not only a Narc but had some strong Antisocial Personality defects as components of his personality.  Simply put, he not only lacked empathy but was extremely territorial, adversarial and predatory.  But the most abusive part of his personality is something that is difficult to describe.  I can only relate it here in a brief telling of what is was like on the receiving end of it for me.  When he was encited for what ever reason and brought to rage it was one of most traumatic experiences I ever recall having as a child.  It could come out of no where and was highly volatile and reactive but the significant difference between someone who just loses it and gets angry with you was that when this would erupt in him....he would turn on you like a Tiger that has his prey cornered at the moment just before the kill.  The scariest part about this as I remember was looking at his face and particularly his eyes.  His eye's would turn dark, almost black and would almost hypnotize you like a trance with fear.  It would freeze you dead in your tracks a paralyze you with fear.  My father had only two emotions for the most part...anger and not anger.  Not anger was almost anger but without showing it and that was pretty much it.  He rarely smiled and if he did it was only at times of his choosing when he was the center of attention.  When I looked at some family pictures once...I noticed only a couple when he would actually smile even when everyone else was beaming.  However....when I later worked along side with him when I got some part time work in one of the stores he ran....I saw a completely different person than the one I knew at home.  He was jovial, charming and charismatic and everyone seemed to think he was great?  I remember thinking..."you aren't my father,  you are obviously an imposter trying to pose as him instead of the real man I know."  I remember being really disgusted and I think he felt very uncomfortable having me there for that reason.  This was when I was in college at that time and he was already getting close to retiring due to emphysema and poor health which he died from only 5 years later from that time.

But the effect that these incidents of rage had on me was something that is difficult to quantify.  I recall the first one being when I was only 4 or 5 years old.  From that day on....I never felt comfortable around him ever again and was in fear of my father no matter when I was in his presence until I was in my early teens when something happened and just clicked inside me.   I lived my entire childhood in a state of fear whenever I was in my own home with him at the same time.  The handful of times he actually struck me (physical pain) was nothing compared to the effect of him coming at you like he did.  It was a sense of malice with extreme prejudice in every respect and was targeted directly at you when he was like this.  I saw him this way with other people at different times (strangers) if he felt threatened and I can tell you that the response I saw in other people was a look of extreme shock and utter dismay.  You heard of "Shock and Awe" tactics during the Gulf War?  I think my father invented them and they are extremely effective!  I remember thinking afterwards in order to try and rationalize something...anything to explain what happened thinking "that didn't hurt a bit" (the physical pain) . 

For me...what happened was I just got tire of being afraid.  You reach a  point where fear turns to anger and physical pain seems like a Sunday drive in a convertible on a nice sunny day compared to the fear of the pain itself.  I discovered this on my own by living this way long enough that I finally had enough.  Physical pain was nothing compared to living in fear.  Physical hurt and  pain goes away as fast as it comes and you only need to endure it until it stops which you learn over time is the case from experience.  Your tolerance to pain itself becomes very high and it is an easy choice once you have experienced this and then learn to master you pain instead of it mastering you.

The turning point for me was when I read the book "Deep Water" written by Don Shollander the Olympic swimming champion from the 64 Tokyo Olympic games (my childhood hero at age 7 at the time.  Before that it was Tarzan / Johnny Wiesmuller which is why I wanted to learn to swim in the first place :).  Wanting to emulate him, I remember reading anything about him I could and I actually found the excerpt I read back in 1964 that really changed my life and how I thought about pain.  This is from a story printed in the Eugene (OR) Register Guard newspaper and a quote that Don's couch made about him ( Georges Haines couched Santa Clara Swim Club and was considered  to be one of the top coaches in swimming at the time)  Haines said " Dons swimming success is a really efficient stroke, but the greatest thing about him is his willingness to swim through hurt and feel pain and then say how good it felt...this sounds ridiculous but this is the difference between the top athlete and the not-quite-top athlete.....hurt, pain and agony....to like the feeling of it after they finish."   I made the decision right then at age 7 that I was going to like pain just like my hero, and set my mind in that direction from that moment on.  Later in his book Deep Water......Shollander tells of his experience with this and how you learn to change your relationship with pain saying by changing it in this way, you make pain your friend and welcoming it any opportunity you can get...it changes your entire outlook on what you can do and achieve and unlocks your potential.  This proved to be a defining moment in my life.

side note:  Don Shollander's first coach as a young boy was the same coach I had in the many years I swam.  I know in part, this is where he learned to think this way as I heard the same philosophy countless time from him myself.  Part of my connection to Shollander.

I was not particular strong or athletic and was not gifted by any stretch of the word....but what I discovered over time was the exact same thing I had set out to do.  To win or beat guys who were bigger and stronger than I was naturally by being able to endure more pain than they could .  I also discovered how well this worked no matter where I went as a scrawny skinny little kid who was kind of vulnerable in a lot of ways compared to a lot of other boys my age.  I remember taking on the attitude that says "if you are going to get in a fight with me.....you better knock me unconscious because if you don't, no matter how bad I get hurt..... I'm going to hurt you really bad in the process because I can take a lot more pain than you."  This isn't false self confidence either....it truly comes from what I just said and when confronted with a bully or someone who is trying to pick on you....what is missing is fear.  If you aren't afraid of pain....then you aren't afraid period. That's the bottom line.

I had become so conditioned out of living in fear all the time that I discovered all the reasons why this is so debilitating for you.  I discovered as I said...what happens when you get sick a tired of being afraid and living in fear all the time and finally do something about it by making pain your friend instead of something to be feared.  What I discovered by doing this was that the fear of the pain is by far the most debilitating thing that a person can live with not just normal everyday fear itself.  Between the two....pain is a simple choice for me to make in every case rather than living with be afraid. 

Without understanding what I was doing at the time, I was learning the ability to autonomic condition myself.....  to gain conscious control of my body and override my impulses that come from pain and discomfort on a global level and do it over thousands of hours of training and practice.  This all came from me reading that article about Don Shollander at age 7 and wanting to be just like him at the time.

The other things I mentioned about altruism apply in how I managed my situation at home with my father and the fear I started out with.  I can now see the connection in the things that I highlighted which is why I included them into this discussion.  If you can connect the dots in context to what I already said....you might get a picture as to how my ADHD played into this compared to the other stories you here about people with ADHD.  Adversity can come at any time but what you do with it makes a world of difference.  Adversity does not guarantee anything other than being a test in itself with not one predicted outcome.  Sometimes all you need is something like this article for me to give you the motivation and hope for something better to use a guide to help getting you there if you want something really badly and are willing to put in the time and effort to go after it.

A comment my wife recently made about me saying that she see's something in me that she has not experienced with other men she has been with.  I had to think about this for a while but I am thinking that everything that I just said is why this is for me.  Fear and pain is part of being human....the fear of pain is not part of this experience once you learn that it is nothing to be afraid of.  Without the fear of pain itself.....most all other fears tend to disappear and leaves you open and available for most anything that will come your way in the future knowing the worst thing that can happen is just the pain itself.  In a heart beat without having to think about.....I pick pain over fear without ever having to think twice about it.