Ignoring our Instincts is Leading us up a treacherous path.

In Daniel Goleman’s recent article on stress he cites the World Health Organisation says stress costs American businesses alone $300 billion a year.

Some of the costs of people being treated unwell in workplaces were recorded in a Harvard Business Review:

80% of people are unhappy or are overly stressed in their job 5.6% of

5.6% of full time workers say they are depressed

20% of workers have an increased risk of heart disease when working under poor leadership

1 in 3 adults worldwide have high blood pressure that can be attributed to unhappy and stressful work $134 million was paid in benefits to Australian workers making claims related to workplace

$134 million was paid in benefits to Australian workers making claims related to workplace

1 in 3 adults worldwide have high blood pressure that can be attributed to unhappy and stressful work $134 million was paid in benefits to Australian workers making claims related to workplace

These statistics do not cover the human cost to personal health, relationships, families and society.

I recently posted 21 ways to release stress, but…

Until we understand the root cause of stress we will continually put a bandaid over the stress related problems but underneath they will fester away. Going to a yoga session once a week, is a start and it may give temporary relief for an hour or so but may not resolve stress at the root cause.

What do our Natural Instincts have to do with stress?

As a human being, it is a natural instinct to protect ourselves when threatened, emotionally, psychologically, financially, or physically. We have the capacity to “leave our bodies” and disconnect from our feelings and senses to protect ourselves from an emotional state of pain and suffering. We escape our bodies in times of trauma. This is a natural protective mechanism.

So do other animals. It is known when prey animals, such as a deer, finally accept their fate when being attacked by a lion, they will go into a state similar to having amnesia. Scientists believe it must numb the pain of dying. It is also known that if the lion retreats and the deer find safety, the natural instinct is to release their stress through shaking their body. The deer’s body returns to a contented state. This is the deer’s natural instinct to stop, sense safety and shake out the trauma of the chase. When back in safety, the deer returns to being relaxed and grazes, while still maintaining its’ senses to be on cue for the next predator in its’ territory.

Animals in the wild, have maintained their natural instincts. Humans, on the other hand, have numbed them down or over-ridden them.
The simple natural instinct of shaking and moving our body if we feel stress can shift our body into a state of ease.

Examples of natural instincts:

  • sleep
  • waking
  • hunger
  • feeling full
  • thirst
  • blushing
  • laughter
  • goose bumps
  • tears
  • yawning
  • sneezing
  • play
  • curiosity

Many of our natural instincts we have no control over and others we have consciously chosen to adapt. Some of the ones we have adapted are:

  • working to all hours and being sleep deprived
  • sitting for long periods of time when our bodies need to move
  • being unaware of when our stomach is full of food
  • mistaking a need for water for eating
  • restraining emotion
  • being overly clean resulting in a loss of natural good bacteria that help our immune system keep well
  • reducing playfulness, joy and creativity in a world dominated by reason and objectivity

David Abram says in his book, ‘Becoming Animal”, says “we have became sanitised and de-animalised.”

We have disconnected with our bodies, with the earth, nature and our ancient senses. We stop and control our natural body and animal instincts. We forget to come back home into our bodies when we are no longer under threat, or no longer reading abstract material and working with technology. Humans have overridden many of our natural protective responses, even those of benefit.

On the other hand, there are natural instincts that are beneficial to overcome.

Social scientists say that it is a natural instinct for us to gather in likeness, in tribes, whether that be gender, culture, religion or ability. We look for likeness. In earlier centuries different tribes have dominated others to make them like themselves. We could not have expanded the human population unless we learnt to live with difference. We would have continued to have wars to oppress groups different from ourselves and the world would not be as populated.

Now most of us live in cities that are inhabited by people from many different cultures, religions, sex and physical ability. It is imperative to choose consciously to overcome this instinct and learn how to empathise and accept people who are not like us. This is both an imperative and a challenge to overcome our unconscious bias which then results in sexism, ageism and intolerance of diversity.

We have instincts that we are ignoring and are causing us stress and we have instincts that we need to overcome to create societies and workplaces where all share in mutual respect.

How have we become so used to ignoring our instincts?

The age we live in has been referred to as The Consumer Age, The Information Age and The Digital Age. Philosopher, Professor Richard Kearney, has another view on our current age that is diagnostic. He refers to our modern era as:

The Age of Excarnation. The “out of body” age.

The phrase captures the unseen and unspoken normal way in which our culture goes about our daily affairs. Day-in, day-out, we predominantly live in a mode of being in which we are out of touch with our bodies; as a result, the world exists for us more often as an idea than as a felt reality. We are in our minds anywhere else than in the present moment.

Our bodies are stressed and overwhelmed. We override the signals and keep doing more of what gives us stress. Just look at the increased interest in teaching people to take time to sleep, a most basic human instinct and need.

I imagine the signals of stress, anxiety and overwhelm are like a language, a language of cues reminding us to make different choices and to listen to our bodies. Our body instinctively know many of the things that we need, but we are overriding our body knowing with our intellect and reason. In a way we have become too intelligent for our own good. Ignoring our natural instincts and becoming sleep deprived is basically personal sabotage of our health.

“Your body is talking to you, are you listening?” deb lange

We can overcome our dilemma. We can learn to interpret the cues from our body and give ourselves what we need to alleviate the root cause of our stress. These stress cues are letting us know what we are doing and thinking is disconnecting our mind and our body. We need to choose activities that create our lives, workplaces and relationships in ways that give us ease, peace and creativity. Deepak Chopra says, “There is a Sanskrit word called ‘Lila”. “Lila” means the play of creation. Creation is said to arise from a sense of playfulness and enjoyment, not to carry out some deep, serious purpose invented by the mind.”

Photograph of Adelaide group of InterPlay a way of reconnecting to our natural state of play as adults.

Phillip Shepherd, in his book, “New Self New World” suggests that approximately 1400 years ago, we made a shift from our gut and pelvic area as the seat of our intelligence, to our heart and then to our cranial brain. We generated a belief that intelligence was in our brain and not connected to our body. We focussed on the brain to the detriment of the intelligence that arises from a connection with our whole body.

It was Descartes who said, our thinking is not connected to our bodies or to our emotions.

We now know this is not true. Our brains create meaning through connection to the intelligence in our bodies, our senses and every cell in our body. Intelligence arises from an inter-connection with our mind, body and energy. Dr Bruce Lipton, says, in his book, “Biology of Belief”, there is intelligence in every cell in our body. Our physiology and well-being is connected to our beliefs. Words affect our physical state, our physical state affects what we think. We are an inter-connected system of thoughts, feelings, senses, energy interacting with the environment and other people’s thoughts, feelings, senses and energy. However, modern society is still recovering from Descartes view that thought, feeling, senses and energy are not connected.

When we emphasise our thoughts as if they are separate from our body, we literally live “in our heads” imagining our worlds. Living in our heads disconnected to our feelings and senses results in anxiety. The very suppression and avoidance of sensing our physical state are not healthy.

Since we were small many of us were told, not to cry, not to feel grief, to control being angry, to stop talking about how we feel, as if logic and reason are more important to what we feel.

This created a false disconnection. This disconnection between mind and body is the source of much anxiety, stress, tension and conflict.

This leads us to reduce our sensory awareness of our “gut instincts” which are making sense of more information than our logical thought processes can consciously manage at any one time. Our gut instincts can help us navigate life as they are primed for well being. We have not been listening to them or learning to interpret them for our well-being. Often the response required is counter-intuitive to what we have been taught by a society that has held reason and logic above intuition.

Deepak Chopra, says in his book, Eat, Sleep, Seek, Stride, we know what to do, we just don’t do it.

Where are you aware you are overriding your instincts to create a joyful, healthy life and workplace? Please post your comments below.

This is an excerpt from my book, ‘Trust Your Body” which will be published later this year. Subscribe to my website trust your self to hear more updates.