Choice and Biology – Where Emotions and Behaviors Come From

Three Legged Race

Image via Wikipedia

I left the light on outside, waiting for my husband to come home.  He was gone, though, to a meeting and wouldn’t be back until Friday.  Some bit of automatic thought current made me flip the light switch and before I realized what I’d done, I flushed.

My husband’s eyes aren’t good and he doesn’t see well without a light.  I can.  I don’t “see” so to speak, but somehow I know where things are and can find my way in the dark.  I’m not a bobcat.  I just remember the way things look by the emotions I felt around them.  This is what was happening that night.

I flipped the switch and there he was.  Walking toward the door.  Distracted.  Fitting his key; almost home.  This was all in the moment that it took me to feel happy and then disappointed remembering he was away.

I turned the light off then because I’m not daft.  But it made me think about what sets our behaviors and emotions in motion.  In that moment, finger to the switch, up, anticipation and disappointment – in that moment, I didn’t choose what happened by the cultural definition of choice.  I responded to patterns that many choices I’d made before had laid down.  Tracks in my brain, hedged and maintained by recurring choices, along with design; my emotions and behaviors also an expression of my temperament.  These moved with each other.  But were they moving along the way we generally think of them, like a three-legged race?

Who was leading who?  Trip.  Get up!

One, two, one, two.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  

And in that moment, my layers of choices were counting out with my biology, “One, two!”  There I was, participant and audience.

When we think about where emotions and behaviors come from, culturally we view them as if they are awkwardly related.  As if biology and choice are tied together at the ankles, about to trip each other up.  We call out to them, hoping somehow they might not show the public how little they know of each other’s rhythms.

But you can see the ridiculousness of this.  Choice and biology are in no way separate.  Design forbids it.  The question of where emotions and behaviors come from in itself reveals our confusion.  They come from the same place.

I can hear the concern that this eliminates free-will.  Answer …”But why?”

After these thoughts that night, I turned the light back on.  I preferred how I felt when I thought my husband might arrive soon.  I chose I guess.  What else could I do?

Questions:  What does it mean to you to fuse choice and biology in the discussion of emotions and behaviors?  How does your culture view this?  Does this affect the way you care for yourself?

Self-Care Tip #282 – Don’t deny the choice available to you to feel and behave as you wish, where that wish surfaced from and the tools you use to make them.

Stop! Don’t Stop! – Affecting Our Practice Of Medicine and Other Agendas

Self-Care Tip #281 – Be aware of how your “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behavior is interfacing with your agenda.

One of the challenges in practicing medicine is the inevitable “Stop!  Don’t stop!” petitions.

stop & go

Image by Joseph Robertson via Flickr

It’s similar in a few ways to being a shoe cobbler who receives clients that don’t want her to use leather.  Ms. Cobbler spends 40-60% of her time with clients persuading them of her capacity to use leather, the objective and subjective evidence behind the use of leather and empowering her clients to wear their leather shoes despite public opinion.

This sounds silly and is not meant to be disrespectful to patients, including myself as a patient of physicians and my own difficulties being a patient.  It is only to describe the forces we are all working with when we work together in medical care – physician and patient.

Quenn came in reminding me of this.  Quenn was a 32 year-old married mother of three, who complained of trouble swallowing, sleeping and ability to feel pleasure over the past two months.  She had struggled with this after her mother died nine years ago, but the problems went away over the following year.  However nine years-ago, Quenn was not a mother.  Nine years-ago, Quenn could shake, stay in the house with the shades down, silent or crying loudly, not eating lying in bed for days and if she wanted, nine years-ago no one would know.  This time however, Quenn told me she was desperate.

I have to get better!  This time, I’ll do anything!  But please start with something natural.  I don’t want to get addicted!  I’m someone who never does meds.”

Quenn, why are you seeing me?  

This is challenging for everyone.  Together, the physician and the patient work with this influence on their agendas.

My brothers and I used to play a game on each other when we were kids.  Maybe you did this too.

Stop!  No don’t!  Stop!  No don’t! Stop!  Don’t!  Stop! Don’t! Stop! Don’t stop! Stop! Don’t!  Don’t Stop!  Don’t Stop!

And for some reason that was hilarious to us.  I like to remember this when I’m in the office and smile despite being played by the “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behaviors and emotions.

Questions:  How about you?  How are the “Stop!  Don’t stop!” behaviors and emotions playing on your agendas?  Please tell me your story.

Stigma Can Hack At Us, But We Don’t Have To Lose Our Heads Over It

City of Canterbury budget 2010−2011 072a

Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago we wrote a blog-post entitled “Be A Tall Poppy.”  I had more than one person ask in comments and in person, what the —-! did that mean!

Why a poppy?  Why discriminate against the many other lovely but apparently unapplauded flora of the world?

What does it mean to “be a tall poppy?”

This referenced the “Tall Poppy Syndrome” of Anglosphere nations.  It tells us that culturally people who wear their accomplishments openly and indiscreetly invoke jealousy in others who then correctively cut the “tall poppy’s” down.

No offense to other buds around the globe, but when we say, “Be a tall poppy,” we say be yourself without the “discretion” of hiding your beauty – flaws and desired traits included.

We probably can’t change cultural opinion much if we don’t work with our own feelings of possible social rejection of making these changes in ourselves.  Being a tall poppy means that we will not be reduced by stigma and other forces; we stand tall and live.

In our blog-post Paging A Testimony, Nancy told us about her discomfort with the response of others to the way her improving health demonstrates itself and changes the dynamics of their relationship.  The balance of energy, power and involvement between her and others is in flux.  Her courage of prevailing through can be coined with, “Nancy is a tall poppy.”

Way to go Nancy!  Stand.  Cowing to those negative emotions is the same as cutting the poppy’s head off and stem left short.  Feel the tension, but stand.  Be present with your emotional responses.  Stand tall.

Self-Care Tip #279 – Be present with your emotional responses.  Stand tall.

Love Differently, Love Your Flaws – Be a Tall Poppy

Tall Poppy

Image by Steve Corey via Flickr

To my family and friends, I thought differently.

But since I’ve loved my flaws less harshly, like pointing jeweled fingers;

since I’ve fallen and let myself savor who I was just then, rasping throat from less than gentle sounds, beautifully broken down, a phoenix who was afraid and not afraid to die;

since I’ve been in the same room with myself, my smells, my dying cells, my mistakes and since I’ve loved these things – since then I have loved you.

I thought I was before but this is differently better.

I am loving you when you turn away and miss your opportunity to praise.  I feel myself soften and think how you are mine.

I am loving you when you miss your self-care and come late and forget.

I thought differently before.

I thought I loved you more the other times, but this is.

It is better to see that you will never be who I expected and that you just missed the turn and won’t.

It is better since I have thought more of me.

And although this sounds off; a discordant honk in the culture score around us,

Although this is awkward showing my ankles exposed while I walk amongst tall-poppies, I even love that

and it is not to say I gloat,

just that I won’t run to hide behind my accomplishments

and won’t hide you behind yours.  I love you more because there is more.  This is differently better and I love you.

Self-Care Tip #278 – Be a tall poppy.

Related Posts:

Taking Care of Our Own Emotional Junk Empowers us Not to Take Care of Theirs

Women Only - Choose your Favourite-Bangalore-n...

Image by najeebkhan2009 via Flickr

Yesterday we started a narrative series on understanding where emotions and behaviors come from:

  1. Emotions Are Contagious
  2. Our own Emotional Junk (today’s post)

Yesenia and Rob chorussed,

Yes! I am worse when Yesenia is not doing well. Who can cope around that!?

Yes! Rob is making me sicker!

Saying emotions are contagious is not the same as explaining causality or fault. It’s talking about an influence. I didn’t want Rob to misunderstand me. Saying emotions are contagious is information to use to empower us; not to make us feel like victims. It is to help disclose our own vulnerabilities, our own needs and our own quest towards healing and presence.

But how to be present with “falling knives,” as Cindy described this in yesterday’s comments?

It starts and ends with Me. So getting back to Me simplifies things and short-cuts our confusion.

It’s easier for us to be around so much charged air when we have already gone toward our own flaws, pain, emotions and anxieties. It is easier for us to not make something personal that isn’t if we have already stayed in our own nasty space for a time, did that process over and over, and each time stayed long enough to see what is there/what will happen until we realize – not much. (That was what I like to call a “super-sentence!) Taking care of our own junk helps us be available for other people when they are spilling theirs. We are less controlled by shame and fear.

This may not happen when complicated by our brain disease. Personalizing things may be inevitable if we do not get medication therapy. Being present with our own journey might not happen without medical help.

Sometimes when we are ill, we feel like we are spectators of our own life story, standing off to the side, just watching the show. With healing, we join with that living active self and can be present and whole. With healing, we don’t have to personalize someone else’s emotion-spills. With healing, we can improve our quality of life. When they don’t fight for brain health, such as taking needed medications, or whatever it is that would have been friendly for them to do – we don’t have to make it about us.

And! And if we choose to, we can be with them. We can be with the people we love! Isn’t that great?! Even when they don’t do their own self-care. Even then. Or not. But we are choosing now rather than reacting defensively.

Kaily said it yesterday like this,

Now, when I notice that my mood is starting to mimic the negative mood or negative atmosphere around me, I stop myself and realize that just because those around me are negative, stressed, uptight, etc., I have the choice and the power to stay positive and at peace within myself. Just because everyone else is jumping off the cliff doesn’t mean that I have to follow.

Self-Care Tip #268 – Taking care of our your own emotional junk helps you not try to take care of theirs.

Emotions Are Contagious – Such as, Anxiety.

We are starting a narrative series on discussing where emotions and behaviors come from:

Anxiety bubbled, frothed and infused the air.  Yesenia could barely catch a breath.  Here’s the thing.  Yesenia is not in treatment with me.  Her husband, Rob, is.  Yet it was Yesenia who filled our space.  There was barely room for Rob and I to sit or speak with all that anxiety around.  Rob was breathing faster every moment and his face didn’t have much color.  …Where to start?

Unknown source

(What do you think? think?  think? echo echo echo…)

It was too early in our work together to expect Rob to know this, but emotions are contagious.  Anxiety is very contagious.  To say this another way we could say, the emotion of anxiety around us influences how our genes express themselves.  It is further explained by saying that my “patient” isn’t only Rob.  My patient includes the system he lives in, i.e. his home milieu, wife, kids, work and so forth.  But especially his wife.  Because of Yesenia’s untreated emotional disease, Rob’s emotional disease worsens.  The inverse is true as well and so we go round and round gaining momentum.  Like a big ball of hard packed snow gathering speed and girth as it rolls down the mountain, anxiety grows.  …Where to start?

(What do you think? think?  think? echo echo echo…)

Self-Care Tip #267 – When suffering from emotional illness, remembering that emotions are contagious (no matter who they come from) is useful to your self-care.

Questions:  How have you experienced the contagion of emotions?  or seen it play out in others?  Please tell me your story.

Escape and Find Treasure

Rounded glass on beach.

Image via Wikipedia

Self-Care Tip #258 – Let yourself escape.

On the beach this evening, waiting for sunset, our dogs were leashed around a pole whining to be free.

There is something about the beach that enchants us.  Broken glass, becomes “sea glass.”  Dirty feet seem appropriate and wanted.  We don’t remember the edge that we teetered on for hours earlier that day.  We remember our own turn and there are fantasies that come in closer.

My children were like puppies let loose.  

This place where three worlds meet; land, sea and sky, the beauty is so great that somehow forgiveness comes as if it can’t stay away.  Forgiveness comes when we don’t even know we are holding a grudge.  I guess there is just no space for that stink at the beach with our lovely dirty feet and our dreams about to come true.

My son found a feather trapped in a heap of slimy seaweed and flies and he grabbed it quickly, thinking his sister would try to get to it first.  

Look!  A treasure!  This feather!  It is a treasure!  

Sister said something inarticulate and was off toward the water’s edge.  Son turns to me and says,

A feather of chicken taken from photograph stu...

Image via Wikipedia

A treasure Mommy!  This is your treasure Mommy.  I found it.  It’s yours now from me.  A treasure!

I saw the flies and remembered the bird who pooped without sphincter control that the feather had belonged to, and I took that enchanted nappy feather with my fingers.

You keep it now Mommy.  Don’t lose it.  Kay?

I even said thank-you.

Question:  Where do you feel enchanted?  What takes you away and what does it do for you to be able to escape?  Please tell me your story.