Archive for the ‘snake’ Tag

Momentary Upsets Are Not Crises


If only we still faced tigers in the woods every day! Our bodies evolved to handle physical threats like that, not the mental, psychological and emotional threats we now face constantly. Our body’s chemicals are not at war with each other, but it certainly feels that way at times! Each of us produces more than 50 hormones, which collectively control how we behave, what we feel and how we respond to the world. The sympathetic nervous system produces fight-or-flight hormones whenever we perceive a threat, taking over from the parasympathetic nervous system, whose hormones keep us calm and serene.

Any change can be perceived as a threat, whether it is positive or negative, because it jolts us out of our nice, safe groove of everyday life. We all have a habit of taking minor annoyances and turning them into threats without meaning to. A big credit-card bill shows up… "Oh no! I’ll never be able to pay it! I’ll go bankrupt!" The boss makes a negative comment on something we did. "I’m going to be fired!" We get stuck at a long red light. "I can’t stand this!!" But we can stand it, we are not going to be fired because of one negative comment, and we will not go bankrupt because of a month of overspending. We know this rationally. But our immediate reactions ratchet up the threat level and our bodies therefore perceive us as perpetually surrounded by tigers. So we live in a flood of stress hormones, which weaken our immune system, make us vulnerable to disease, and leave us perpetually feeling anguish, discomfort and low-grade depression.

We do this to ourselves. That means we can undo it. The key is realizing that we create our own version of reality by how we react. We respond not to the event but to our perception of it. Imagine seeing a snake as you walk on a path. You may think: "Snake! Danger! It will bite me!" Then you react with fear, even panic. But suppose you are a scientist familiar with snakes, a herpetologist. Same event: snake in the path. You may think: "How interesting! It has beautiful colors and moves very gracefully." Then you react by watching it calmly or even picking it up; same event, different perceptions–and therefore different realities leading to different reactions. Teach yourself to moderate your reactions to things that you know, objectively, are not really threatening. Think things through when you are calm so you can apply your self-taught lessons when disturbing situations do arise.

For instance, you may dislike long telephone hold times, but instead of "I hate having to wait!" think "This is irritating, but I won’t remember it in a week." Long red lights may frustrate you, but instead of "Why do I always get stuck like this?" think "This will be over in three minutes, and I can listen to music until then."

By teaching yourself to rethink situations this way, you teach your body that momentary upsets are not crises and not worthy of a flood of stress hormones. That helps your body produce a more-balanced hormonal flow, keeping you closer to the golden mean that helps you stay physically, mentally and psychologically healthy.


Advertisements

Ask Over Your Brain Why It Works Around The Clock


Forgive your mind this minor annoyance because it has worked to save your life or more accurately, the lives of your ancestors. Most likely you have not needed to worry whether the rustling in the underbrush is a rabbit or a leopard or had to identify the best escape route on a walk by the lake, or to wonder whether the funny pattern in the grass is a snake or dead branch. Yet these were life-or-death decisions to our ancestors. Optimal moment-to-moment readiness requires a brain that is working constantly, an effort that takes a great deal of energy. To put this in context, the modern human brain is only 2 percent of our body weight, but it uses 20 percent of our resting energy. Such an energy-hungry brain, one that is constantly seeking clues, connections and mechanisms, is only possible with a mammalian metabolism tuned to a constant high rate.

Constant thinking is what propelled us from being a favorite food on the savannah grassland ecosystem, and a species that nearly went extinct—to becoming the most accomplished life-form on this planet. Even in the modern world, our mind always churns to find hazards and opportunities in the data we derive from our surroundings, somewhat like a search engine server. Our brain goes one step further; however, by also thinking proactively, a task that takes even more mental processing.

So even though most of us no longer worry about leopards in the grass, we do encounter new dangers and opportunities: employment, interest rates, “70 percent off” sales and swindlers offering $20 million for just a small investment on our part. Our primate heritage brought us another benefit: the ability to navigate a social system. As social animals, we must keep track of who’s on top and who’s not and who might help us and who might hurt us. To learn and understand this information, our mind is constantly calculating “what if?” scenarios. What do I have to do to advance in the workplace or social or financial hierarchy? What is the danger here? What is the opportunity?

For these reasons, we benefit from having a brain that works around the clock, even if it means dealing with intrusive thoughts from time to time.

Why is it impossible to stop thinking? Why is in impractical to render the mind a complete blank?

Energy-Hungry Brain

Temptation

 

Temptation can be compared to a fishing lure, writes Dudley Rutherford, author of God Has an App for That, and senior pastor of the 10,000-member Shepherd of the Hills Church in Los Angeles. On the outside, it’s colorful and shiny. Some lures have festive skirts; others have little whirligigs that spin around in the water. They come in all shapes, sizes and smells, but each one has the same purpose: to catch a fish. Beneath the decoration lies a hook waiting to snag some unsuspecting fish from the water, to their doom.

No one can escape temptation in this culture, advises Rutherford: it’s everywhere. It’s no longer lurking in the shadows, but displayed proudly on billboards, in movie theaters, and on our television and computer screens. We’re constantly bombarded by images through a variety of media that appeal to the sensual appetite like never before.

So, if every single one of us—regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, or socioeconomic status—will be confronted by temptation at some point in our life, how can we overcome it? God provides the answer to this question within the book of James in the New Testament.

James has been called the most practical book of the Bible, and if you were to imagine that it were a “Smartphone” application, there would be five important steps to downloading God’s “app” to overcome temptation, writes Rutherford:

James 1:14 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil or does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” When our faith falters, it’s easy to blame someone else. When Adam sinned, he blamed Eve and when Eve sinned, she blamed the snake. We can blame God or Satan when we are tempted, but we must accept the fact that, more often than not, our own evil desires are to blame.

When we stop to examine the stakes involved in conceding to temptation—to look down the road and see where our actions would place us—we will be able to resist giving into these enticements. James 1:15 says, “After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to death in our relationships, our reputation, and even our physical bodies. We must consider these dire consequences, before giving in to temptation.

In order to rebuff temptation’s advances, we need to know the areas in which we are vulnerable. Ask your closest friends to assess your weaknesses, because they’ll catch what you may fail to see. Daily journaling and reflection are also especially effective in identifying areas of weakness. By slowing down and thinking about what has happened in the day, or reading about it months or years after it happened, you can look back with hindsight and continue to improve your defenses against temptation.

It’s time to empty your life of the things that tempt you. If you struggle with pornography, you cannot keep your computer in a secluded room without some type of accountability software installed. If you have difficulty controlling your drinking, you cannot keep alcohol in your house or frequent bars and clubs. If you have anger-related issues, you cannot watch violent movies or listen to music that indulges or inflames your anger. If you are obsessed with gossip, stop lounging around the water cooler, and turn off Thirty-Mile Zone. Paul urges us in Ephesians 4:27, “Do not give the devil a foothold.” Translation: Do your utmost to eliminate any chance of either the devil or your own evil desires grabbing hold of any corner of your life and climbing further into your heart to bend it to his will.

You have a direct line to the truth! If there were ever a charge given to Christians, it surely would be to know more Scripture. Knowing God’s Word inside and out should be a primary objective for every Christian, because having a good handle on Scripture is essential to tackle our temptations. When Jesus withstood the devil’s tricks, He did so each time by responding with a verse from Scripture and there’s no other way to be able to quote the Word at any given moment than by reading the Bible every single day and letting it permeate your being. Like listening to your favorite song over and over again, daily time in God’s Word will get it into your heart and mind and come out of your mouth in the most critical situations. We know this is a system that works, because Christ was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

%d bloggers like this: