Welcome to stren # 13. Today’s stren, substituting the word “energy” for “anger” and “anxiety,” and the next stren are word-switch numbers 6 and 7 of the seven Mind-freeing, Life-changing, World-saving word-switches. They comprise the two important word-switches that dramatically prevent major problems we bring on our self. I’m referring to the mindless, impulsive, harmful aggression that was appropriate for our ancestors but commonly results in irreversible consequences and punishment in today’s relatively civilized world. We commonly observe “road rage,” other “rages,” crimes of passion, and related impulsive behaviors triggered by a stressful event. Our primitive fight or flight behavior, the root of this problem, is hardwired in the first to develop older portion of our brain.
Here is today’s stren: Substitute when possible the word-switch “energy” for the trigger words “anger” and “anxiety.”
Some years ago, I was invited by the Connecticut Commissioner of Mental Health to interview, along with the Commissioner of Corrections, inmates serving the longest sentences in our highest security prison. I was struck by the high percentage of individuals who had lost their freedom because of a single destructive act committed in a fit of rage, often an act of passion. Even though their mindless crime was an atypical deviation from their usual behavior, they could not undo their damage. Have you witnessed the many kinds of “rage” that lead to explosive behavior? Can you recount personal experiences where you reacted to anger or to a stressful situation by taking actions that you now wish you could have handled more productively?
We all start life hardwired to release energy chemicals in response to stressful situations. Instinctive survival of the fittest and fight or flight primitive physical responses alert us to take quick action. Our ancestors lived in a world where survival depended on instant action. Each turn at every corner required anticipation of what danger lurked beyond. Survival required being on red alert status and being prepared to strike out or run away. In either response, emergency production of energy was required. Second mistakes are rarely permitted in life-threatening circumstances. This elegant emergency response system designed by nature allowed our ancestors to survive and thrive in a primitive, savage environment.
Constant preparedness for red alert emergency was once critical. The words anger and anxiety trigger the physical confrontation or emergency flight our ancestors required to survive. Preoccupation with survival explains why humor is not a characteristic of animals and was unknown to our primitive ancestors. Sophisticated, common sense, long term problem-solving and laughter are learned with the help of language.
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