Anxiety: A Nervous System

By: Aaron

If you read our post about avoidance and pragmatism, then you’ll what I’m saying when I say that I’m going to put on my pragmatists thinking cap to write this next post. If you haven’t read it yet, it might not hurt to start with that one here:

You’ll know from having read that article that the general viewpoint of a pragmatist can be generalized in one way as classifying the world as something that is not made out of “matter” and atoms and stuff, but it’s instead comprised of what matters.

Your nervous system transmits messages from your spinal cord and brain to everywhere else throughout your body, and it tells you exactly how to act. “Scream”, “reach your arm out and grasp”, and “turn around” That kind of stuff. The most primitive aspects of your nervous system will find their origins 550-600 million years ago in worms.

Obviously this means that our nervous system, which is the system that actually think it contains all the knowledge we claim to know about it, is 600 million years old, and although we may think we are much more intelligent than it, we must consider the possibility that it might be more wise as a separate entity than we are using it as a faculty to our existence. After all, this reactionary part of us all is exactly the faculty that has allowed our ancestors to keep alive and avoid being eaten by things like snakes, wolves or bears over the entirety of our evolutionary period.

Your nervous system doesn’t even actually look at a snake or a wolf, and think “snake” or “wolf”, especially not during times before civilization. Your nervous system and looks at them and thinks, “something I run from”, or, “something that eats me”. Your nervous system then extracts those meanings out and tell your body how it should thusly act. The better and better species gets at adjusting it’s perceived meaning of things to match the actions you act out as a result of those meanings, the more likely it is that the species is going to be able to be most successful at propagating through time. Anything that you might perceive as a threat, is going to activate the same parts of the reactionary brain that would have been activated during times when being eaten by snakes and wolves might have been a more realistic danger.

            Perhaps a problem with the strictly objective or scientific viewpoint of humanity today, is that our nervous system does not know how to act out “snake” or “wolf”, at least not as a reflex. It simply is not consistent with how our genealogy has evolved. Evolution of the nervous system has been going on for 600 million years, humanity has existed in it’s current form (with varying estimation) for roughly 150,000 to 200,000 years, written language has existed for roughly 10,000 years, science for 500 years, and Iphones have existed for 8 years. Our past as a primitive being is much longer and more full of examples of the reality of human nature and that’s why they say “history repeats itself”. To know why people do the things they do, you must first study why and how we have evolved as we are.

Take for example, the amount that atheistic views have grown over the course of the last 3 decades or more. An atheist might associate with the idea that life has no meaning, and that people are mere coincidences of Darwinism and aren’t divine. I was an atheist in my teenage years through early 20’s, or I at least would have identified as one. At that time I would have told you that I don’t believe in anything, and that’s the reason I was an atheist. So you can imagine the shock I felt years later when I realized that as an atheist, I BELIEVED that nothing was going to happen to me when I died.

“But I thought you didn’t believe in anything,” I said to myself.

“Apparently you’re a hypocrite,” I responded back.

This realization forced me to strip myself all of my beliefs and start over. I studied a lot of the oldest stories, myths, and religious texts looking for what it is that I might believe. What was revealed to me as I read, listened to lectures, and read, I concluded that I do not believe any religion to be true by itself, rather I more believe that they all have intrinsic, transcendent, and universal truths among them, and that the oldest religious text should most effectively be viewed as if they are tools which contain the morals and ethics of which you should use to guide your life. Furthermore it is within those texts that I have hypothesized that the main lesson that carries across all religions is that the most sacred and “holy” of all values is to always tell the truth.

Given how much more our ancestors were connected to nature, considering how they lived in it, I’d say it’s fair to assume they were also clued in to the workings and needs of their own bodies, more than we are, and definitely more than we probably give the, credit for. Maybe these stories, the oldest that have ever been carried through all of time, are a gift from our wiser ancestors telling us that the most important human trait is to always tell the truth. I think it’s possible that they knew the effect that lies and contradictions have on one’s nervous system, and I think that these effects carry severe consequences than we currently think, as far as individual physiological health. It’s debatable that we’re the most “advanced” country on the earth yet we use 85% of all the world’s manufactured prescription drugs, and that’s no coincidence.

For example, one self-hypocrisy I discovered while looking into my religious affiliation contradiction, was one that had prior been a sub-conscious hypocrisy. Actually as it turns out, most of them are sub-conscious. I realized that even though I didn’t believe in divinity because of my beliefs in atheism, yet I simultaneously act out the beliefs of our government’s legal system, which clearly associates with the belief that everybody does have divinity within them. Otherwise if you committed a crime we’d just assume that you are evil and that evil is the only thing that you are. We wouldn’t bother in believing in second chances. You can find similar contradictions in the environmentalist who drives a truck and owns an Iphone and a house with electricity, in the feminist who’s never stood up for the right for women in Saudi Arabia to enjoy the same opportunities to protest that women in the west enjoy, or in any of the groups and organization that claim to detest hate speech, while being a hateful response to an opposing hateful movement. Hate plus hate only equals more hate.

I say all of that to conclude with this; one truth that carries across all people is that we all have unconscious contradictions, hypocrisy, and bias. That’s okay, but we must be able to have a dialogue about it, so we can all get smarter. When one stakes their beliefs in one thing, but act out their life in a manner that is contradictory in meaning to those beliefs, I hypothesize that it throws your nervous system out of whack, and since that is the system that tells very other part of you how to act, it might not be a bad idea that we collectively figure out how to keep it in check. These self-deception literally wind you up, and are the roots of all of your anxiety.

Not all of these monkey wrench’s of contradiction that are being thrown at your nervous system are the fault of your own. You nest your self-identity within larger group identities. Things like gender, sexual orientation, political and religious affiliation, where you’re from, and the like, are all larger structures of identity that carry with them their own beliefs, some of which you adopt consciously, some sub-consciously. If you want to slowly rid yourself of your anxieties it will help you to realize your contradictions, address them, and get rid of them, one by one. The road to ridding our anxious mind, starts from looking within, and working your way outwards, so until you’ve gotten to know your inner self, it’s best to not project your insecurities. Peace and love and you are beautiful xoxo