More temperance, less instinct

Our minds are abstraction-machines. We have the ability to simulate any kind of reality in our minds. We know this from our dreams, but our waking state is very similar. This is the blessing and the curse of human existence. We can dream our way through life mostly untouched by reality, disregarding all feedback of dysfunction. And we can suffer from birth to death from imagined problems that never arise, and which exist nowhere outside of our own imagination.

We can have an imaginary fight with our partner even before getting out of bed in the morning. We will then meet that person from a state of having had a fight and communicate and treat that person as if that fight actually happened. And in this way, the imaginary fight becomes real and is projected into the world.

Our inner imaginations generate enormous amounts of stress – the physical response to perceived biological danger. The body cannot differentiate between real external danger and imagined inner danger. It responds in the same way: by releasing stress hormones that help us react instinctively and quickly – to either run for our lives or fight for our lives. This system is designed by evolution to help us survive life-threatening situations, but in our society it is becoming a chronic state as our imaginations are going haywire in response to all the stimuli that tell us danger is near.

For when we feel danger, there must be someone or something to be afraid of. This is how evolution has shaped us. If fear arises, our senses immediately go into high alert and search for the reason for that fear (and the same goes for all other emotions). When in stress, we are constantly on the look-out for what is causing that stress – and we either hide or we attack.

The one thing we are oblivious to in the midst of these instincts is that it is ourselves that is the source of almost all of our own stress, and it happens through our ability to create imagined connections and stories in our own minds. Most of the time none of it is real.

In our society at the moment, the amount of stress is extreme, and our communication is fraught with angst and confusion. We’re lashing our left, right and center at everyone and everything that we perceive to be a danger to us, whether it’s people, actions or ideas. The way we communicate is getting more and more toxic. And the more toxicity we perceive, the more we are justified in defending ourselves in even more toxic ways.

But no one is out to get you.

All politicians, all business leaders, all influencers and all the rest of us… we’re all confused, overwhelmed and out of our depth. We’re just one of infinite miniscule biological organisms navigating this chaos that is human society. We all pretend to be in control, but no one is in control. And everyone, everyone (!), is doing as best they can based on circumstance and past experience – and the infinite misunderstandings of the mind.

As Jesus said on the cross: «Forgive them, for they know not what they’re doing.»

No one knows what they’re doing! We just make the best of it, from one moment to the next – the decisions the result of previous programming in our brains. They happened before we’re even aware of what mental impulse to follow. We’re biological machines, and free will is an illusion when we live from instinct instead of insight.

What we can do to gain insight is to take responsibility for our own ways and understand how our reactions and humanity work. When we short-circuit because of our biology and instinct takes over, we need to learn to take responsibility for that and not project that stress onto others. When we want to lash out, we keep it to ourselves. When we feel fear, anger, disgust and all the other negative emotions, we stop and use whatever tools we have to calm the system. We let instinct pass and wait for clear-headedness to arise before we respond. This is temperance. And when we do speak about our difficult emotions, we talk about how they move in us, not how they are the fault of others.

Our biology was never designed to function in a world such as this. It was designed to help us survive in the wilderness, in small close-knit groups held together by co-dependence and trust.

We are co-dependent. And if that is not how we treat one another, our family unravels.

~Torstein (19.03.2021)

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