Managing our lives for the greatest positive effects
A better use of energy
Damaging the very point of life
The commitment to the amygdala
Appropriate languaging and its impact
The commitment to honoring myself through proper languaging
Misusing (and misinterpreting) the "negatives"
Danger is "multi-dimensional"
The big question: Danger to what?
The commitment to not honoring illusions
Putting an effective management system in place
There's actually very, very, very few real dangers
An example of the foolishness
Let's get smart about this!
Written analysis process
MANAGING OUR LIVES FOR THE GREATEST POSITIVE EFFECTS
Part of running our lives depends on calibrating what is occurring "out there" and what it will mean to our being, so that we can then calibrate an appropriate response. We do not want to try to swat a fly with a sledgehammer, as it will do huge damage to everything around it.
We don't want to exaggerate, for then we will learn to have an excess response as a habit, for we are always teaching our primitive brain. It will just follow whatever pattern we give it the most often.
If we use our higher brain, we would run the show in a similar manner to that of calibrating a cannon in the old days. The soldiers would fire the cannon and observe that it went over and past the target. Then they would lower the cannon, and it would land in front of the target. They they would raise the cannon a slight bit. And eventually they would hit the target.
That's what a child needs to learn and do to become an adult (and many adults who are still children need to learn). What works to hit the result that we want to have (and what is the target we want to shoot for).
A BETTER USE OF ENERGY
When we regulate the use of energy, we can then direct it to other areas where we can get better results. Also, setting up a frenetic way of being causes one to misfire and to fire at wrong targets.
Exaggerating danger signals causes great damage to be done to our bodies, as they have to adjust to the adrenal and cortisol and all the bad effects of firing off the fight/flight response so often.
DAMAGING THE VERY POINT OF LIFE
The greatest damage is in the "metaphysical" area in that it destroys much of the happiness we could have.
It does this in two ways.
One is in making the body less able to experience happiness, often even shrinking the part of the left prefrontal cortex that has us be happier. Interestingly enough that same part of the brain is responsible for screening out nonsense messages so that we only react to what makes sense. If you look at the portion of this site on the brain and on happiness, you'll see reference to the brain scientist who has identified the Tibetan Buddhist Monks as the happiest people of earth (they develop and have the largest "happiness" center in their left prefrontal cortexes).
Our greatest advocate, the amygdala (our alarm system), is given so many danger signals that it becomes absolutely hyper, shooting off lots of signals, besides becoming hypervigilant, so it reacts to more things more often. Not a pretty picture. Not a good idea to train our amygdala that way. It is exhausting!
Exaggerated alarm signals --> big danger response --> body chemicals out of whack --> big effects on body, amygdala sees item as a big threat in long term
Repeated signals --> brain trained, body damage --> ability to respond appropriately is thrown off - and on and on and on in a vicious self-reinforcing circle
We want to do the opposite for the amygdala:
Send it safety signals so that it stops being overreactive and hypervigilant. (Breathing, relaxation, soothing self-talk, etc.)
Assess the information and reason out how important it is and then use precise language so that the amygdala sees it as a "no big deal" phenomena.
We have the choice of training the amygdala properly for doing its function and for allowing ourselves to be happy.
THE COMMITMENT TO THE AMYGDALA
Will you make the commitment?
I hereby commit to carefully and thoughtfully learning and doing all I can to properly train my amygdala.
Committed to this ___________day of _____________, ____.
We think in words. We think in language. Language is full of symbols that we have learned mean something. Language identifies specifics but it also is associated with contexts (how we look at things and what they mean).
We say "x" and it means "danger" to us. We say "it's a catastrophe!" and the primitive brain says "extreme emergency, better do something drastic!", and then it tries to fight something, but is frustrated as the "something" does not really exist - it's just an illusion created by the meaning of the languaging.
You'll find that people who are depressed or are highly anxious (both danger responses) have a habit/practice of using exaggerative language and misusing language in many other ways.
To not honor proper languaging is to dishonor oneself and the preciousness of oneself. Our language should be meticulously chosen and used. Not for perfection or to impress anyone or to look good, but because it has impact. In fact it is the key way we create impact. Be careful of a loaded gun. Be careful not to fire off cannons, when a beebee gun would do!
THE COMMITMENT TO HONORING MYSELF THROUGH PROPER LANGUAGING
Given the importance of languaging and its impact on my life, I choose to honor myself by avoiding its misuse and by also using it for positive impact. I commit to learning about this and to doing what honors my being, at the highest level.
Committed to this ___________day of _____________, ____.
MISUSING (AND MISINTERPRETING) THE "NEGATIVES"
We can learn to react disproportionately (most often too much) to the negatives in our lives. If we do that, then we create unnecessary emotional pain, but we also can exacerbate further cycles in the future.
We are a "homeostasis seeking" mechanism. We evolved to do that, so that we might better survive. We function better when all systems are in balance (= homeostasis).
Something happens, the primitive brain evaluates any danger, it sends a signal, chemicals happen, more alarm can occur, more chemicals happen in an attempt to get you or your body to act to create homeostasis
No problem. This is a functional system.
But if we misevaluate something as being a danger, we must notice that we are doing that and decide to not let that happen again. (Duh!)
If we install programs that say "x is not a danger, so all is ok", at least we can cut off the danger signal and minimize the cortisol.
DANGER IS "MULTI-DIMENSIONAL"
The problem is that danger is multidimensional. It is not just "no danger" or "danger", like an "on/off" switch. It is more of a question of "how much danger and danger to what?"
If we are taught properly and make good decisions as we go, we will see "little" dangers as "being little". We will also even develop a new classification system beyond even that. Perhaps it would be something like "well, that is not a danger, it is just a concern, and a small one at that. It's not even critical that I correct it, but I will, if I don't have other more important things to do."
Part of a response is also not only the impelling chemicals in the body but also the action we choose to get the balance back. We don't want to use a sledgehammer to kill an ant. We also don't want to use an inappropriate action, such as take a valium instead of waiting 12 minutes to see if the anxiety passes and maybe doing some deep breathing instead.
THE BIG QUESTION: DANGER TO WHAT?
The answer to the question posed above, "danger to what?" is also vital. Though this seems a side issue to calibrating danger, it actually is a central issue to it, in that it can "disappear" the danger entirely.
Philosophies and many growth training disciplines attempt to teach individuals to gain insights and perspective beyond that of a child. A child believes that ghosts are real and threatening. It also thinks it is powerless and, acoordingly, very "victimizable". (
(Read and study the relevant parts of Philosophy and of Beliefs, which are, believe it or not, totally related. The practice of psychology is primarily focused on unraveling incorrect beliefs and implementing effective practices around that!)
Creating a false danger plus the lack of ability to respond to it is one of the keys to creating emotional suffering - and doing its opposite is one of the keys to getting rid of that needless, self-created suffering.
Many of the dangers we think are there do not actually show up in "reality". In other words, the impact is not a "real" one, but a made up one, totally based on fantasy and making things up.
Getting to the central core of our "making things up" and seeing it for what it is vital to mental health and healthy thinking.
We create an illusion, such as the "ego". And then we spend lots of effort protecting our ego. It makes sense to protect something that is vital, so that part of the sequence is "logical". It is just that the assumption, the belief, the premise, the item we hold as if it were a fact is totally false!
And we proceed in running our life, based on childhood thinking and beliefs. They must be examined.
There is such thing in reality as an ego, we do not need to get approval from others, we are not dependent on others nor powerless, Much of what we spend time unraveling is the core of the illusionary beliefs. (See Changing Beliefs.)
THE COMMITMENT TO NOT HONORING ILLUSIONS
I see that much of my energy is wasted in protecting something that is based on false assumptions held as if they were truth. I see that this is utterly foolish and I will not waste my life on this useless effort. I will not be a fool in this matter! I will "stop the insanity!"
I commit to learning what is true and what is not true so that I can then concentrate and use my energies on what really matters, what will truly create what I want.
Committed to this ___________day of _____________, ____.
PUTTING AN EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM IN PLACE
(but it throws homeostasis further out).
The bottomline is that we want a management system in place in order to avoid too much unpleasantness in life, to avoid harmful responses, and to create more effectiveness in life. All of that takes learning, then devising the management system, and putting it into place (using a plan to do so).
"Stop! Let's think about this for a moment."
"This is a very small thing and nothing to be upset about. Life will be fine."
But, in order to have that statement be more effective, it is helpful if you actually believe it. However, just making the statement, even if not totally believed, will have a positive effect in terms of reducing any negative impact.
And the more you reduce the negative impact, the more you reduce the odds of a bigger reaction/response than is necessary. In other words, it helps to "cut off the enemy at the pass", instead of having to battle the enemy when he gets through to you.
The decision about what is big stuff and what is medium stuff and what is small stuff is a big part of the process. And it helps lock it in if it is in writing, instead of rolling around in one's head in vagueness.
Basically, if you were totally in charge, you would want the fear response to only occur where there is immediate and present actual danger. (Read Pain In Life Versus Happiness And Peace and perhaps Am I Safe?.) Everything else would not require such a response. Yet we often activate that and (unnecessarily) get the unpleasant feelings attached to that.
THERE'S ACTUALLY VERY, VERY, VERY FEW REAL DANGERS
There is a belief many people hold, subtly, that "if I react to everything and keep on defending the perimeter, I'll stave off the enemy," as it there are lots of enemies out there and that "I must therefore keep all the plates spinning on the end of the poles".
But the belief is a false one, as we only need to identify the very, very few real enemies and only react to the them. It's like spending our lives frantically putting out bread crumbs to keep away the tigers. (As the old Buddhist story goes: The monk putting out the bread crumbs tells the student his reason. The student exclaims "But there aren't any tigers around for 100's of miles!" The response: "Well, see, it must be working!")
Only doing that which is effective for what is important to you is a secret of using life energy appropriately, efficiently, and productively. We don't want to waste it on illusions or small stuff.
Most "dangers" in our mind are created not just by the signal from our primitive brain but by allowing the primitive brain to pile on a sequence of "what ifs" so that it can predict all of the worst dangers in order to prevent them. The problem is that it stupidly does this. You must apply reason (your intelligence) to stop it from doing so.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE FOOLISHNESS
A person seems not very responsive to you. Then you assume that the person doesn't like you, which in turn reminds the primitive brain of the danger of someone not liking you: you go back to how you would be screwed if your caretaker chose not to feed you because he/she didn't like you, so then you'll die - and that is real danger, meriting a really big response!!!
By this time, you've built up a scenario that is indeed high danger to your mind. Of course, it is all based on assumptions, stories, false beliefs, and poor reasoning. So, basically it is a "non-truth", something that does not exist in reality, that we react to as if it were the truth.
(But people will often protest: "But it is real. I feel terrible. It is ruining my life!" No, it isn't. You are ruining your life by choosing to keep and use the false beliefs. Yes, the emotions are real [showing up in reality as chemicals in your body which are sensed to be uncomfortable]), but the cause is unreal.)
The problem before the brain is "how do we fight this danger?"
Then we go further, using poor reasoning again. "Well, I must make myself so acceptable and act so well that there are no flaws so that all people react well to me. I must be perfect!."
The premise is wrong, though believed. If that were seen and "disappeared" there would be no problem in the first place.
The other problem is that it is another illusion to think one can control the uncontrollable. The other person might not react as you wish because of what is going on inside the person or because of their "not seeing". That is why part of growing up is learning "not to take it personally" (one of The Four Agreements, Ruiz).
And, to add insult to injury, in a sense, an inappropriately large danger response throws the brain into turmoil, where the higher brain is partially diminished, since it is unnecessary in a primitive, large danger situation. This means that we'll be dumber and less able to come up with a well thought-out response!!!!
LET'S GET SMART ABOUT THIS!
Of course, another way out is to realize that one is no longer powerless and dependent on the caretaker to feed you any more. Knowing one can respond to a situation and handle it has an immense effect on reducing the fight/flight response, as in Fearlessness.
WRITTEN ANALYSIS PROCESS
When presented with a problem, it makes sense to engage one's higher brain. One very effective way of assuring that happens is to use a "thinking form" (a form setting up a structure for thinking and/or problem solving) such as those in the Problem Solving section. Probem solving is a key skill to learn, as life is a series of problem solving, but with great cool and calm once one learns the new foundation of thinking and of creating new beliefs.