~ WARNING ~
Please Be Advised…
Just Ahead
READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

(And don’t say I didn’t warn you…)

~~

Ahem…

Who is in charge of your life?

By: Jared B. DiCroce

~

Who is in charge of your life?

Is it you? Is it your wife?

Or is it your job, and your unending strife?

How about your kids? Or your Mom, or your Dad?

Or how about your past, and the loves which you’d had?

Or — is it you…?

But, then again, who’s that?

A husband, a lover, or an aimless gnat?

Are you truly in charge, as you so claim to be?

Or a merely the product of what’s built up to thee?

Is there any true choice in the world today?

Do we decide at all? Or, to say it succinct.

Are we truly distinct?

Or is it all just instinct?

~~

🙂

Now you know I love you, beautiful readers of mine, I’ve written you a poem!

I arf a poet!

(I warned you…)

I am not a poet — for a reference to this fact, please see above — but my own instincts advised me on how to approach today’s topic, and their conclusion was to begin somewhat whimsically. To charm you a bit, as it were. For I understand, full well, that ideas are born and live on nerves, and are thus quite sensitive to prodding.

So tell me, my people… are you sufficiently buttered up?

Excellent!

See, we’d all like to think that WE are the ones in control of our lives. Not the circumscribing forces around us, (though, admittedly, they might be factors in and of themselves), but US! We’d like to believe that WE are the ones that have the final say, when it all comes time to print, at the close of the business day.

(and there I go rhyming again…)

Now, and don’t get me wrong, I fully empathize with the fact that this is a general notion which we ALL intrinsically carry about ourselves. It’s the idea of who we are. It’s the idea that we are the ones who decide how we act in our own lives. Which is precisely why I knew to approach this gently… It is a delicate notion to attempt to disrupt, and one I carry too. For if we aren’t the ones in charge, than who is — and why even bother going on?

To a certain extent, it’s true; we do decide how we behave…

…when presented with all the facts.

However, the full truth is that, by and large, we are ruled mostly by instinct.

It is a man’s own mind, not his enemy or foe, that lures him to evil ways. ~ Siddhartha Buddha

It’s true. Logically we can all be very smart people.

Instinctually we can be idiots…

But how do we fight this? If we’re talking about corruption from within, from our very own makeup, than what are our options?

A lobotomy?!

Dur....

If it’s who we are that we must be wary of, or some part of our basic makeup, than how can we possibly hope to change that? Wouldn’t any solution we derive be tainted by this same force? What can we possibly do bout all this?

It’s simple.

Know thine enemy.

Know your instincts!

~   ~   ~

So, and without further ado, let’s begin, shall we?

Fight or flight

I can take him, he ain't so ruff!

Under the auspices of Mother Nature, survival was a tough and deadly game…

… And throughout the duration of our long evolution (save for this last millisecond or so), we’ve been beneath the oppressive, weighty backside of this antagonistic wench. So, being that this is where we’ve spent most of our ‘growing up’ as a species, our brain naturally adapted to help us endure the strife.

We developed the infamous, “Fight or Flight” instinct: a hasty assessment of a hostile situation, leading to a severe lateral shift in mind-state to facilitate whichever determined end was, well… determined.

If Fight — “Put up yer dukes, little girl. I dare say it’s time to settle this with pugilistic fisticuffs”.

If Flight — “OMGTTGTFOOH” (Hover mouse for translation).

As options go, these two would be very well suited to any scenario presented within the documentary, “The Land Before Time” (that WAS a documentary, right?), as survival in the wilds of a prehistoric world would lean heavily on this logically ingratiated instinct.

However, in today’s world, neither is well suited to our growing human interconnectedness, or genial relations.

These mindstates are primal; ruled by fear, absent of logic, and a huge hindrance toward efficient resolution (Note: when your life is not in danger). Unfortunately their utility is not relevant to their presence — they are here either way and can be triggered in nearly ANY circumstance — which has led to more broken beer bottles and bar fights than history has pages to write about them.

However, by merely being aware of this perception shift, we are then capable of combating it.

Take a deep breath when that adrenalin shoots up your spine.

Remember that you are not a slave to your instincts.

Watch out for Fight or flight, my good people.

Homeostasis

Homeostasis is a process which exists all throughout the natural world, and always seeks a state of equilibrium.

Let’s say that you’re a Frog (Ribbit…), who’s living in a pond. Well than, for you, the law of Homeostasis would represent the delicate interplay between you (Sir Frogiccus maximus), your food source (The Fly’s at the pond which you eat), and the predators around that eat you (The Birds).

The Birds help to ensure that not to many of you Frogs survive, only the fittest — which makes your species strong. This, in turn, ensures that there are plenty of Fly’s to eat, as there are less of your kind around to exhaust your food source. And this, in turn, in turn, ensures that there are enough Fly’s left around to continue mating — which feeds you, which feeds the birds, and which keeps the whole cycle moving.

This is the equilibrium, this is the balance

There is a consequence to this physical, natural process though, one not often considered in daily life…

For a species living in nature, like the frog, this balancing act works quite well.

By maintaining the status quo, the Frog survives. By surviving, the Frog endures long enough to pass on its DNA. By passing on its DNA, the Frog continues to extend the longevity of it’s very species… and on and on it goes.

And, thusly, Sit down, you’re rocking the boat, became the theme song to all of nature.

The trouble is, us Humans too are a part of nature… The trouble is, the instinct which formed around homeostasis — the instinct to not rock the boat, to not change the status quo, to not try anything new for fear of destroying our very species — maintains… The trouble is, there is actually an instinctual mechanism working within us now to promote, “balance”, which also, inadvertently, works against change.

See, the brain has no concept of what you’re doing with your time — all it knows is that you’re alive, and so something must be working… you must be doing something right. The habits that you’ve forged throughout your life bring comfort to the sodden organ for this reason, as they mimic homeostasis within your environment. However, (and this is the tricky bit), any deviation from these habits, habits which you might very well know to be destructive within your life, represent a threat to homeostasis within the mind, and, also, to it in turn, the very endurance of the human race — and when presented with this threat, the brain FREAKS OUT.

Don't mess with me, body!

The instinct to maintain homeostasis is not as vital as it once was — we’re at the top of the food chain. There are no, “birds” around to make sure that we spend our time wisely. If a bear could burst through your door at any moment and eat you, you might think twice about spending hours in front of the TV, watching a “Matlock” marathon, and falling asleep on the couch — as, you would wind up bear floss.

Though the instinct to seek Homeostasis maintains…

This is why it is so hard to try something new.

This is why it’s so hard to break a bad habit.

This is why when we throw money at the homeless, they will spend it as fast as possible and get back on the street — they have homeostasis there, amazingly it’s become their comfort zone.

This is why being aware of the mechanism of homeostasis is so vital…

Once we are aware that this will happen — that we will likely, “Freak out” when trying something new, when forging a new habit, or when changing our very lives — than we can simply wait it out.

Knowledge is power!

Simply expect it to happen, (and it will), and then, immediately, it becomes easier to overcome. Merely make a logical plan, stick to it — do the work for a number of months while enduring the discomfort — and when the brain begins to get accustom to that new state of being, everything will then become copacetic!

The rest…

… and there are plenty more — so many, many bad instincts left behind from nature — but really, (Hopefully), the two above sufficiently whet your palate and got you thinking, and I can skim over the rest of these.

I had planned on going into further detail, but this post is running long, I now see that the two above seem to dictate the rest, and I have a life to live,

So…

…here we go!

Compartmentalized thinking

Thanks to Homeostasis, there’s comfort in the known. There’s comfort in categories. We feel better when we feel like we can understand something simply. We ask, “what’s your age?”, “where did you go to college?”, “who do you know?” — as if any of this could tell us more about an individual than a simple, honest, and in the moment conversation.

This compartmentalization is based in instinct — and today, more often than not, it blinds us from the truth.

Compartmentalized thinking also keeps us snugged up to the itchy trigger-finger which is the, “fight or flight” primitive mindset. When we have such neat and tidy ideas of what to expect, which are, lets face it, wholly unrealistic within a society of creative and free thinking individuals, we set ourselves up for a shock, which can trigger ‘fight or flight’, when a category’s limiting boundary is crossed.

Thus… just be aware that we have a tendency to categorize people and things — that we have a tendency to judge a book by its cover — and once you are, don’t!

Be aware of why you want to compartmentalize, ignore it, which will effectively negate it, and suddenly you’ll find you’re free to see things in all their natural and unique beauty.

Newly discovered limbless amphibian species -- Beautiful

Mob Mentality

I would venture to say that, “Mob mentality” is easily the most widely known ‘Bad’ instinct, (again, an offshoot of homeostasis), but still, amazingly, it endures as the most disregarded… I think people believe that they are not subject to it, that they are above it somehow.

They are not.

One needs only to reference the recent London riots to cite a source — of which there are millions.

Born of homeostasis, maintained through the “Fight” half, of Fight or Flight, this destructive behavior melds a group of individually intelligible individuals into a chocophonic mess — a single mindless entity.

My advice,

If everyone’s running to the right,

you might want to consider heading left…

(I’m just sayin’, It’s another dangerous instinct to be aware of…)

Reproduction

Men: Part of homeostasis is reproduction. You want to pork everything that moves right? Well that’s just homeostasis trying to ensure your species’ survival?

Be aware of why.

and then…

Stop that!

BAD!

Women: Your half of homeostasis cultured you to look for stability. You’re the child birthers/raisers and, instinctually, you want a safe nest to be provided for you by a man.

However, in modern times this can present a problem, particularly when things get rough for your man due to circumstances beyond his control — such as in tough economic times — as your instinct might press you to go look for another mate. But this is unfair to your partner, who will need you more than ever during this harrowing time…

Be logical,

empathize,

know your instinct and have the choice to reverse it!

~~

PHEW!

~~

In the end…

It’s rather obvious that we all have instincts in the mind — born of history and one-time necessity — which still work, and no longer suit us. This is why we must know what they are! We must know our roots. We must know where we have come from, in order to have any idea on where we’re going. Otherwise, as stated above, why bother going on at all?

If we’re nothing more than instinct, and we have no real choice to begin with, than what’s the point?

There wouldn’t be any, and that’s exactly why we must know.

That’s the reason to be aware of what makes us tick.

So that we can take a scant glance at the gears,

And decide if, possibly, things can turn better.

The only thing in life that we will ever have regret for learning, is nothing.

~J

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Comments
  1. I loved the playful way that you summarized you main points.

  2. Debi says:

    I can totally relate to this as I’ve found myself smack in the middle of a “situation” that will either have me following the mainstream instinctual route, or mixing it up a little and trying something different. What I choose to do will make a huge impact on my future. My instincts (and what I’ve been taught from birth) are screaming at me to make one sort of decision, but I’m considering another option. It might not be a conventional solution, but conventional doesn’t always work. I’m excited to even have the choice and to be smart enough to exercise my own free will to get what I want, even if everyone I know will not understand or agree with my choice.

    • And that’s it in a nutshell, Debi. Truly having the choice. It’s OK for instinct to present you with an initial option, but there are others, and genuine free will means being able to see them all. I don’t know what type of decision you are facing, but I sure hope that it winds up being one you can grow from. Easy is hardly ever the right way to go.

  3. Dan Bartlett says:

    Do we have a choice? Of course we do. Whatever we do, apart from our true instincts of breathing, blinking, chewing/swallowing, etc, we actively and consciously decide to do it. Even in our ‘fight or flight’ moments, we make the final decision on whether to fight, flee or do nothing. Although we do have a natural instinct for survival in true life-threatening situations, e.g. drowning.

    And of course the decisions we make are molded by the societal environment and circumstances we live in. For example, for transportation, I’ll use a car or bicycle instead of a horse. But in my opinion, I would say almost everything else is in our power to consciously and actively decide what we do and don’t do in our lives. If you and your actions don’t want to be a mere reaction to your society, go live in the wild, apart from human society. That’s what Chris Mccandless and countless other free thinkers have done to try and be void of society’s influence.

    At the same time, however, I do think each human is unique. We all have a different capacity and a different capability. And this you, the person that you are, not your brain or your body, but dare I say…..spirit? This spirit that each one of us possess, unique, is incomprehensible. You, me, no one can know it. Of course we can try, but that’s all we can do. So I think there needs to be a differentiation between the spirit of oneself and the personality we have. The personality is definable and changeable.

    I like your piece on compartmentalizing. We do, as humans, like to compartmentalize and put things into categories. It’s easier than thinking independently about each and every thing in our life. But as easy as it is, it also takes away from what is beautiful in this world. The inherent wonder of everything that exists is taken for granted when we compartmentalize and stereotype. So we ought to be mindful of how we think and in turn how we act.

    Saludos from Peru and now China!

    • Dan! You’re alive! So great to hear from you, man!
      And spot on with your points, too.
      I am a wise-ass. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll back me up to this end. But my spirit is powerful, loyal, steady, and, for one reason or another, unbreakable. Two things, seemingly at odds, living in harmony within me. This is why i have the power to choose how I live, and whether or not i give in to my fight or flight instincts — my “spirit” as you put it.
      Although…
      I do wonder about those who don’t know about these moments in their lives. When you don’t really — fully — comprehend what your instincts are, and how they are working for (and also against) you, than you might think that, in the moment of ‘fight or flight’ for example, that this is simply your own mind coming up with the solutions… and this is why people act in haste.
      They earnestly believe that they have made the decision that they are so inclined to act upon.
      So I guess what I’m saying, as to your point that people always have choice in the end, is that… I’m not so sure. I have seen good people do things that they normally wouldn’t, and I think that it’s because, with adrenaline, instincts and the brain all in one equation, without training (or knowledge), the brain can get lost.
      Please enjoy China for the both of us, my friend!
      Here’s sincerely hoping all is well!
      Jared

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