The question sometimes comes up, so what? So what if a young person doesn't work that area much during the so-called critical period of development?
The answer is that at the end of adolescence, the areas of the prefrontal cortex that weren't reinforced and wired will lose the connections that weren't used. So if very little critical thinking was exercised in youth, very little foundation for logical judgment will remain.
The consequence is an adult who may have other good qualities, but who doesn't think things through very well.
Why this tragic result? Why this emotionally extreme way of resolving relationship problems? Yes, they were probably breaking up and it was painful for both of them. But why take another person's life? And then terminate your own existence? Were there no other options?
To pursue the answer to that question, you have to imagine what was going on in the mind of Augustine. Confusion? Humiliation? Loneliness? Resentment? Frustration? Anger? That's easy to imagine.
But why didn't Augustine try to think through what was happening in the relationship? What about taking his partner's feelings into account? What about considering the alternatives? What about foreseeing consequences? I can only imagine that he wasn't engaged in much of this kind of reflection. Apparently he was a man who reacted emotionally, with little capacity for logical judgment.
Had I been in his situation I, too, would have been deeply troubled. But I wouldn't have considered murder and suicide to be an option. Would you?
No one will ever know for sure why Augustine handled his issues this way. But apparently, thinking things through may not have been his strong suit. Maybe that was not his way of dealing with conflict.
So yes, people have the opportunity to wire their brains for critical thinking during adolescence. After that time of life is over, a person must live with the foundation that was constructed for the rest of adult life, whether it be a robust, expansive intellect or a minimal one.
Life is a perilous journey, especially if you don't appreciate how things work, the dangers and the consequences. Elizabeth's story is a tragic one, though it's not all that uncommon. Falling in love with Augustine turned out to be the biggest mistake of her life.
Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2012. Building Personal Strength . (Permission to use photo purchased from fotolia.com)