You hear a lot of the word “panic” in the news these days with regards to the current and ongoing financial crisis. In fact, there’s even some talk about giving it proper noun status (i.e. the Panic of 1873). But we’ll go with the lower case version for now, which Wikipedia defines as “a sudden fear which dominates or replaces thinking and often affects groups of people or animals.”
In other words, panic is so primal that you don’t even have to be human to experience it. And if you are human, the extreme “gut-level” fight-or-flight response that is characteristic of panic can essentially emotionally regress you to the same mental level of a feral mammal. And we’re seeing an awful lot of sudden feral behavior from people who seemed to “have it all together” during these last few years…
The first step in “keeping your head” is to have the courage to accept reality for what it is – not for what you’d like it to be. And our early ancestors were masters at this. The world they lived in (which is pretty much the same one as ours, BTW) was a place of high uncertainty with opportunities and threats materializing randomly from all directions. And the only way to “keep your head” (both literally and figuratively) in this setting would be to keep your senses sharp and stay nimble at all times.
And many of us just simply don’t live this way anymore.
Here’s something to ponder: Just how physically and mentally sharp and nimble can you be if:
– You’re overweight and generally unhealthy
– You eat high quantities of sugar-based foods that dull your senses
– You get less than six hours of sleep each night
– You exhaust yourself at the gym on the treadmill or at a 90-minute spinning class
– You’re jacked up on caffeine throughout the day
– You have a horrific commute
– Your home or office is cluttered and unorganized
– You’re in debt and financially overextended
– Your idea of outdoor recreation involves alcohol and spectator sports
– Your idea of indoor recreation involves alcohol and spectator sports
– You generally feel “stuck” or “in a rut” in several areas of your life
The key here is to recognize that you flourish best when you are lean and mobile – both physically and mentally.
Early man didn’t live in a “McMansion” stocked with a surfeit of comforts and luxuries. And he certainly didn’t park his tookus in front of the “idiot box” when there was a great big awesome and exhilarating world out there to explore. His life was simple and active, and that gave him the physical, mental, and emotional agility to quickly adapt to chaos and uncertainty – and to not “lose his head” during times of danger or opportunity.
Remember – the only thing separating you from a lower mammal is a more advanced frontal cortex. And getting “blindsided” as a result of becoming too comfortable is an excellent way of shutting that down. And when that happens, you’re just another feral mammal…