Tag Archives: biology

Mindset

So, I’ll start by asking a question here, What exactly is “The Mindset”? I often see many talk about having a good mindset, having the mindset to deal with threats, etc. etc. So, what does the mindset entail exactly then?

See, the main, the basest mindset that every living creature on this planet has, is of Survival. Survival at all costs. Even sexual reproduction was evolved due to Survival being programmed into the genes of complex multi-cellular organisms, from reptiles to mammals, every creature has a survival instinct.

For us humans though, it gets a bit more complicated, see, maybe our stone age ancestors got by on the same survival instinct back in the day, but we, as we’re today, are not the same as we were a few hundred thousand years ago. Today, there are a lot of implications for having a total survival based mindset. It has consequences on a societal level and legal and moral level as well. Think about making a choice between saving you and some stranger from being shot, who would you choose? What about the aftermath of that choice, if you chose you or if you chose them? Both will lead to destructive aftermaths.

The thing about having a particular mindset is to have an appropriate mindset according to where you are, who you are and when you are and taking into account the future of where you will be. Military personnel will have different mindsets, but even then, different military personnel will have different mindsets, for example, a Marine would have a different kind of mindset, but a Military Police would have a different mindset, but an administrative clerk in the Military will have a different mindset, and a General will have a different mindset, etc. and so on.

Now this is just talking about the military mindset. What about the mindset of a police officer? Can their mindset be the same as a soldier? Well, that would depend on many different factors wouldn’t it? Firstly, where they are, do they have a desk job? Or are they out on the street? If it’s the second one, are they in a low crime or a high crime area? Both will require different mindsets, mind you. High crime will require high level of vigilance and the officer will have to be extra careful if they are talking to someone, or pulling someone over, but in a low crime area, even though, threats may exist in those areas as well, maybe some violent individual has crossed into that part of town, either way, in that area, having high vigilance might cause an overreaction in a small matter that didn‘t need to be escalated, leading to an unnecessary negative outcome. Here’s the thing though, even in the high crime area, a police officer cannot have the same mindset as a soldier in combat. Because killing someone by sniping them, may lead to extreme consequences. When soldiers do so, they are following orders, their goal is to fulfill the order given to them by their superior. In a police officer’s case, they have to make the decision themselves, there are no superiors giving them orders at the time of a violent situation. Their mind will need to process everything and make a decision as opposed to a soldier following orders, they already know what they have to do, of course that doesn’t mean that a soldier just blindly goes into combat, no, what I mean by that is the end goal is much clearer to a soldier in combat, than to an officer in a possible life threatening situation.

The mindsets, as a result will change a lot between these two. One has to make decisions based on the orders given to them and are often with a team and back up, and possible aerial support and complete the mission by any means necessary. The other, is on their own, often have no back up or the back up is minutes away, and has to take everything into account, and make a decision that will alter their life regardless of what happens.

Two extreme situations, the threat, the violence is often very high in both situations, but the mindsets required to navigate through those situations, will differ. They have to, in order to make sure that least possible damage occurs to the individuals involved those situations.

Now those were extreme situations for professionals, but what about a normal everyday individual with no experience with violence, suddenly coming in contact with a violent situation? What about their mindset? Well, as I wrote earlier, regardless of what or who you are, you have survival instincts ingrained into your genetics. The only difference is that the above mentioned professionals, have trained to cultivate a certain mindset appropriate for their professions as a necessity, but an average individual, with today’s availability of food, clothing and shelter, don’t need to have that survival instinct, they have everything they need to survive, and as a result, will not have cultivated that mindset. So, when they come across a violent situation, the only response their brain knows, is nothing, which translates to freeze response. The brain cannot access the genetic area where survival is programmed, due to not having accessed it before. So, an average individual’s mindset is basically composed of, going to work, eating, coming home to their family, maybe having a little fun, watching t.v., going on a holiday, having sex, shitting and sleeping, not necessarily on the same day and in that order, but yeah, that‘s the gist of it, they don‘t need constant vigilance, they don’t want it and they don’t even know what it is.

On the other hand, take a violent individual, who has experience in really hurting someone. Let’s say a home-invading serial killer/rapist. I’m purposely taking that extreme example here to contrast the previous one. Well, this individual, has most probably their whole life hurt others to get what they want, to intimidate and then mutilate because it makes them feel like a god who is in control of life and death. They enjoy the rush of seeing someone writhe in pain, they get off in seeing children cry and make their mothers cry harder. This individual in their whole life has seen and done violent things that would make someone like the above, puke in their mouth. This violent individual is most probably searching for a new victim because he/she is bored and wants to feel the rush. So, at this point, let’s say they come across an average individual, following him to his house. Now, this average joe, not having the vigilant mindset that of a soldier or a police officer or even just a trained civilian contractor, etc. doesn’t notice the stalker and leads him to his home, giving the stalker, an easy target. Now what kind of mindset will this violent individual have? This one will most probably be a psychopath, so lack of empathy, an adrenaline junkie, probably an addict, narcissistic, manipulative, pathological, most likely delusional, extremely violent, will do anything to get what they want, etc. etc.

Now, based on the above description, what chance does an average joe stand against someone who is far more experienced, far more skilled in violence and far superior in a predatory mindset than himself. How does he protect his family? By training, you’d say. Fine. Yes, that makes sense, but unless he can be trained in the next few seconds before he and his family are slaughtered like cattle and eaten, training now isn’t gonna do much, is it. What can happen though, is the natural survival instincts in him, the pre-programmed survival response, might be triggered, because now, not only his life is threatened, but the life of someone who will help carry his genes forward and a part of him, his child, are threatened as well. It might be that he himself may not survive, due to lack of his brain’s ability to respond, but chances of his family surviving, would be increased. It might even happen that a response may be triggered in his wife, and she might help in taking down the predator as well. Strength in numbers just might give them a chance.

That being said, logically, if it’s a sudden invasion, which it usually is, who has a greater chance of winning here? The predator with experience and the willingness to be violent or the one who hasn’t come across anything remotely violent since he had a small fight in high school, which was broken up by the principle. Did you say the first one? Well, in that case, you’re the predator, aren’t you? You are the serial killing home invader, because that mindset came from him doing that for years, he wasn’t trained in it. If you said, the second one, well, that’s because you most probably are one of the individuals with that mindset, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of, this is the normal mindset according to the time we live in, you don‘t need violence to survive, to get food or fight over territory, you can just buy a home or rent it, so the violent nature has no use of it in your daily life, unless you‘re a professional who deals with it as a part of your job. That being said, it does not mean that the second mindset won’t win against the predator, why? Because external factors will play a role in the outcome. Plus another factor will play in, it’s the most important and the most natural one, it’s your preprogrammed survival instincts. You were made to protect yourself and your genes. Since now, not only you, but your gene pool is threatened, chances are you will fight back and probably even win, you may not survive the ordeal, but your family does have a chance. People with zero training have survived career criminals and done incredible things. They have surprised themselves. When the survival instincts have been activated, even the most calm people, are capable of extreme violence in order to protect their own.

So, a question here based on all of that. Which mindset is better to have? The very first one of a soldier, the second, of a police officer, the third of an average joe or the fourth of a predator, or an unmentioned fifth one, of a trained civilian? The answer isn’t as simple as one might think, you see, if you chose the last one, the trained civilian one, well, it’s not the best answer, why? Because, first, that mindset, doesn’t technically exist, and two, let’s face it, many “combatives” instructors who do train civilians, basically either give you a mindset of a soldier or a mindset of a criminal, there are some who even try and give you the mindset of an action movie star, avoid them like the plague!

Very rarely someone even tries to get close to something like a trained civilian and even then, it’s still more physical violence oriented, which again doesn’t take into account other factors involved before, during and after, the legal, the moral, the psychological, the societal, environmental. They are just trained like they would a police officer or a bouncer. Maybe a lock or a joint there or a punch and a palm heel strike there.

So when people say ‘have a proper mindset’ what exactly does it mean? Well, I don’t know what they mean, but for me, it’s having the basest need to survive. Having the on and ‘off switch’ in you. I have even written an article about that before. For me, it’s not training like a soldier, or a police officer or a career criminal that helps, but instead training like a survivor that does. I don’t need to know how a sniper rifle works, I’d love to know out of sheer curiosity, but not because I want to snipe people out of existence. Same way, I don’t wanna learn how to arrest people, that’s not my job, it’s the brave people’s job.

My only job and my duty is my survival, my protection and I prefer to train that way. But here’s the thing, it’s not just physical survival, that’s where this differs from the above mentioned complete survival instincts from the stone-age times, no, since there are consequences of our actions, our actions should be based on survival from all aspects of today’s society, such as legal aspects. I prefer to have a mindset where I do and don’t do things to keep myself safe from all possible angles beforehand, before the violent situation has even come across me. I develop my mindset, according to my situation and my needs. This is the same thing that should be done, that should be trained, you train as per your situations and your needs. You are not training for violence or to counter it, you are training to educate yourself on what violence entails and how you can avoid it and keep yourself safe from it and from all fundamental aspects of dealing with it. Safety and survival of your genes is important and what your mindset should be and is naturally, it definitely should be that fundamentally simple, but as we have evolved, our societal constructs have evolved with us. As a result, we need to evolve in our methods of being safe to suit those constructs. Taking into account all those factors which would affect us beforehand, during and in the aftermath, is what’s truly a modern survivor’s mindset.

Well, that’s it. Hope I got my point across. Thanks for reading.

Pleasure hormones vs Stress Hormones

In mostly any article you may have read that talks about how human body reacts to certain stimulus, you always read about how certain hormones affect our psychological state. How they either give you exceptional joy or extreme depression. How some of these hormones are responsible for addiction and how these same hormones enable us to care for the young ones and how the abnormal release of these hormones, too much or too little, can actually affect our behavior in our daily lives.

 

Many use these hormones interchangeably, without knowing their actual uses. So today in my post, I’ll be writing a descriptive comparison between the “feel good” and stress hormones.

There are actually many different hormones that help regulate and control our over all physiological functions, but to stick to the topic, I’ll list three main pleasure hormones and two main stress hormones, then two neurotransmitters;

 

Pleasure hormones are as follows;

  • Oxytocin
  • Serotonin
  • Dopamine

 

Stress hormones are as follows;

  • Cortisol
  • Cortisone

 

Neurotransmitters are as follows;

  • Epinephrine (a.k.a. Adrenaline)
  • Norepinephrine (a.k.a. Noradrenaline)

 

So, let’s start with pleasure hormones first.

 

1- Oxytocin; Oxytocin is a hormone that is responsible for sexual attraction as well as making you care for someone otherwise known as peer bonding, it is released during sexual reproduction and during and after child birth.

 

2- Serotonin; Serotonin is a hormone that makes you feel peaceful joy and content. This hormone is often released when you are satisfied with something or someone. For example, after eating your favorite food to your heart’s content, the feeling you get, is due to serotonin release in your system. This hormone is also responsible (in part) for learning and developing memory, along with moods and sleep. By associating things that you like or people that make you feel peaceful joy and happiness, you can actually learn faster, due to serotonin release. The reason we feel fresh after a good night’s sleep is due to serotonin release. Completing a task that is challenging to you also releases serotonin due to the satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment, of course, another hormone is released when this happens as a result of the reward system being activated, which is dopamine and it‘s next on the list.

 

3- Dopamine; Dopamine is a reward hormone. This hormone is a tricky one. This is the one that usually causes trouble in the human behavior. But it can also motivate you to do things you didn’t think you could. It is a hormone that is reward driven. It always looks for ways that can get you one step closer to achieving the reward for any action taken. Dopamine is also responsible (in part) for virtually all kinds of addiction from food to drugs to sex to violence. The lower your dopamine levels, the higher the chances of you being an addict. Did you know that dopamine activity is actually really low in serial killers as well as sensation seeking, risk taking individuals? This is the cause for their extreme behavior. Brain is most addicted to this specific hormone. This hormone is also responsible in controlling emotional responses, which is why failure to get something that the individual is addicted to often leads to aggression. Brains of individuals with lower dopamine levels, crave it, so they increasingly commit high risk, high violence or extreme sexual activity in order to feel good. As time goes, and as that individual gets used to the extreme behavior, the dopamine levels drop, which leads them to take even more extreme measures and undertake more exhilarating tasks in order to keep the dopamine levels high. Just as low levels of dopamine is dangerous to our well-being, so is excess of it, especially during the initial rush of an exciting activity, because when the levels return to normal, the reward centers of the brain require the same level of excitement to feel happy, not being able to do so, can cause depression and emotional outbursts. The thing is our brain is not technically addicted to drugs or alcohol or certain kind of food, it’s actually addicted to the dopamine release that happens when you do ingest the above mentioned. Dopamine is technically the strongest hormone as it affects our emotional state and even clouds our judgment in decision making process, if the levels are dropped or increased abnormally. But that’s not all that it does, it actually helps keep our body healthy, it protects our digestion system as well as helps fight diseases, such as ADHD and Parkinson‘s, which happens due to low dopamine levels in the mid brain. Dopamine is also available as medication and can be highly addictive.

 

Well, that’s it for the pleasure hormones. Now, moving on to stress hormones. Keep in mind though, that just because one is associated with the word “pleasure” and the other with “stress” doesn’t mean either one is good or bad. They both have their important purposes which keeps our body functioning and us safe in case of danger. Alright, continuing..

 

1- Cortisol; Cortisol is a stress hormone that causes depression. It is also released during fight, flight, freeze response in the adrenal gland as a warning sign. It is also released due to low blood glucose. Elevated levels of cortisol for a long period of time can also lead to muscle atrophy. Which is just one way how stress can impact your life negatively. Elevated levels of cortisol slows down healing of wounds. Cortisol aids in creation of short-term memories of emotionally arousing events, these are also called, ‘flash-bulb memories‘. Although flash-bulb memories are not accurate, they do sort of ‘imprint’ on our brain if the event was emotionally intense enough and had major consequences, this functions as a means to let us know what to avoid in the future. Long term exposure to cortisol can lead to brain cell damage, which can cause problems in learning and also cause problems in memory recollection. High levels of cortisol can cause mood disorders, anxiety disorders, psychological stress, can contribute to obesity, cause high blood pressure and can even affect body temperature, leading to fever. Best way to reduce cortisol is being around things that make you feel happy, make you laugh, listening to good music, getting a relaxing massage (if you can afford it). Excessive drinking can lead to elevated levels of cortisol. Caffeine is also known to increase cortisol levels along with a major contributor, sleep depravation, getting at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night, can help regulate cortisol levels. Excessive workouts can also lead to elevated levels of cortisol to maintain glucose levels in the blood, but it normalizes with a proper diet.

 

2- Cortisone; Cortisone is a major stress hormone that is the dominant hormone released during fight, flight or freeze response and, like cortisol, is also a contributor to depression due to elevated levels. It is a corticosteroid related to cortisol. Cortisone is actually the main hormone in suppressing pain caused by an injury. Its medical use is often to reduce pain for a short period of time. It has similar effects on the human physiology as cortisol does. Cortisone actually is very useful when it comes to survival. When near a possible threat, it triggers a caution response in our brain, that warns us of an immediate danger. Prolonged exposure to cortisone will cause similar side effects as cortisol, including memory deterioration and anxiety disorders, along with clinical depression (MDD). But there are measures that can be taken to normalize the levels of cortisone in the body. Healthy diet and stress relieving activities can help regulate it.

 

Now moving on to the neurotransmitters;

 

1- Epinephrine; Epinephrine a.k.a. Adrenaline, is a neurotransmitter that is released in response to stress along with cortisol and cortisone, as well as doing something exciting, along with dopamine and even oxytocin in certain cases. While stress hormones are released quicker in a female and slower in a male, adrenaline spike is faster in males and is slower in females, women also produce the little known neurotransmitter called, Acetylcholine (it is also produced by males, but not in high levels), which could possibly be the cause for the slow adrenaline spike. Adrenaline is released by the sympathetic nervous system in response to intense stress and critical threat situations, along with situations that induce fear and arousal, combined with dopamine it can cause someone become what‘s commonly known as “Adrenaline junkie”.

 

2- Norepinephrine; Norepinephrine a.k.a. Noradrenaline is a neurotransmitter with similar properties as Epinephrine. Norepinephrine affects the area of the brain responsible for attention and counter actions based on the stimulus received by those areas. Along with Epinephrine, it’s responsible for the fight, flight or freeze response as well, increasing the blood flow to the skeletal muscle. During sleep, it is produced in the lowest amounts, the levels rise while we’re awake and significantly spikes when threatened and in immediate danger. It is also helpful in retrieval of long-term memory and working memory, which is a part of short-term memory. It also enhances your focus and attention levels and the processing time of the brain to respond to conscious perceptual and linguistic stimuli. Abnormal or high levels or dysfunction in the norepinephrine release system can cause sympathetic hyperactivation, which includes rapid heart beat, high blood pressure, headaches, anxiety and other stress related symptoms. It can also cause chronic stress disorders and it also has been thought to have an indirect connection to ADHD.

 

Of course, like the stress hormones, Cortisol, Cortisone and the neurotransmitter Epinephrine, Norepinephrine, is also an extremely useful component in our biology which helps us survive in stressful and life-threatening situations in which we would perish otherwise.

Understanding these hormones and neurotransmitters we can (from a physiological perspective) understand human behavior and most likely also be able to predict it.

 

Well, that’s it for the article today, I went in as much details as possible without making it too in-depth, I had to remove a lot of related, but irrelevant stuff out of the article to make it on the point. I hope you found it useful.

 

Thanks for reading!