Alien Invasion and a Tangerine
Gridlocked traffic, the sound of sirens, flight delays — they’re all obvious triggers for the stress response.
But what happens when a trigger gets pulled from the unlikeliest of places — say, a piece of fruit?
Your friend has brought you a beautiful, fresh, bright-orange tangerine. All the way from Florida, she says, and you savor that feeling of special attention until you can savor the taste.
But later, after lunch, when you go to peel the tangerine, you notice that it’s dried out. You’re disappointed instead of excited. You begin to wonder why your friend made such a big deal out of presenting you with this literally tasteless gift. Truthfully, you wish she hadn’t bothered.
Next, you begin thinking that maybe your friend isn’t such a friend. You begin recalling all the ways in the past six months that your friend has let you down. And you realize that you were hoping the delicious tangerine erase all the irritations and broken promises from the past. Geez a dried up tangerine, proof that nothing has changed? She interrupts you all the time, thinking intently about all the other things your so-called friend has done to bug you. Your mood has gone as sour as the tangerine that you toss in the trash, and you begin to get anxious about seeing your friend again. You feel off-kilter, as if aliens have invaded your emotions.
Sure, peeling a tangerine is a petty example, but it represents a phenomenon that we experience almost daily — converting an unmet expectation into a misrepresentation of perceived threat.
And such small ways of thinking have huge impacts on our health, happiness, future, families, organizations and communities.
Humans have evolved to survive in a world full of primal danger, and to be on the alert for violations, no matter the size. Our brains simply can’t help but interpret unfortunate incidents — whether it’s a rotten pear or a roaring bear — as a threat. And the stress hormones repeatedly released by this instinct are causing us to gain weight and get depressed. We’re simply wired to go haywire.
Unless, that is, we learn to train our brains otherwise, so that the super-charged adrenal system can relax and recalibrate.
Originally published at roundstoneintl.com on July 24, 2015.