"As the Jews were being transported on the trains towards certain death in the camps, I noticed how easily they would turn on each other. The few that suspected their fate should have spoken less about it, the rest of them did not want to know." - SS Officer
How did the Nazis manage to get people to work until they dropped and to walk calmly to their deaths instead of fighting until the last? They gave the illusion of the smallest HOPE of survival. That slim chance was enough to stop 6 million people fighting back as one. Because when the human spirit gives way to the reality of no hope, there is nothing more to live for and you may as well stop breathing then and there.
So how do humans who face little hope get around this small conundrum. Compartmentalisation, or more commonly known as disassociation, having the ability to "switch off". We all do this to a certain degree without even realising it. The kids are fighting, the phone is ringing, the doorbell goes - we can focus and prioritise our attention and effectively block out the information that is superfluous to us at the time. When we are faced with a danger situation that requires our fight or flight mechanism to kick in, our adrenals pump into action and we respond accordingly. But what happens when we cant act, the danger overpowers us, we cant protect ourselves, all hope is gone. We compartmentalise that information away from us so we don't have to feel under threat anymore. Is this a biological reflex as well?
"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend." - Wordsworth
Sociopaths will argue that it is not a bad thing, that there is an upside. Psychological studies have shown that sociopaths are very good at prioritising and focusing, which enables the criminal types to commit horrific crimes and go home for dinner with the family as if nothing has happened. In our day to day lives how often have we driven past the car crash and half an hour later forgotten the whole thing, run over a hedgehog "oh well it can't be helped" and off we go. While letting our children watch violent media, we should ask ourselves if we would be so happy about it if it was actually happening in our living room.
"As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom, a firm sense of self-esteem, is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery." - Martin Luther King
The human mind is an amazing tool, to be able to switch itself off in order to protect us mentally. Torture victims and victims of child abuse say they can even block the physical pain by going into a state of removal a trance, or "happy place". Women in childbirth often have amnesiac experiences around the later stages of labour and birth - self protection.