There is the often written analogy that stress is like trying to drive a car with the brakes on. It is a good and accurate comparison. We do have brakes which protect us. They could be described as apps in the subconscious mind, acting behind our awareness, keeping us alert to danger and stopping us in our tracks when necessary. They do this by sending chemical messages through the body.
An example would be the dreadful feeling of approaching the edge of a cliff. There is an intense somewhat painful feeling of restraint which stops us from injury. Understanding what is happening at this time is an intriguing way of understanding self and an enlightening way to learn how to take control of motivation and success.
Nature has given us this powerful self-protection tool. It is the reason that you are alive today. All earlier people in evolution who did not have the genes of self-protection will most likely not have lived to have offspring. But, the role of protection is not simply for keeping us away from life threatening situations.
In evolutionary terms, if we were to survive to produce offspring there have been many other situations where there are threats or perceived threats. We are a social animal. We must live in a community. We must be able to contribute to that community both in the role which we play in the hierarchy and in providing for the group.
Self-consciousness is a protective instinct which keeps us from harm until we have the skills to try to compete for dominance in any area. It is the brake of shyness which warns us not to expose ourselves to danger in our community.
In early times, physical dominance, leadership qualities, social skills and physical appearance, would have played a role in the dominance of genes. self consciousness would have been the warning that we should not challenge for dominance until we were capable of being successful. These roles in community are still played out today in the work place and other areas of life.
But now they are not immediately obvious. The sources of stress are masked by the requirements of and the refinements necessitated by civilisation. Life is not so threatening any more but the subconscious has not caught up with the changes.
No longer is dominance a necessity so that genes will be transferred to the next generation but we still need respect. No longer do we need to hunt but we still need to provide. If fundamental needs are not accommodated, stress results. no longer, either, do we need to fight in the same way for our status in our community but self consciousness still exists. Self consciousness is a valuable control in development but it can be too acute and lead to stress and inhibit success.
We all know what stress feels like and we commonly attribute it to adrenaline. In other words we all understand that there is a chemical produced in the body which has a profound effect. Adrenaline is a chemical called a hormone. It is a chemical messenger released into the blood stream to prepare the body for specific actions like self-protection or effort.
Adrenaline has a closely related substance called noradrenaline which is a neurotransmitter. Neurotransmitters are produced in the brain carry messages between nerves and along nerves. When the subconscious judges there to be a threat, messages are carried by neurotransmitters to get the hormones flowing. We all know of many hormones. Steroids, insulin, testosterone, oestrogen, thyroxine and so on. They are produced by glands called the endocrine system. But we don’t need to bother about that. It looks after itself.
Here ends the science! Our actions and reactions are mediated by neurotransmitters and hormones. There are many of each which flow in an organised cascade through the body, controlled by the brain, triggered by the subconscious mind. As they flow they cause feelings which we know as our emotions.
The powerful message here is that they are controlled by thought. I look up and see a threat and decide that I better get out of here and the chemistry fires up in a split second. It is a deep seated response from the subconscious.
there are two levels of thought, conscious and subconscious.
There is no time to think or use consciousness as I try to escape. It is instinctive; subconscious. Consciousness is for planning and reasoning. Once we have made a plan and rehearsed it, it is stored in the subconscious. The lesson important fact is that I can control all reactions even the most deeply implanted.
If I decided to be a stuntman I would have to. I could jump off the cliff or face a raging bull. Once I had done so, I would feel elation. People usimg roller coasters know this.
We can take control of our instinctive reactions, relearn and improve.
Nature has given us all the necessary instincts for survival and has built wonderful rewards to entice us to do so. Eating, altruism, sex, success, love are powerful emotional rewards for doing what is right for our own survival and the survival of our species. An emotion is how we feel as a particular cocktail of hormones flows through the body.
Stress is an essential component of growth. This applies to the weight lifter as much as it does in the workplace. To strengthen a muscle it must be stressed and then allowed to recover. Then it is stressed a little more. Growth follows. Nature has given a reward for great effort also. The endorphin effect, or more correctly the effect of cannabinoids, gives the exhilaration felt following great effort.
The stressful warning of self-consciousness needs to be confronted so that we can grow and release the brakes caused by an unnecessary bad stress reaction. The great feeling of success is the reward. Stress is nature’s hormonal warning which gives the mechanism for growth and the reward.
Fear, action, reward and rest, followed by growth. All managed by the same hormonal system. Clever isn’t it.
All of this can be managed by the power of thought – like the stunt man or woman. The fear of public speaking is only overcome by being ready, then taking the plunge. The reward for success is wonderful.
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More on this in the next post.