Friday, January 29, 2016
Fear, anxiety, and prejudice play a major role in the human condition. Per prejudice, preliminary neuroimaging, employing both PET and fMRI technology has provided with us with beginning data regarding the function of our brain in understanding this significant societal problem. Facial identification research has demonstrated that our brains can distinguish between faces of different races within tenths of a second. This phenomena is called “other-race-effect” or ORE. When viewing the face of an individual of another race, our amygdala that which is responsible for fear, flight or fight responses and anger, becomes activated. The fusiform face area [FFA] of our brain, on the other hand, it is speculated allows us to recognize and differentiate faces by reading their expressions and making appropriate inferences. Unfortunately, when we view an individual of another race, there at times can be less activation in the fusiform area of our brain. This suggests that we might be less able to “read” those facial expressions correctly. Interestingly, the ORE does not typically occur when we perceive the faces of well-liked celebrities, actors, actresses, entertainers and sports figures of other races. Also, there is variability as to the size or degree of ORE distinguishing ability. Further, individuals who grew up in racially homogeneous environments show larger ORE’s. A quick translation suggests there’s likely an innate tendency to see members of other races as “them” rather than “us.” At a very early age from 6 to 9 months we begin distinguishing among faces, people and divide them into at least two groups such as friendly and unfriendly. Differences can be reinforced by caretakers, and the social economic setting where we live. Thus we have the interplay of nature and nurture. All this seems to take place as natural and normal within the first five years of life. Then we attend school, and likely find differences among classmates. With differences come friends, non-friends, cliques, popularity and fitting in. Hardly anyone chooses to be a loner or an outcast within the group. Blending, becoming part of seems to be the need for affiliation. Sports or being a good athlete seems paramount. One can be a poor student, a newcomer and/or larger than others, and still become popular If they are good in athletics. In Bo’s Warriors, Thom Darden was the perfect example. Thom lived in the projects in Sandusky, Ohio. The school system segregated the students into two groups-college prep and the “other.” This meant the white students were in the college prep curriculum and the blacks in the non-college prep curriculum or other. Even though this young, skinny, shy, acne faced black was placed in the college prep curriculum, he excelled and was part of the in- group only because of his athleticism. He was a terrific athlete and that fact alone, made him an integral part of that favored, popular group. That meant acceptance in this racist community. Unfortunately, some of his black buddies resented his newfound status. Even though popular, Darden was not permitted to openly befriend and date Caucasian females. It wasn’t until Thom Darden enrolled at the University of Michigan, and became a starter in his sophomore year, that things changed. He was now a star and that mitigated the fact that he was black. In fact, he was like a magnet as far as the women were concerned. In other words, the brains ORE and its fusiform, worked their magic, and Thom Darden became a “we,” “us” or an inclusive member of the larger group. Pardon the cliché, “Thom’s playing field was leveled.” Darden continued to enjoy females of all races while playing for the Cleveland Browns. Incidentally, Thom married Melissa and they have a biracial daughter Carrie. He told me that some of the high school kids wanted to touch her hair and he told her that it was her responsibility to educate her classmates. “Yes, my hair, my skin, my color is different, but my actions, especially, expectations and motivation to achieve are similar to yours.” We know that if she had been an outstanding high school athlete, some of her difficulties would likely have been greatly diminished. Hopefully, your ORE and fusiform neurological functioning will not impair your interpersonal relationships. At least you know, having a human brain has its pros and cons. Take advantage of your brain power and use it productively.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Epictetus was a slave of a freedman who was eventually freed. This slave lived from 55-135 A.D. and was a major Stoic philosopher. Unfortunately, his teachings were not committed to writing, but were chronicled by one of his pupils name Arrian and can be found In Discourses of Epictetus [C. A. D. 108] or The Works of Epictetus, Translated by Thomas W. Higginson. This ancient philosopher in part talked about how best to meet the requirements of life by being comfortable with nature. Some of his ideas pertain to perception as he reportedly said, “things appear as they are, or they are not, and do not even appear to be; or they are not, yet appear to be.” In other words, it is about how we perceive the world and give meaning to it-“nothing is good or bad thinking makes it so.” Of course, in addition to perception, senses and thinking, we also feel or emote and move or act-behavior. How we think and what we think significantly plays a major component in our mental health. This former slave also talked about being master of oneself. In order to know oneself, it would be helpful to be aware of our unconscious impulses, our ego ideal, use of our defense mechanisms, goal setting, expectations, success experiences, being in the here and now and development of conscience. Although the former slave didn’t use the concept of denial, he talked about not desiring a long life. For him, it meant that the fear of death was underneath the desire. He added that desiring a long life is useless, since all things in life are transient. He reportedly said, “May death take me, while I am thinking of these things, while I am thus writing and reading.” I agree with him in that I want to die while I’m being productive like when I’m trail running. I must admit that I want to live within a healthy mentally and physically lifespan. The brilliant Epictetus also talked about the power of our thoughts when he said “castaway sadness, fear, desire, and malevolence, avarice, effeminacy, and temperance.” He likely knew, a long time ago, that our thinking affects our feelings and desires. And if we can control and not get caught up in some othe irrational ideas that we hold, we actually might be able to live and act in accordance with the healthy philosophies of the past. An example of self-defeating thinking are related to thoughts around wanting approval, fears of failure, wishing for the biggest toys and blaming others for our misfortune. Acting on these irrational thoughts, results in making life less than desirable, but miserable. An important principle taken from Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer that was adopted by Alcohol Anonymous “oh God, give us a serenity to accept what cannot be changed. The courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.” Epictetus originally said “no man is free un less he is master of himself.” And that the self-mastery comes through will. The will operates on those things within our power. He said “In our power are opinion, movement toward a thing, desire, aversion - whatever are our own acts. In other words, control the things you can and let go of the things you can’t. That lesson is used a lot, especially in sports. A number of years ago, a wise Canadian cowboy friend told me that he disliked those competitions that had a judge, evaluating and giving a number to his performance. He liked racing where the first horse across the finish line wins. In trail running, we cannot control things like the weather, trail obstacles and other competitors. We can only control things like purchasing our trail running equipment, our hydration, nutrition, and our conditioning. As far as college football is concerned, Coach Harbaugh would likely tell his players that they have no control over the season scheduling, rankings, flips of the coin, or even making the team. What they can do is to condition well, practice hard all the time, learn your assignment and have fun playing the game you love. Then, the coaches decide your fate or out of your control. The article regarding Epictetus was found in the January 9-10, 2016 of The Wall Street Journal.
Sunday, January 17, 2016
Donald Trump recently, while campaigning, said something to the effect that the NFL rule changes, intending to protect players from head injuries are simply making this violent sport saw soft. Of course he’s also talking about the softness of our country as a whole. He talked about beautiful tackles, head-to-head tackles and all the penalty flags that are thrown. He’s complaining that the current referees throw too many penalty flags. He said that those tackles in the past were incredible to watch. You might raise the question about Donald Trump’s mental and physical toughness. He certainly knows how to criticize and put down the Mexicans, the Muslims and now the NFL. Does the ability to criticize and put down other groups result, and is associated with mental toughness? Donald Trump may be mentally tough, but he certainly doesn’t exhibit that trait while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. Mental toughness is not about criticism, nor is it about prejudice. Mental toughness has to do with but not limited to goal setting; taking unpopular political or other stances like those in “Profiles in Courage”; reframing; enduring mental as well as physical hardships over the course of competition; self-talk or affirmations; success expectations and achievement ;perseverance or grit. Mohammed Ali talked by getting up off the canvas after being knocked down; Michael Jordan talked about being willing and looking to take the last shot; Tom Brady standing in the pocket, willing to take the physical hit, in order to increase the percentage completion to an open receiver. Did Donald Trump play competitive football? I don’t think so. He certainly, on TV, does not perpetuate an image of physical toughness. He seems soft, flabby, overweight and out of shape. Of course his mouth doesn’t seem to tire. The University of Michigan’s Mike Keller played for the Dallas Cowboys. He later became a scout and worked in a number of administrative capacities in professional football. His thoughts about mental toughness included 1. Competitiveness-about a player that hates to lose. 2. Being a team player-the individual is willing to sacrifice his own personal glory for the sake of the team. 3. Intelligence- an instinct by making good decisions, avoiding mistakes, and knowing how to react in battle when a 250 or 300 pound opponent is coming at you full speed. 4. Mental toughness is to be able to differentiate between pain and injury during games and practices. In 1982 Keller was an assistant general manager for the Seattle Seahawks. He received a call regarding the formation of a new football league called the USFL or the United States Football League. The Michigan Panthers called him to help them put together that team as the assistant general manager. Soon, the Michigan Panthers became the best team in the league. This team, Bobby Hébert as quarterback, defeated- the top team from the East- Philadelphia Stars that had Jim Mora as head coach and Carl Peterson as general manager. Making a long story short, a man by the name of Donald Trump came in the second year as owner of the New Jersey Generals. He started to campaign for the USFL to compete against the NFL in the fall. He convinced the other owners to move their season to the fall, after their third season. The USFL teams had trouble getting Stadium leases because those spaces were used by the professional baseball and football teams. Also, the NFL had a monopoly on TV rights. So, the USFL, per Trump, started a lawsuit against the NFL for antitrust statutes. The USFL, won the lawsuit, and the jury awarded the USFL three dollars. Trump’s attorney handled the lawsuit for the USFL. Trump had been snubbed by the NFL trying to force his way into the NFL. Trump won the battle but lost the war. Unfortunately, the USFL folded after just three years. The NFL, In fact, went back to football, as usual. One can argue that the loser Donald Trump is just speaking sour grapes. He lost that battle earlier and now he’s putting down the NFL. Being an owner of New Jersey General’s is not the same as making a tackle or being tackled. He can have an opinion about what is a beautiful tackle; can have a fantasy about playing in a football game; maybe he plays some of John Madden’s videogames, and maybe he remembers hearing the sound of a hard tackle. The train has left the station. Donald Trump will never experience a hard, physical tackle. Does Donald Trump suffer from CTE? If he does, it’s not from playing football.
Saturday, January 16, 2016
On January 7, Linda and I were joined by two other couples and headed for San Jose to see the Detroit Red Wings play the San Jose Sharks. Dave, also from Detroit played hockey, and was knowledgeable about the game. As a young, impressionable kid growing up in Detroit, hockey was one of the sports that I listened to on the radio. Back then, there were 6 NFL teams. Detroit, Chicago Black Hawks, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Montréal Canadians and the Toronto Maple Leafs. My favorite player was Gordie Howe. He was a member of the “Production Line” that featured Sid Abel at center and Ted Lindsay on the right wing. Red Kelly was a defenseman, and Terry Sawchuk was in goal. Some of the other legends that I remembered included Jean Beliveau, Boom Gefferon, Maurice Rocket Richard, Pocket Rocket Richard and Bobby Hull. A Toronto Maple Leaf named Eddie Shack used to shadow Gordie Howe. During one game, Shack, seriously injured Gordie. I remembered being worried about Gordy’s health and recovery. Gordie did recover and played and played and played even playing professional hockey with his son’s. Going into today’s game, I admit that I no longer follow hockey nor do I know the names of the current players. Even though I didn’t know their names, of the current hockey players, I was impressed by speed of the game and their skill level. TV does not capture the level of play by these terrific athletes. The Red Wings opened the scoring in the first period, but the score was quickly tied. It looked like the Sharks played superior and had 10 more shots on goal than my Detroit team. Detroit had more penalties, but the Sharks were unable to capitalize. The Red Wings scored in the 3rd period. The Sharks pulled goalie near the end of that third period, but did not score. There was even a fight to finish the game and everyone cheered. Another surprise was when the person sitting behind me said, “There’s Jim Harbaugh.” Sure enough, four rows behind me sitting in an aisle seat was the Michigan head football coach. At the first intermission, there was a line in front of Jim. People are shaking hands, taking pictures, while talking to coach Harbaugh. I waited my turn and went up to him. I don’t think he initially recognized me until I said, I wrote “Bo’s Warriors” and he gave me that grin and gave me his hand. I mentioned to him a number of things such as “you did a terrific job, I was impressed with your Bowl victory.” He replied,” spread the word.” That was a cute response. I also told him that I was happy that he didn’t take the Oakland Raiders job.” He said that this month was key for the recruiting process, which was why he was likely in California . Coach Jim Harbaugh was available to all and has a nice easy-going friendly personality in meeting the public. On the playing field and during games he is much more competitive and intense. It’s obvious that he knows how to relate and is very approachable. I wished him luck. I would not be surprised if Michigan football has even greater success during the 2016 season as many are predicting. Look out, Ohio State University-the Wolverines are close to being back like they were when Jim played for coach Schembechler. Go Blue!
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House recently stated, “Xenophobia is not what this country stands for.” Although he said that, American history tells a very different story. Our story starts with the Puritans who left England because of religious persecution. They had no difficulty in going from the victim to the persecutor. Per Massachusetts minister William Stoughton, in the 17th century, said “we are surely the Lord’s firstborn in this wilderness.” That prejudice, persecution and hate was explicitly expressed to the Quakers by Cotton Mather as he compared them to serpents, dragons and vipers. These Quakers were banned, exiled, imprisoned and were considered leprous people. “Their teachings as wholesome as the juice of toads.” Baptist and Anglicans had their church windows smashed and their walls splattered with dung and other filth. And even moderates believed that their sacred land was being overrun by the Irish, under orders from Rome, to establish Roman Catholicism on their shores. Other examples of intolerance and hate were directed toward Native Americans per Cotton Mather. He said,” New England was in a state of such distress and danger as it never saw before. ..There was imminent danger in the whole armies of Indians and Gallic bloodhounds.” Further, this hate did not have to be visible because according to the ministry at the time, French, Catholics and Satan were condemned from the pulpit as they were called “bloody and barbarous heathens. The Salem witch trials followed and William Soughton presided over the trials with a 100% conviction rate. Roughly 150 years later, it was the Mormons that were subverting America. And in the next century, the citizenry of Massachusetts elected a Catholic senator, and still in the 20th century, elected a Mormon governor. These 1600s, 1700s and 1800s bigots wouldn’t understand. They’d be afraid that these “others” were racially inferior, were not of Protestant heritage, and would politically, economically, physically and psychologically harm them. The political, presidential rhetoric of today-“building a wall” and “halting Muslim immigration until we figure it out” seems overtly mild compared to early American history. However, make no mistake about it. Early prejudice and discrimination was explicit and more readily perceived. Today’s rhetoric is more of an implicit, out of awareness or subtle message. Perhaps the implicit prejudicial language of today is progress compared to the explicit prejudicial language of years past. While this change may be true, its remains very important that individuals take ownership, as we humans all hold prejudicial, discriminatory or stereotypical attitudes of some type. It’s only one when we can recognize such, that we can then change and modify our irrational thinking. Yes, it’s possible to change irrational attitudes. Although we may say that we hate a black president’s political policies, even though we previously advocated them, we find ourselves standing, cheering at the top of our lungs when our black athlete superstar hurls a touchdown pass; runs the kickoff back for a touchdown; or catches the ball in the end zone in the final seconds to win the game. When that special play happens, and it happens frequently, our focus is not on skin color or other differences. That exceptional athlete is a member of our group simply as the result of being on our team. We also like to believe that the group or team, to which we belong, is better, superior, and more special than the opposition. In other words, we like to be dominant and on top. Being one of ours, now makes it possible for us to identify with that individual because he’s currently part of our special group. It’s about perception since we perceive the other group as inferior. We can like that black athlete when he is a member of our team. If that same black athlete was standing with a group of African Americans, in a dimly lighted room, we probably wouldn’t recognize him, but instead would react in a fearful manner towards him. In addition, celebrities, movie stars, recording artists and others seem to cut across racial lines. This means that our response to certain individuals generally has nothing to do with logic. Are we fickle and do we hold non logical contradictory attitudes about people of different skin color and/ or race? You already know the answer.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
It Has Nothing to Do with Age, was published in 2011. In my book, I interviewed in-depth 7 athletes, 65 years of age and older who competed in extraordinary sports. Many of these individuals were friends that I knew from my competitions. I told their stories and mine. I attempted to answer many of the why we do what we do, as well as providing some insight into creating a healthier lifestyle by adjusting attitude and behavior. In fact, I came up with seven prescriptions to lengthen one’s lifespan. The seven prescriptions are as follows: 1. Get inspired. It’s okay to begin a new activity by taking baby steps. A physical activity can help in improving physical fitness, losing weight, reducing anxiety and minimizing depression. 2. Find meaning in an activity outside of family, career, or raising kids; it can build self-esteem. 3. Enrich your emotional life by making physical contact, having friends, sharing interests, and learning about others, by becoming part of a new group. 4. Realize that there’s more to life than the accumulation of material things; having the biggest toy does not result in happiness. 5. Participate in outdoor activities to help nurture spirituality. 6. Find a way to escape, read about other people’s adventures. 7. Find inspiration and motivation through the illuminating profiles of eight remarkable senior athletes found within this book. Let’s see how these 7 prescriptions correlate with the recent December 27, 2015 article in The New York Times titled “The Wisdom of the Aged.” In this article, the writer followed individuals that were 85 years of age and older. Let’s take a look at what these individuals said about their aging. None of these had been competitive athletes. Most lived in the New York City area; and some lived independently and some lived in subsidized housing. The following are some of their words in answer to the question- what is the secret for long life: 1. To be engaged with life; to do a lot of things. 2. Moving around every day. 3 Walk a lot, drink a lot of water, and try to be happy, which is not very easy. 3. I’m sure the secret is hard work. 4. Color my hair, wear makeup and flirt only with the cute guys. And I always take the stairs. 5. Don’t stop breathing, don’t kvetch, and respect other people for who they are. 6. Make yourself enjoyable and interesting to other people. 7. Not overdoing food, not overdoing liquor, not overdoing sex, not overdoing walking or hiking or anything-just not overdoing anything. 8. I try to be nice to people because I wanted to be treated as such. I do have my ice cream every day. Two scoops is enough. Or maybe three. 9. Do not carry grudges around. 10. Bridge during the day, Manhattan at night. 11. Beware of the pleasure that you get when you do something for the people that really need it. One 93-year-old male wondered why he was in an article pertaining to old people. This man finished the year with an exhibition of his films and photographs in Brescia, Italy and the publication of an anthology of his writings. “Scrapbook of the 60s; Writings 1954-2000” [Spector]. For him, focusing on the present and doing well in it was very important. He does not want to get distracted in every day politics as that are his keys that assist him in maintaining his optimism. In his early history, this man, as a child, experienced the Soviet invasion while living in Lithuania; and was placed in a Nazi forced labor camp as well. This young gentlemen certainly gets inspired; has meaning in his work, not concerned about accumulation of material things and escapes into his wonderful world of films, photographs and writings. He has overcome numerous emotional and physical handicaps and loss as a child. I marvel at his adaptability and his hardiness and ability continue to be productive and contribute to society in spite of his horrendous past. He wasn’t given a full deck of cards. To briefly summarize what these others have said, are as follows: 1. To be engaged, and currently active in living. 2. Being physically active. 3. Maintaining a good attitude, and not being critical, or complaining. 4. Enriching one’s life by interpersonal interaction. 5. Notice that no one talked about the accumulation of material things as being the secret for long life. Briefly, in conclusion, I do not think that aging is about happiness or the pursuit of happiness. It’s certainly not about having the most or the biggest toys. Aging is about living fully in the present, which means being physically active, productive, and loving. It’s about making wise mental and physical health decisions so that one can take full advantage of all available opportunities.
Monday, January 4, 2016
Jim Harbaugh had a fantastic year in returning to his alma mater as their head coach. He inherited, from previous coach Brady Hoyke, a number of good college defensive players. Players that come to mind include the following: Desmond Morgan, linebacker; Joe Bolden, linebacker ;Jared Wilson, safety; Chris Wormley defensive line; Mario Ojemudia , defensive end; Willy Henry, defensive tackle; Ryan Glascow, defensive line; Jabrill Peppers, multi-positions; Jourdan Lewis, defensive back. On offense, a few include the following: De Veon Smith, running back; Drake Johnson, running back; Joe Kerridge, running back; Sione Houma, running back; Jon Runyan, offensive line ; Amara Darboh receiver ; Jake Butt, tight end; Jehu Chesson receiver; Graham Glascow offensive line . Do not forget that Jake Rudock transferred, and was a fifth-year senior from Iowa. Coach Harbaugh assembled quite the staff that included Tim Drevno; Jed Fisch; Jay Harbaugh; John Baxter, Greg Jackson; Tyrone Wheatley; Michael Zordich , Kevin Tolbert and Greg Mattison. This group took a pretty good defense, made it terrific as it gained national attention with three consecutive shutouts. On offense, Michigan turned it around, led by quarterback Jake Rudock and his outstanding receivers Butt, Chesson, Darboh along with running back Smith not forgetting the offensive line. Their overall record was 10 victories and three defeats. They played one miserable half-the second against archrival Ohio State in their 13 games. Their trouncing of Florida on New Year’s Day was sweet. Both offensively and defensively they dominated a pretty good football team. That victory was paramount and foreshadows what lies ahead for Jim Harbaugh’s University of Michigan’s Wolverines. I can’t help comparing what coach Harbaugh did in his first year with Coach Bo Schembechler. Schembechler inherited an outstanding group of athletes from previous coach Bump Elliott. A few of them included Jim Betts, Tom Curtis, Henry Hill, Jim Mandich, Guy Murdoch, Don Moorehead, Brian Healy, Paul Staroba, Marty Huff, Philip Seymour, Cecil Pryor, Richard Caldarazzo and Dan Dierdorf. And a terrific group of sophomores that included Frank Gusich, Thom Darden, Jim Brandstatter , Billy Taylor, Fritz Seyferth , Glenn Doughty, Mike Keller, and Reggie McKenzie. That 1969 team had outstanding coaches put together by coach Schembechler that included Gary Moeller, Jerry Hanlon, Dick Hunter, Louie Lee, Frank Maloney, George Mans, Larry Smith, Chuck Stobart and Jim Young. Many of Schembechler’s players and coaches went on to have tremendous athletic careers in the game, they loved. This terrific team had an overall record of 8-3. Their conference finish was a first-place tie with Ohio State; AP number 9 ranking and UPI 8 ranking. They lost in the Rose Bowl to USC 10- 3. Bo had a heart attack prior to that game, and was hospitalized. With their unbelievable win against Ohio State 24- 12 at the season’s finale, that was the team’s Super Bowl victory. Coach Schembechler with his infamous smile would likely say something like “son of a bitch, Jim, you did a good job.” He can discern that his pupil learned well under his tutelage. He knew that Jim learned about the importance of a stifling defense; solid ground attack; ball control; eliminating mistakes, and running those plays to perfection. He also knew that Jim learned to be in charge of the entire football-academic program and that it was his responsibility to turn these athletes into proud, by changing their thinking, Michigan men that have blue and maize running through their veins – there was more to life than football. Coach Harbaugh learned from the best and is perpetuating those valuable learnings. Which first year coach did the better job in turning around the Wolverine football program? I can argue that both did exceptional and outstanding jobs in their first year. I don’t think statistics give us the answer. If you talk to Bo’s 1969 players, you’ll get a sense of their love, commitment, desire, passion, even now, 45 years later for Bo, their teammates and for the University of Michigan. I would love to talk to Jim’s 2015 team 45 years from now and compare and contrast with the original Bo’s Warriors. Go Blue!
Saturday, January 2, 2016
A freezing reaction is accompanied by a hormonal surge that helps one to mobilize energy and to focus one’s attention. Unfortunately, in highly stressful situations, these secretions can be excessive and create impediments in making the best choices. In 1996 at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, there was a video of a bombing that captured the freezing concept. After the bomb went off, many people froze and then some began to try to escape or run. As a result, there is significant variability in the human response to danger. Sometimes freezing is brief and sometimes it persists for longer periods of time. It’s believed that this variability is based on the particular situation, as well as an individual predisposition. Some people have the ability to think through a stressful situation or to be more motivated by it, and therefor will be more ready, to run, hide or flight. For others, additional assistance is definitely needed. Let’s hypothesize, that you’re armed and in a dangerous situation. Someone begins shooting in your direction. Do you know for sure, that you’re going to quickly retrieve your weapon and shoot back, as opposed to freezing? If you’re going to freeze, that armed gun of yours might result in placing you at a serious disadvantage. If that’s the case, it won’t matter how many guns or bullets you have. Consider, a relearning program. Hopefully, you can retrain your amygdala [per psychological training] to cognitively reappraise dangerous situations in order to not dampen your neural pathways. And more importantly, replace them through learning with better adaptability strategies. The idea is that if you can cut off a few seconds off freezing, it might result in the difference between life and death. Be smart, don’t purchase more weapons and ammunition. Instead, spend the money on understanding how your brain deals with fear and anxiety. Further, as Selye says, think about adaptation strategies to increase your odds of survival. Ralph Waldo Emerson has it right when he said “fear defeats more people than any other one thing the world.”
Friday, January 1, 2016
In 1974, Professor Hans Selye, M.D. wrote the bestseller “Stress Without Distress.” In this book, he said that we are unable to avoid stress in life. He went on and defined stress as “nonspecific response of the body to any demand made upon it.” He also wrote about man’s great capacity for adaptability in order to survive and avoid death. At the time, he wrote that there were two roads to survival: fight and adaptation or flight. He added that most often adaptation is the more successful approach. More recently, The New York Times, Sunday, December 20, 2015 featured an article, written by a Prof. who directs the Emotional Brain Institute at New York University, regarding how to protect ourselves from active shooters. Information from the Federal Bureau of investigation and the Department of Homeland Security suggests that the individual can do more than fight or flight- “run, hide, and fight.” Translated this means run if you can; hide if you can’t run; and fight if all else fails. The NRA and individuals with a similar mentality might take exception and suggest that everyone start by taking out their gun and begin shooting the shooter first. Dr. Joseph LeDoux questions the assumption that the formula “run, hide, fight” is a readily available cognitive-behavioral choice to all in danger situations. Neurological research involving the amygdala and its neural partners demonstrates that we have a built-in impulse to “freeze.” Freezing is not a choice, but a response to danger as current research has refined the old “fight or flight” concept. In essence, freezing is part of the predatory defense system that’s wired to keep us, other mammals and vertebrates alive. A faraway predator is less likely able to identify a stationary prey. Don’t forget that movement by the prey is a trigger for attack. I constantly see Whitetail deer freeze during my trail runs. Believe me, when I, a number years ago, encountered a mountain lion during one of my trail runs, I immediately froze. I knew that running was not in my best interest. I was a few feet from the mother and 2 of her cubs. One cub quickly turned away and ran down the gully- in front of where I was standing. I then took a very small and slow step in the mother’s direction. She appeared to move in my direction. I stood erect, took a breath and slowly walked backwards away from her. As the trail was L shaped, the mother and her cub were out of sight. I turned around, picked up a staff, headed back in the direction that I had previously come. I was scared to death as I left that scene frequently looking over my shoulder to see if I was her prey. I took a roundabout way to return home and continued looking over my shoulder holding tightly on to my staff. I couldn’t hide nor could I fight. I initially froze and then eventually ran to safety. I’ve had other encounters with mountain lions, but none as scary as that. If I had a gun, I don’t think I would have shot that mother or her cub. I was glad that I was able to leave and tell my story. To be continued