21 October 2013
In prison 20 years ago we had a saying – If you can't be free, be safe! Politically we are seeing the realization of choice being replaced by strict mandates for “safety”. Today, however, I wish to speak of the personal cautions that we may employ in our daily lives either for ourselves or our children and the deleterious effects this may have. In short, I will provide to you the basis of how a safety focused lifestyle is hazardous to your health.
To understand this you must first accept a few realities that may be contrary to your current beliefs. The first is that every cell in your body is a thinking organism. Integral Membrane Proteins [IMP] are imbedded in the wall of every cell. Some of the IMPs are receptor proteins that extend out of the cell to read the environment. What the cell may find in its environment is various hormones. These may be stress hormones, pleasure hormones or any of the others that respond to our thoughts or environment. The effect is that our 'beliefs' affect the way the cells in our body function.
In chronically depressed people the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex – the center of higher reasoning – are shrunken. So when you say to a depressed person that 'you are being unreasonable' your statement has a biological basis. This shrinkage is the likely result of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis response to perceived danger. The HPA axis is the 'fight or flight' response. When it is activated the body goes into autopilot – subconscious instinct and reflex take over at the expense of the slower, logical conscious thinking. Thus, the perception that a life event is going to have an adverse effect becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As a child this is something I observed. What you are told will happen to you does. It was mandated that elders be respected, that you do as you are told. Well I have always been one who required that any command be supported by cogent reasoning. “Because I told you so” was never good enough. This character trait brought about the scorn and rage of my parents, school teachers and other adults who were never at a loss for a derogatory term to apply to me. Those were usually stupid, lazy and hard-headed. I found that an internal conflict existed in me as I – the small child who out-thought the adults befuddled by my queries of logic – tried to exhibit the profile of 'stupid'. I managed to flunk some classes and make other 'stupid' mistakes on tests.
Numerous studies have continued to find that teacher expectations are correlated to student performance. One of the early studies randomly divided an elementary class into three groups based upon IQ test. High ability, normal and slow students. How did the students perform on a standardized test? Consistent with their intellectual labels. The kicker was that those designations were not based upon actual IQ test but were assigned randomly. Thus, what the authority figure told the children they were, they exhibited.
When a conflict exist between conscious thought and subconscious programming, the subconscious wins. This can produce a weakening in the muscles. Try lifting a set amount of weight while repeating a truthful phrase about yourself. Then try it while repeating a phrase about yourself that you know conflicts with your true belief. See if you feel a difference in the weight of what you are lifting.
So onto how caution can be hazardous. Recall that a child becomes what he is told by an authority figure if he has been subconsciously programmed to respect authority. This is what most parents [along with Cartman] teach their children – respect my authority. This is how parents teach their children to be afraid of water. Babies – naturally good swimmers at birth – are taught by parents to fear water. Newborns are quick learners and make most of their learned behaviours from environmental stimulus. Mostly what they see. Monkey see, monkey do is not just an axiom. It is a truism supported by scientific research. Researchers at the Kyoto University's Primate Research Institute have found that baby chimps learn by watching their mothers. In an experiment mother chimps were shown various symbols and when the mother matched a colour swatch to the symbol it represented she was rewarded with a coin. She could then use the coin in a 'vending machine' to get a treat. To the surprise of the researches one day while the mother was retrieving her treat the baby chimp activated the computer and performed the same tasks thereby also getting a coin for a treat. This was not the objective of the research however. Thus, when a parent expresses fear at the baby – the naturally good swimmer – of being around a swimming pool the baby learns that there is something in the essence of the water that will harm him. After all, he is a good swimmer and water, whether an inch in depth or ten feet is not hazardous from a drowning potential. So there must be another reason to fear the water. Thus parents can condition their children to resist bathing, washing dishes and etc. These activities, and even playing in the yard with a hose, can activate the HPA Axis and cause a stress response in the child.
The hazards of caution can be immediate and physically destructive. Think back to your childhood and recall, if you may, a time when you were climbing trees, running about rooftops or engaged in some other birds-eye view activity. This may be more likely for men than women but use any situation in which you were sure and secure about your steadiness in what someone else perceived as a hazardous situation. When your surefooted gallivanting around was interrupted by 'Get down from there. You are going to fall!' did you suddenly feel weaker or unstable? This is because your conscious mind is telling you that you are doing fine and are stable. But the unconscious mind – the one that knows your parents are correct and you are to obey – is telling you something else. You have been told “You are going to fall!” by that respected authority figure for which you must comply. As much as you consciously resist your subconscious is busy directing hormones and increasing or restricting blood flow to parts of the brain or muscles in an effort to accomplish the command to fall.
It is not just these momentary commands for a child to be harmed but the greater weight of the hazard of caution comes in the daily precautions that many take for granted as being innocuous. When Therin was a youngster I often left the doors on the house open all night. We once walked through 'the projects' on the south side of Chicago. I did not keep food hidden in cabinets but instead placed it on counter tops or in hanging baskets. Television shows with the war images or shows with the stressed out characters were not part of our lifestyle. What I am saying is that I always did things to demonstrate security to him and not try to instill in him that the world is a dangerous place. Recall it is that perception of danger that activates the HPA Axis. This inhibits growth and higher functioning. Takamtsu, et al  found that the stress activated hormones “diminished conscious awareness and reduced intelligence.” Or as Dr Bruce H Lipton puts it, “when you're frightened, you're dumber.”
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Monday, October 21, 2013
The Hazard of Caution
21 October 2013