Have you ever:
- Stayed in a place where you found cockroaches in the cupboards and that night you were afraid to get into bed, convinced there were cockroaches in the sheets?
- Had a shower after a walk in the woods to find ticks embedded in your skin, and even after inspecting every square inch of your body still felt bugs crawling all over you?
- Walked out of your house in the morning straight into a thick spider web, and spent the next several hours brushing away imaginary spiders?
- Gone swimming in deep water, felt something brush against your leg and practically walked on water to get out of there?
I had that icky feeling during the June floods when we were under a boil water advisory. My logical mind knew there weren’t really nasty bugs in the water when I showered, but the irrational part, ruled by the amygdala, wouldn’t believe me. (The amygdala is a part of the brain that plays a large role in our survival instincts, as well as our anger, fear and pleasure.) While showering, I had a strong feeling of déjà vu and it took me a minute to figure where it was coming from. I had felt the same way when I found out that the IRS could consider me a US citizen and the dire consequences if they did so.
I first heard about all this in February 2012, and spent the next two months constantly reading and researching US citizenship-based taxation, and the potential consequences of the US laying claim to my citizenship (and I have to say a heartfelt thank you to the good folks at IBS who listened, calmed me down and saved my sanity).
During the first six months or so, I was having trouble sleeping – I’d be just on the edge of sleep when suddenly a new fear would leap into my mind and I’d be wide awake; heart hammering. I had trouble concentrating on anything else; I’d be working in a spreadsheet and suddenly a new scary thought would take hold and I’d be on the verge of a panic attack. I talked about it constantly to my family, my husband, my coworkers, until I finally clued in that I was boring them to tears.
One night I got out of bed and stood for a very long time in a hot shower. After a while, I discovered I’d been scrubbing and scrubbing to the point that my skin was red and sore. I realized that I felt tainted, dirtied, by my ‘Americanism’, my US roots, and was subconsciously trying to wash it off. Of course, as we all know, it’s just not that easy.
The amygdala is where survival instincts as well as irrational fears and phobias come from. However, I don’t think the amygdala is to blame for my being afraid of the consequences of having been born in the US. I suspect it might be just plain common sense.
I still have some hope that my Canadian government will protect my rights as a full citizen. I hope that Harper and Flaherty heed the warnings from their amygdalas about the negative impact to all of Canada if they bow down to the US and allow FATCA to go through in Canada. I hope they remember what they learned as kids; appeasement never works with a bully, whether it’s a bully in the schoolyard threatening with taunts and fists, or a country threatening financial blackmail.