Brain & Mind

Trust: Antidote for stress

After speculatively linking migraine with stress, I am tempted to explore the theme further, as stress is, possibly, the greatest causative agent of ill-health in modern times.

Stress is actually an internal state of fear caused by our neocortical imaginative-ness. It is a cross that sapient ape has to bear as collateral damage of having imagination. As stress resides inside the mind, it is a fear that follows you everywhere, even in your sleep, making it impossible to escape it.

Fear is linked to our central drive for survival, so body has to respond to fear by throwing everything it has at the cause of fear; hence fear-pathology is intense. Unfortunately, stress switches on the same fear-pathology; only difference is that, unlike real fear that goes away with departure of fear-causing stimulus, stress, being internal, can keep the fear-pathology going on for a really long period

This state of high alert, when prolonged, causes havoc in the body at every level. Mind gets depressed, heart becomes weak, stomach develops ulcers, spine disks prolapse and the body is wrecked in million different ways when constantly getting awashed with fear hormones released due to stress.

Stress has been with us since we have developed neocortex, and it has not killed us yet, but there something recent that has dramatically increased stress related health problems, making it necessary for us to give it a serious thought.

Evolution appears to have cognized stress as a problem; hence brain has certain tools available to mitigate stress. As stress ultimately boils down to body-fear, feeling of being protected is the key to stress reduction. As protection has to come from outside, we have evolved two crucial tools, faith (in good and god) and trust (in fellow humans). Our brain recognizes them as valid solutions for stress and can relax its guard when faith or trust is evoked.

Unfortunately for Homo sapiens, increase in intellect and self-awareness has also creates two counter-productive forces, i.e. rationality and greed, former has undermined usefulness of god and goodness and later has destroyed trust. So, we modern doubting Thomases are incapable of feel protected by some higher force or by people around us.

As these evolution-generated protective mechanisms are weakening, there is dire need to find a way to reinstate them. Faith is a tool that requires blind acceptance and hence it may not be able to help the society that is getting increasingly rational, but trust can to be given a second chance.

Weakening of trust is caused by increasing presence of greed and self-centred-ness in the society. We can’t trust each other because we see a mirror image of ourselves in others and presume others to care only of their interests. With trusting others going out of fashion, each of us is feeling more alone, unprotected and stressed.

As stress is becoming a life-destroying threat across all levels of society, we need a collective change. The way our society is organized now, we are prone to teach our children that being trusting is being simple minded or stupid, without realizing that those who trust are less susceptible to stress. While fearing the breach of trust of future, we are losing out on stress reduction of now.

All we need to do is to stop fearing each other and start trusting. The beauty of social dynamics is that even a small change by an individual can cascade into a massive change at systemic level. So, even if few people step out of their homes each morning with a desire to trust more, the day may end with a city less stressed and more happy and healthy.

DNA: 12/6/16

I am happy to admit that I have managed surviving till now with minimum effort as all my intellect has be used to avoid doing anything meaningful. As I needed to while all the free time I generated in course of being lazy, science has been my favorite muse that I have enjoyed company of. As an effort to kill time (in a way, to get even with it) one fine day I decided to write a science column, more for my personal amusement than to attract readers. After getting educated about the attention span of modern readers from my editor, it became more like a challenge to tackle esoteric subjects in 600 words that I have managed to remain interested in for more than a year now. I do not want to add my worldly profile here as these are ideas that need to be considered only on the merits they carry and not as an opinion of a certain human being.

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