The Designs of Humanity

Sometimes I think about who we are.

Ready to Lose

Shock—we’ve all experienced it in one form or another. It could be that you lost someone dear to you unexpectedly, or maybe that you failed at reaching a personal goal you were convinced you could achieve. Whatever the case, you’ve had to deal with the rectification between your expectations and reality.

It really is a crazy thing. Our brains are designed to experience a little time-out session when we first realize this difference exists. Time enters a no passing zone, and there we are, aware of the world around us, yet so far removed. We all know that this state only lasts a short while—if only we could lengthen it.

When it leaves we’re bombarded with fear, anger, sorrow and a whole slew of emotions that we’re never ready for. Of course, with time, we work through these emotions and return to (a version of) normalcy.

So, it’s a natural thing to ask, “why aren’t we always prepared—like boyscouts?” The answer: sometimes we are.

Have you ever caught yourself talking to the imaginary police officer? You know, the one you make up so that you can reason out just how you’ll talk your way out of the ticket you deserve (maybe it’s just me)? If you’ve ever prepped for such a phantom event, you’ll know just what I mean. You and your bag of reasons will have already thought of every excuse and witty retort before you even get pulled over.

You’ve done it. Automatically, you’ve responded to the dilemma at hand, even though, usually, there isn’t one. Face it, your brain is smarter than you—so much so that it’s prepared you to deal with not just scenarios you’ll likely encounter, but many others as well.

So what happens when they really do happen? Well, if you’re like me, you answer the officer’s questions with clear yesses and nos, and when he tickets you you thank him.

When you needed those convincing and witty lines, they were gone. It might seem the preparation has failed. But, now, just wait for it. After it’s over the reasons will all come back. When they do, you’ll feel the overwhelming urge to share them with the nearest captive audience available (pity the passenger).

While it may seem like your brain set up an elaborate defense system, it was really just preparing you for the emotional onslaught that is losing. You thought you were ready for anything—at least you were ready to lose.

Filed under: coping, hypothetical, losing, ready, trauma

Change

I think I’ve figured it out. What’s it, you ask? Change. People fear it, create it, adapt to it, and ironically enough, need it. Take for example a slow day. When nothing’s happening, we come down with this awfully dreadful condition we call boredom. Really, this is just our way of saying “change something” to the world around us. Or how about fearing change? We’ve just established that it’s something we need, so why do we often fear it so much? Well, studies will tell you that humans (like most other creatures) are creatures of habit—meaning that an astronomical percentage of what we do is done simply because we’ve done it before. This experienced feeling we have from repeating actions which have worked well for us in the past gives a sense of belonging. Belonging gives humans purpose. As I’m beginning to understand, the ability to change one’s self is the most amazing way in which humans use change. We adapt. I just learned today that Eskimos who eat raw fish almost always end up developing parasitic stomach worms. Like me, you might grimace at that and say “fix that,” but just wait. Studies have been done showing that, while simply cooking the fish (as if it’s really simple that far north) would keep the worms from showing up, it would also remove certain nutrients from the Eskimo diet that helps their immune systems handle the worms. These people have adapted to their environment, and without even trying. The next level of this type of change is seen when it becomes voluntary. By taking control of one’s life, he/she can become increasingly stable in increasingly unstable conditions. In certain religions, people who meditate for extended periods of time have learned through conscious practice how to lower their heart rate and need for oxygen to a point where they can be buried alive for several hours, be dug up, and remain in perfectly good health. If these people can discipline themselves into a state that defies even death, who’s to say that much of anything is beyond reach?
For the last several months I’ve been reading up on what makes a person wise. The best answer I’ve come up with for attempting to summarize this virtue is “the ability to understand and adapt to change.” There, now practice changing.

Filed under: belonging, change, comfort, conditioning, coping, creativity, decisions, eskimo, fear, fish, growth, independence, learning, strength, trauma, Uncategorized, worms

Rise

The other day I was thinking about hardships. Everyone knows they happen. Sometimes they’re nasty, sometimes deadly, and sometimes they’re just downright inconvenient. But what makes the difference? Well… right now I could go into the whole “severity of discomfort” spiel, but I won’t. Discomfort, while sometimes physical, is many times just a mental construct. When something wretched comes along, what makes it so wretched? Most of the time it’s just our own brains worrying. If the president of the United States were shot tomorrow, would there really be a good reason for me to panic? Would there really even be a good reason to stop doing what I was doing at the time?

Humans seem to think that getting angry, frustrated, or worried are good and natural responses to misfortune. They’re only partly right. Getting angry, frustrated, and worried are natural responses, but they are not good. Take a look at some of the wisest figures to ever grace our history books. Ghandi is considered one of the wisest people who ever walked the sphere. What was his response to misfortune? What about Mother Theresa? Same story.

The truth is, getting angry only makes you more angry, and worrying is just silly. Morgan Freeman—playing God—delivered it very well in Evan Almighty (which surpassed my expectations…):

”When someone prays for patience, do you think God makes them patient or does He give them an opportunity to learn patience? When someone asks for courage, does God simply make them courageous or does he give them an opportunity to be brave? When someone prays for their family to be closer, does God just do it or does he give them an opportunity to spend time together?“

When something bad happens, isn’t it just a chance to rise above the challenge where others would break down? If we can break our minds from the mold of anger, just look at the doors we open.

Filed under: anger, change, conditioning, decisions, fear, growth, independence, learning, living, loss, misfortune, opportunity, priorities, strength, trauma

Kevin N. Coleman on Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.