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Escaping “Survival Mode”

We all understand that when we are confronted by danger, our body releases chemicals that trigger what’s called the fight-or-flight response. What few of us may realize is that we may be living in this state on a regular basis. For an animal in the wild, this response is something that happens when danger of some kind is encountered. For us, it is something that we can trigger by mere thought, whether memory or anticipation. Chemically, our bodies don’t know the difference. Nor do they know the difference between the threat posed by a Bengal tiger and the threat posed by a difficult boss.

There was an episode of a well-known science fiction show in which an intelligence agent had been given a brain implant designed to stimulate the release of natural endorphins as a means of resisting interrogation and torture. Exiled from his homeland, he goes through life feeling tortured, and turns on that implant more and more often until he simply leaves it on all the time. Not only does he become addicted to a chemical his own system is producing, he nearly dies when the implant malfunctions.

We don’t need an implant. Human beings have the unique gift of control over our mental reality: what we think about is just as real to us and to our bodies as what our senses perceive. Our most basic and prevalent addiction, however, is not to pleasure, but to fear, or rather the chemicals associated with it.

Humans have the ability, in the words of Dr. Joe Dispenza, to “pre-experience” and “re-experience” stress, and many of us do this as a matter of habit. What is very adaptive in situations of physical danger, the instinct to run and hide, becomes maladaptive over weeks and months and years of worry. In this emotional and chemical state of emergency, energy that would normally go to your immune and digestive systems is going to survival needs. This chemical state affects us not only on the emotional level, as fear, anger and stress become suffering and depression, but on the genetic level as well.

In other words, we become the ultimate Newtonian materialists. Our chemical state forces our brain to pay attention to the outer environment in search of the dangers we anticipate. Life is a series of mechanical problems to solve one after another after another, and is defined by our experience of the physical world, and that lens is filtered in such a way that we pay attention mainly to the bad. Our senses determine our reality. All of that magnetic, electrostatic and photonic energy we talked about a few weeks ago by which we communicate with the world on an energetic level- it descends to very low frequencies, reflecting a low level of consciousness.

How on earth does this state become addictive to us? Well, we’re adrenaline junkies. That rush is one of the few bright points on a bleak landscape, and so we keep those familiar thoughts and feelings around. The thought states behind the fight-or-flight response become the defining features of our materially-determined identity.

In this state, we are slaves to the vagaries of the material world, to luck (why does it always seem to be bad?), to our bodies, to time. Over time, emotion becomes a mood and then a personality trait. Those traits are the epitome of the maladaptive: resentment, selfishness, self-loathing, self-centredness. Letting go of those thought-patterns is the first step toward shedding the false identity which survival mode-addiction creates for us.

The opposite of survival mode, what should be normalcy, is what Dispenza calls the creative mode.  The process for getting back there is what ancient traditions have called by many names, notably “repentance”. These traditions all insist that the first step to spiritual and emotional health is letting go of false identity, in other words, the thoughts and emotions that we falsely identify with ourselves, both by releasing them in prayer and meditation and by reversing those tendencies by acting and thinking differently in our daily lives. To do this, we first have to see what these are, to be able to sit apart from our thoughts and feelings and judge them by their effects on us –  a practice the ancient Christian mystical tradition calls “watchfulness”.

The next step is much harder, because it involves creating an entirely new self, taking energy away from the old thought patterns and putting it all on who we want to be. This involves picking and choosing our responses, overriding the old ones through conscious will, learning to trust, learning to love ourselves in a positive way so that we can start to love the world. It is only once we have done all this that we are ready to begin normal life, as creative and spiritual beings capable of changing and transforming not only ourselves, but everything around us.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂




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