"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood..."
Posted on 1st April 2020 at 10:36
While we may not like to think of ourselves as animals – and herd animals at that (!) – this is exactly what human beings are. We are naturally social by nature, albeit to varying degrees and with different people (!).
As a result – and however much we may not like to admit it – we’re influenced by what’s going on around us ALL the time. Whether consciously or not.
Perhaps from the people around us. Whether we’re interacting with them or not. What they’re saying, doing, thinking or feeling.
Or, may be, from a change in what’s going on in the wider world around us.
With the vast majority of these influences occurring unconsciously, we’re often not immediately aware of them. But this doesn’t mean that we’re not aware, on some level, when something is “different.”
Often, it’s very subtle, coming as “one of those feelings” in the pit of our stomach or on the back of our neck. An early indication that something is “different” or “wrong.”
And, while we may not know exactly what it is – or be able to put it into words – it’s enough to trigger our most primitive survival instincts. The automatic emergency response to prepare our body for an, as yet, unspecified potentially “life or death” situation.
The release of adrenaline to fuel whatever emergency action that needs to be taken. Increasing blood flow to the muscles, heart and lungs. The temporary shutting down of all non essential body processes, such as digestion.
At the same time, the way we gather and process information via the five senses – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell – changes. Their focus narrows to ONLY identify potential external threat(s). Anything else is filtered out. So, we effectively become blind to it. After all, in a “life or death” situation becoming aware of a potential threat even a few seconds earlier could make all the difference…
Our most primitive survival instincts date back to our most distant ancestors. They’re triggered by the most primitive part of our Brain. It’s found at the top of our Spinal Cord and known as the Reptilian Brain. To this part of the Brain, ANY threat is immediate, physical and life threatening. Usually coming with lots of teeth and an appetite to match (!). Or, perhaps, from another group threatening our territory, safety or food supplies.
So, having set the scene, let’s come back to today and the events of the last few weeks. Seen in terms of our basic survival instincts, it’s easy to understand why some people – not the vast majority – have been behaving as they have. And, we’re sure you’ve come across plenty of examples of these primitive survival instincts in action, without us needing to go into specifics…
However, what all the madness has also done is to highlight some major flaws in our most basic survival instincts. To start with, the majority of threats we face these days are not immediate, physical and life threatening. They come in the form of fears. And, while our body’s response may be the same, they are VERY different.
A threat is immediate and life endangering. It’s happening RIGHT NOW and has to be dealt with RIGHT NOW. Often it happens so quickly that our fate seems to be determined in the blink of an eye. Looking back, we can’t quite believe what’s happened. Let alone how we reacted as we did. Managed to come out of it in one piece.
A fear is very different. It’s about what might happen NOT what is actually happening. It comes straight from our imagination NOT from reality. Even worse, it’s not a split second life or death thing, but can go on for days, weeks, months or years.
Little wonder it’s often referred to as False Evidence Appearing Real. Or, as someone so beautifully put it; it’s like taking the bogeyman out of the cupboard and putting him in new clothes and fresh make up.
Then, just to make matters worse, so long as the situation continues our focus remains extremely narrow. Concentrating ONLY on the perceived threat, regardless of whether this is actually the case. In the process, everything else is filtered out, becoming invisible to us.
This means that any other information, which may help us see the situation in a more balanced light, simply doesn’t get through. We get “stuck” in emergency mode. And this can last for days, weeks or months. It’s little wonder that ongoing stress has such an impact on our lives and health.
In other words, our primitive instincts shut down our ability for conscious and critical thinking. So, rather than weighing up the situation objectively, we continue to react unconsciously. And, again, there have been all too many examples of this recently…
Sadly, the mainstream media plays a major part in this process, aided by the Little Monster in our heads. Exploiting our all too natural concerns about any possible threats, whatever – or wherever – they may be. And, whether they actually affect us at all. All too often presenting complex issues as simple soundbites. Speculation and hearsay as fact.
Which brings us back to the quote we started this post with. So, let’s now give this quote in its entirety:
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
And guess who came up with these words to wisdom over a hundred years ago? Marie Curie.
So, rather than giving our most primitive survival instincts full rein, isn’t it time to follow this very simple advice and take back control?
Do a little research of our own to find out what’s really happening, rather than automatically accepting what anyone – us included (!) – tries to tell us is true?
And, if someone keeps insisting that only their interpretation of the current situation is true, this really should warn very loud warning bells… Life just isn’t that neat and simple.
Yes, it’s going to involve a little work on our behalf. Asking the basic questions using all those words we used to wind our parents up with. What. Where. Why. When. How.
Looking at different articles. Weighing them up for ourselves. Applying a little discernment.
And then making a decision for ourselves as to what is true for each of us – and, remember, this doesn’t automatically mean it’s true for other people (!). Getting our little grey cells working to give us our own unique perspective on what’s going on. And, as we do so, taking back control from the Little Monster in our heads. Feeling calmer, less stressed, more grounded.
Then we can make an informed decision on what we each need to do to address the situation. The little things we can do every day to help ourselves. If you need some inspiration, why not return to our first post on this topic over a month ago, which can be found here or just scroll down through our archives and see what catches your eye.
As we all found out as small children, there is no bogeyman under the bed. That’s not to say that we didn’t have to use all our courage to have a look but, as soon as we did so, he disappeared in a puff of smoke.
And, if you need another great reason not to join in all the madness, here’s another. Keeping our bodies on red alert for a threat that never comes is a huge drain of energy. It’s why ongoing – or chronic – stress is linked to so many health conditions. It hits our Immune Systems particularly hard, which ironically, makes us more susceptible to illnesses generally…
As always, the choice is yours.
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND.
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