Sunday, October 13, 2013

Psychosocial Stress, Competition and Happiness, Living With A Dissected Aorta

Imagine having everything you want.  In today's competitive world, the goal of having all one ever could desire is the dream of most people.
Finding more time for family and friends is important
From an early age we are programmed to accumulate things.  Our animal-like humanity teaches us about the importance of surplus.  Like the squirrels gathering up a supply for the winter, we spend much of our life stashing away for the coming future when we may or may not be able to accumulate any more.

Moreover, by turning on any television, smart phone, computer or radio we become immediately bombarded with advertisements telling us why a certain product or service is needed, important to have or necessary in our too hectic lives.  And the concept of continued accumulation is a fundamental premise our world's economy is based upon.

Keeping up with our neighbors and friends, brothers and sisters and the 'Joneses' is expected. A spirit of competition has become the norm now required in today's society.  This striving and desire to lay by in store can truly be good for many reasons.

Inventions that seemingly make our lives so much easier, like smart phones, airplanes, computers, air conditioning and processed foods are all products of the competitive marketplace.

Working hard and saving up for later is, in my opinion, the best economic outlook to have.  In many ways, this type of 'go-getter' attitude inspired me to develop and grow during my youth and young adult years and even continues to fuel my desire to write and learn more and more today.

But competition and accumulation's spell has a detrimental side too.   From a biological perspective, competition is energized in part by increased resting levels of plasma adrenaline.  Many studies have shown that over time chronic increases in adrenaline may likely cause hypertension and cellular oxidation damage.

I think of too much competition and an accumulation mode of thinking as correctly being described with the term 'psychosocial stress'.  A little psychosocial stress can encourage us to reach higher and do better.  Too much psychosocial stress can be self-defeating if we hurt our bodies from hypertension, chronic cardiac inflammatory diseases or even cancer promoted by excess adrenaline.

As with most things, finding a good balance between accumulation and satisfaction is crucial.  But with all the pressure we are under to buy and have, the odds today are stacked against ever really finding satisfaction, and instead we remain a slave to psychosocial stress.

So how much is enough?  How do we capitalize on our adrenaline in a healthy manner to lay by in store for lean or later times?  Identifying how much accumulation is enough is a good first step.  Today many people never stop trying to get more and more.  They cannot free themselves from the competitive stress of trying to have the most.  The cycle of 'finding', 'buying' and 'storing' ends only when the great after-the-funeral garage sale event is scheduled and published on Craigslist.

For me hypertension could now be a quick path to a way too early death.  I suspect there are a few others in a similar situation out across the world.  I want to share my solution to the 'how much is enough' question.

The first step in breaking the competition and accumulation cycle for me was to write out a list of every material thing I wanted to have before I died.  Being disabled I am at somewhat of an advantage over most because I know I do not have the energy to take care of too much.

My list ended up being pretty short.  I desire simplification and freedom.  The fewer things I own, the less time I spend fixing, maintaining, repairing or mending.  This means I now have more time to do the things I love, within the limits of my serious disability.

There are no correct limits of how much or how little one needs to have to break the hypertensive adrenaline cycle attributed to endless accumulation.  The key is establishing an 'endpoint'.  My list of things I wanted actually completed, finished my cycle of keeping up with the 'Joneses'.

With my list I now knew exactly what I wanted.  Surprisingly I found that I already had all I ever wanted.

Interestingly, the Bible speaks of Jesus telling a rich, young ruler "if you want to be complete, go and sell what you own and give to the poor".  For me Jesus' words here are not a challenge but a path to freedom, a path out of the accumulation cycle, a way of clarity and happiness.

My 'everything I ever wanted' list contains about one hundred items.  You can view the entire inventory here on my blog under the 'Project 100' tab.

For me my list means freedom from bondage to a bunch of things that would probably be eventually garage or estate sale sold, or passed down to someone else to store.

While others dust their things or pay the storage unit rent of future garage sale items, I am free to have coffee and an interesting conversation, help another or simply sit and focus on spirituality and each treasured heartbeat or breath.  Instead of spending time accumulating I can now walk on the beach or write haiku, spend time with my family or take wildflower photos.

Today, I am free.  I am no longer consumed with the competition and accumulation mindset when I lay resting at night.  Now thoughts of haiku and the beach and nature's beauty flood my thoughts.  Instead of psychosocial stress creating adrenaline charged oxidative stress throughout my body, a peace that surpasses all of my previous understand fills my chest.

Is this path right for you?  It probably depends on whether or not you've encountered that life changing health event.  With the onslaught of commercials we are exposed to every waking moment, the psychosocial pressure to buy more and more is stressfully strong.

In the meantime I am going to finish out my life in a state of blissful satisfaction, knowing I now have most everything I ever wanted, all listed in my Project 100 tab here on my blog that is accumulating all my many thoughts (some quite psychosocially stressful) and ideas and photographs and whatever.


Shawn McGuire said...

Great post Kevin. This highlights for me how grateful I am for my health today. When I have episodes with my lower back and can't world shrinks to my family and the 4 walls. In my view these are the only things in life that "really" matter.
You know I subscribe to the idea of following my spirit...when I am healthy and able to live a wandering spirit notices things to add to the "list of 100". Like this VW camper I just bought...It would have never occurred to me to purchase this if I had health problems.The key for me is balance...what are my wants...and my needs. What are the wants of the ego vs spirit.
A friend dying of aids said to me as I held his and the night before he died. "Shawn, In life I really only needed a few things... fresh sheets,...someone to hold my hand....water...someone to love and to love me....all the rest of it I made up."

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