The 3 treasures:
Introspection- Ultimately, one can develop sufficient calmness, focus, and clarity to notice any rigidity of body and mind, then understand the underlying issues to resolve them independently of reliance on mentors. Mentoring of others can even accelerate one’s own competence.
Practices- The simplest practice for relieving stress is calm breathing. Here is the simplest form of that practice: take a slow breath in, then pause for a comfortable period of time, then slowly exhale, and then briefly pause again before inhaling.You can quickly experience that practicing a calming breath does in fact produce a calming effect. Next, you can learn the simple background of exactly how this practice works so well. Note that understanding how it works is entirely optional, although comprehension can be very useful as a source of commitment to applying the method consistently.
Notice that there are two common reflexes related to breathing: the startle reflex of holding the breath and the panic reflex of rapid, shallow hyperventilation. While these reflexes can promote survival temporarily, they are unfavorable as long-term adaptions or habits. When startled, it is natural to take a single sudden breath in and then hold it. If the fright is very brief, then the body’s next reflex often will be to calmly sigh.
However, when there is a longer period of caution or alarm, such as a startled inhalation followed by fleeing or fighting or freezing (holding the breath longer), then a singlesigh is not enough to return breathing to normal. At some point, a panting reflex will begin.Again, in many circumstances, the rapid, shallow panting contributes to the well-being of the organism. However, when there is lasting stress of certain kinds, a brief period of panting will not return the organism to calm alertness. In cases of distress, there will be the initial startle reflex of a sudden inhalation and hold, then that will resolve in to a sequence of gasping called hyperventilation.
The problem with hyperventilation is that instead of returning the organism from temporary alarm to calm, the organism will experience lasting anxiety (a semi-hysterical state on the edge of panic). Hyperventilating creates a deficit of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. That state is called hypocapnia by medical professionals. It is a very common problem and can be very serious.
Basically, for a molecule of oxygen (O2) to be carried from the red blood cells to other tissues adjacent to the bloodstream, a molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) is required (among other contributing factors). Hyperventilation starves the brain cells of oxygen not because of a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, but because of a lack of carbon dioxide to transport the oxygen from the bloodstream in to the adjacent tissues.
There is only one primary ways that carbon dioxide gets in to the bloodstream: from out of the cells of the organism. Cells produce CO2, sometimes in small amounts and sometimes in large amounts.
Even in the deepest sleep of hibernation, there are biochemical reactions happening inside of living cells. These reactions often produce CO2 inside of cells, which can be then released in to the adjacent bloodstream. When there is physical exertion, such as walking, stirring, or sawing, that produces CO2 at a higher rate than when there is no exertion.
So, there are two major ways to increase the CO2 levels in the bloodstream. They can be used in isolation or together.
The first method is to slow down the rate of breathing (to slow down the release of CO2). The second method is to increase the intensity of physical exertion (to increase the production of CO2).Note that if someone increases physical exertion and then also increases the rate of exhalation (panting), that will reduce or eliminate any benefit from the increased physical exertion. The point is to put enough extra CO2 in to the bloodstream (and keep it there for long enough) that tissues will receive an increased supply of oxygen.
Are there real consequences of increasing or decreasing O2 levels in brain cells and other tissues? Yes, such as in the case of sleep apnea in which the brain is getting so little oxygen that it may produce a nightmare to wake up the body and force an interruption to the hyperventilation of the organism while asleep.
When people talk about anxiety attacks or panic attacks, they are referencing the predictable effects of chronic hyperventilation (“over-breathing). They experience “shortness of breath” (mild choking) because of breathing too fast.
When there is a chronic deficit ofCo2 in the bloodstream, that will always produce a chronic deficit of O2 within the cells (including brain cells but also in many other tissues). We can call that chronic anxiety.
In that case, a relatively mild startle reflex from an external trigger (which would not produce much more than a sigh from an organism with sufficient Co2 in the bloodstream) can produce a severe enough diminishing of bloodstream CO2 (and intracellular O2) that we would call that an attack of anxiety or an attack of panic (or an attack of asthma).
Anxiety, panic, and even asthma can be reliably produced by chronic hyperventilation. Of course, because of the diminished supply of CO2 in the brain among so many people, the simplicity of this mechanism is unfamiliar to most people. They are in a state of chronic alarm, paranoia, and hysteria.
They may be easily fatigued (quickly depleting the constricted supply of oxygen that is actually getting in to the brain and other tissues). If they attempt to exercise, they may overexert themselves and then pant, eliminating the potential benefit of the exercise to increase co2 levels in the bloodstream.
They may even experience despair. What can they do to resolve this? To frequently practice the calming breath, perhaps in combination with a moderate increase in physical exertion, has been established as a reliable way to eliminate the effect known as asthma (over the course of several weeks).
Not only is it quite easy to produce anxiety and hysteria through hyperventilation, but quite easy to reverse. Of course, there may be other health issues besides the supply of oxygen to the brain cells, but the vast majority of modern populations have chronic deficits of oxygen in their brain cells (leading to early death of brain cells), which is due to chronic deficits of CO2 in the bloodstream, which is due to excessive breathing (as in too rapid- not enough delay between inhalation and exhalation).
Why all the frightened breathing? Because the stress of modern life can be nearly constant. Even when people are not driving huge metal containers at high speeds, they may seek out a steady supply of stressful stimulation, such as dramatic soap operas, intense action movies, and news reports about disturbing scandals (sometimes featuring exchanges of antagonistic hysteria between two bickering fanatics).
In addition to frequent practices to keep CO2 levels in the bloodstream sufficient (through the calming breath and moderate increases in physical exertion), there is one other very simple practice that is easy to use. Before sleeping, someone can put a piece of tape over their lips. This can be loose or, if appropriate, tight.
What is the benefit? While sleeping, many people will typically breath poorly (as in excessively). This includes any snoring.
By greatly reducing the amount of air that escapes through the mouth (or blocking the mouth completely), this allows CO2 levels in the bloodstream to remain high for the entire period of sleep. Sufficient CO2 in the bloodstream results in sufficient O2 in the cells (including brain cells).
Why do so many people wake up groggy (and yearning for coffee, sugar, or other stimulants to create a flood of adrenalin and invigorate their blood chemistry)? They did not get much O2 while sleeping, so instead of their brain being clear and alert, they wake up foggy.
They find it hard to concentrate. Those ignorant of biochemistry may call this “an attention deficit disorder.” It is a deficiency of oxygen in the brain cells due to over-breathing / chronic hyperventilating / a deficiency of CO2 in the bloodstream.
After a few years of poor breathing and poor sleep, the brain can begin to accumulate toxins that normally would be cleaned out every night while sleeping. After a few decades, not only are they foggy, but they begin to physically stiffen. Depleted oxygen to the cells of the body is also known as suffocation. Some people have been suffocating for years and some for decades.
There are two basic categories of stress: future-related and past-related. We will quickly review them both.Future-related stress is of two general types: worry and hope. Both can produce stress. Neither is always “bad” (and stress is not always bad either).
In simplest terms, worry and hope both refer to ways of relating to a particular possible future outcome. There is recurring focus (as in “pre-occupation”) on at least one possible outcome. One’s current activities can be organized in reference to that future outcome. That can be very functional.
However, the “problem” with hope is that hope can lead to disappointment, which people may be seeking to avoid hysterically. The “problem” with worry is that worry can lead to despair, which people may also be seeking to avoid hysterically.
In other words, the real problem with the future-oriented stresses of worry and hope is not the actual future possibility. The underlying issue is present hysteria (distress) as a foundation for relating to future stresses.How can that underlying distress be resolved? See the “practices” section for a simple solution.
As for past-oriented stress, we can call those guilt and shame. Those can be internalized and then externalized.
Guilt is about pre-occupation with something that happened but related to with a hysterical idealism condemning that event as something should not have happened. What happened is not the source of the guilt. What happened is the trigger for exposed a hysterical ideal that has already been internalized through a process of social distress or indoctrination.
Guilt can be projected at others in the form of contempt. Someone else did something they should not have done, according to some linguistic ideals of hysterical fanaticism/ present distress.
Next is shame. Shame is about what did not happen. When we already have an internalized anxiety about what should happen, but then that does not happen, we call that experience shame. It is a chronic tension of desiring to hide the terror of failing to conform to a perceived social essential.
The only way to block the display of physical gestures that signal terror is through chronic tension of the face, neck, shoulders (etc). Shame and guilt involve the same physical tensions.
Also, shame can be projected at others (a common strategy to distract others from noticing one’s own shame) and that can be called resentment. We resent others when we are terrified that they did not do something that we hoped they would do, but we do not have the internal resources to flee in terror. So, we fight. We repulse. We resent and then present passive aggression or open condemnation and antagonism.
That shameful aggression is very distinct from violence that is designed to kill prey, to openly intimidate/deter disobedience, or produce a redistribution of some kind of wealth (as in robbery or warfare). The shameful aggression is intended to destroy someone socially (as in their reputation).
We are jealous of their results. We hysterically assert that we should have had better results. We blame them for our disappointing results. We attack them (socially or physically or both).
This projection of internalized shame does not resolve the internalized shame. It does not relax the distress and chronic tension. It can be very dangerous.
In the case of a past history of contempt or resentment towards others, we may consider that we value an increase in social affinity with a particular individual or group. In that case, an explicit apology may be helpful.
We state to them (in whatever way fits best, considerate of their own input) that we wish to apologize. We apologize for first being in distress, then we had particular hopes and/or worries (specifying them with enough detail to produce comprehension in the other party but without so much detail to trigger a surge of hysteria in them). Then, we related to them as violating our preferences (which terrified us), then we panicked, condemned their action or inaction, and then ongoingly practiced contempt and/or resentment toward them.
We state next that we withdraw our condemnation of their action (or inaction). We respect them and their choices. We admit that our expectations or preferences are the ultimate source of our reaction, not their action or inaction. We apologize for our general distress and our particular animosity.
We may also make a symbolic offer of goodwill. We may make a request or invitation. We may make a promise (in exceptional cases).
We are primarily interested in their comprehension of the basic details of our apology. We are not expecting anything from them and we are not groveling. We may withdraw from interaction.
Usually, there is no stressing of anything that we owe them or that they owe us. The communication of the apology is ideally distinct from any other “negotiations” and, until the apology is completed (with a sense that the other has experienced relief of any concerns about the past condemnation), other communications may be halted.
There is much more to the issue of introspection. What is above is simply a general framework for additional exploration.The issue of exactly how the masses are programmed with specific social anxieties and hysterias can be addressed next (unless there is an immediate interest for mentoring first). Mentoring, briefly stated, is the practice of introspection with the assistance of one or more other people who are competent enough in the practice of introspection to increase the efficiency and benefits of introspection for someone else.