COMPASSION AND THE BLACKHOLE OF STRESS
Stress is raging fire…it oxidizes and inflames the tissues, rusting and congealing the bodymind into a dried up husk of defeat.
It so happens that people suffering from depression are loaded with inflammatory cytokines. Our social brain reacts to the pain of isolation and social stress, rejection, low status, poverty and loneliness by increasing cytokines. Inflammation is also caused by obesity, high sugar diets, high quantities of trans fats, unhealthy cooked diets in general, and other causes. Inevitably those undergoing stress are more likely to choose diets and circumstances that promote inflammation and increase stress. Stress and inflammation reduce our capacity generate positive momentum to change life conditions towards proadaptative, stress-relieving lifestyles. When we're feeling tired, demotivated, or depressed, it's much more difficult to engage in the “work” part of the work and reward cycle. Since stress tends to snowball, you cannot get out of stress from the stressed position. Stress is a supermassive black hole that consumes our life-juice and joy, and the more we feed it, the bigger it gets.
For obtaining a good bird's eye view of the role of stress in our lives the analogy of quicksand is quite useful. Quicksand is a fascinating phenomenon of nature that requires our careful respect. Should you fall into a patch of quicksand the first thing to remember is not to panic. Thrashing about can get you more stuck. Commonsense warns us that if we find ourselves caught in quicksand the very worst thing we can do is to fight it. The more we struggle and thrash about, the more weight we bare down, the deeper into the sand our feet go. The more you reach up, the more you are sucked down. You have to just stop, calm down and be with the quicksand and to try swimming out with slow, deliberate motions. Common sense can help people avoid quicksand beds in the first place and keeping calm will assist them should they fall in.
This notion of ceasing to struggle can be applied to dealing with stress. Succumbing to social stress of the false power society is a faithless bottomless pit of quicksand, out of which none escape. The more you struggle against being stressed with negative coping mechanisms the more stressed you become. Then inflammation/depression reduces your cognitive abilities and will power and your maladaptive self-medicating addictions make you fall even deeper down into the non-sentience of stress. Stress can make us withdraw into social reticence or “abnormal” social fearfulness, lack of responsiveness to people and other environmental stimuli.
C-reactive protein (CRP) is produced by the liver, adipocytes, and vascular smooth muscle cells in response to inflammation. The level of CRP in the blood plasma rises when there is inflammation throughout the body, following interleukin-6 secretion by macrophages and T cells. Elevated levels of CRP are associated with increased risk for psychological distress and depression in the general population. For an animal under stress, the inflammatory response and associated depressed behavior may be nature’s way of conserving energy reserves in an injured or compromised animal for healing, rather than exposing themselves to further status wars or predators. In this sense the immune system’s inflammatory response and consequent introversion and depression may be a life-saving devise for underprivileged, disempowered individuals. Since there is little danger these days that the tiger will attack us for its next meal, it is mostly social status stress, predation by Powerhoes, negative rumination, fossil trauma and existential dread that contributes to the ongoing conflagration of inflammatory cellular fire and associated depression.
One way to decrease CRP is an intake of high-quality omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and anti-inflammatories like astaxanthin, pinebark, grapeseed, turmeric and resveratrol. Following selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment for major depression there is a significant drop in C-reactive protein concentrations whether or not the depression resolves. These findings indicate that antidepressants induce an anti-inflammatory response independent of antidepressant action. If irritation generates inflammation, then each exalted, beneficent thought must create an opposite anti-inflammatory substance. Gratitude, and seeing the beauty in everything the answer to the chronic perception of error, danger and inequity; because even as everything is collapsing the flow of evolution follows immutable law, and is in itself beautiful even in death. This is an existential compassionate view of the human condition and life in the universe that provides a soothing balm to the oxidizing and inflammatory action of stress.
The most long lasting anti-stress practices include Compassion Meditation, or focusing on cultivating compassionate feelings and pro-social behavior toward others. In compassion meditation, we generate compassionate feelings towards others, and especially towards difficult people with whom there is conflict. In this way our "compassion muscle” is strengthened. After just two weeks of compassion meditation results include an increase in altruistic helping behavior, and reduction in stress of the meditator. Compassion is the answer to raising consciousness above the survival emotions.
Survival emotions are emotions of disenfranchisement and violence: insecurity, hatred, judgment, victimization, helplessness, impotence, frustration, worry, guilt, shame, anxiety, regret, depression, suffering, boredom, fear, greed, sadness, disgust, envy, anger, resentment, unworthiness, inadequacy, deficiency and lack. These Hindbrain states reflect conflict, duality, polarization or a conflagration of emotion that narrows consciousness into self-absorption, and into preoccupation with notions of good and bad, right and wrong, positive and negative, success and failure, love and hate, heaven and hell, pain and pleasure, and endless fear. The institutions and structure of Borg civilization reflects the inverted, split form of violent, competitive consciousness of Hindbrain separation anxiety…as is evident in the war politics, the exploitative economics, the mythic religions, the toxic medicine and the diabolical science.
The competition for food and mating partners as well as the conflict involved in the establishment of the social hierarchy are potential stress factors. Some people react more calmly in stressful situations than others. In humans, the Catechol-O-methyltransferase protein is encoded by the COMT gene. A specific variant of the Catechol-O-Methyltransferase (COMT) gene is associated with higher excretion of the stress hormone cortisol, and may also influence social rank among the animals. Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) is one of several enzymes that degrade catecholamines such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. The COMT gene is one of at least 18 genes in humans that control the dopamine system in the brain. Dopamine promotes skills such as planning, decision-making and problem solving. Depending on its variant, more or less of the COMT enzyme is produced from the gene, resulting in a faster or slower dopamine metabolization in the brain.
The definition of “reward” is something that provides satisfaction, or gratification or gives a remunerative profit. Genetic variation with functional impact on cortical dopamine tone has a strong influence on the experience of reward in the flow of daily life. Differences in genetic phenotype of COMT-dependent dopamine degradation in the brain can deliver an increase of positive affect twice as high in amplitude as participants with other phenotypes following very pleasant or pleasant events. Despite its importance in neurons, COMT is actually primarily expressed in the liver. One mechanism that engenders males to be more assertive in reward seeking behavior, is that the COMT activity in the liver of male subjects is about 30% higher than that in females. During aging, COMT activity in the liver increases by about 10-fold from birth to adulthood, and it is assumed that the predominant form of COMT is not the same in newborn rats and adult animals. Obsessive-compulsive disorder in which the affected persons follow various anxiety-reducing rituals, which seems to be correlated to low COMT activity and low COMT activity appears to have some association with aggressive and highly antisocial impulsive schizophrenia.
Higher amounts of dopamine in the brain increase various cognitive performances but are also associated with increased stress reactions, resulting in higher stress hormone levels. Animals and humans with stress-resilient COMT variants acquire higher rank positions in the group, partly through increased performance. Neuro-ergonomics researchers hypothesized that individuals with the Met/Met genotype variant of the COMT gene would perform better in simulated air-defense tasks than would people without that genotype. The presence of the COMT gene has been shown to increase dopamine levels in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), which controls executive function (e.g., memory, reasoning, problem solving). Dopamine availability in the PFC appears to be particularly important when task demands are high. High dopamine levels combined with a reduced response to stress leads to increased cognitive performance under pressure and the acquisition of higher rank positions. The human COMT gene affects the enzyme activity and cortisol level in response to a stressor. Cortisol excretion was inversely correlated with physical aggression.
The party drug "Special K,” or Ketamine activates the mTORC pathway, which regulates the synthesis of proteins involved in creation of synaptic connections in the brain that are damaged by stress, depression and overeating. The pathway is also involved in cellular responses to energy and metabolism, and people with MetaboliX disorders like Type 2 diabetes are also at higher risk of depression. A single low dose of ketamine reversed those symptoms quickly, and reversed the disruption of mTORC signaling pathways. Scientists have identified a brain circuit that signals between the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which brings about the beneficial effects of ketamine. On the one hand the drug ketamine relieves depression within two hours and its beneficial effect on patients may last a week. On the other hand ketamine is addictive and may send recreational users into hallucinations and delusions.
Stress Reduces Neurogenesis—The stress-vulnerable mice had a lower level of gene expression for glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (Gdnf). Neurotrophic factors are known to be important for regulation of brain plasticity and have been implicated in depression. The reduced level of Gdnf expression was the result of DNA methylation and histone modifications influenced by chronic mild stress, suggesting novel approaches for the treatment of depression. These epigenetic modifications and the depressive behaviors were reversed by treatment of the stress-vulnerable mice with antidepressants. Dynamic epigenetic regulations of the Gdnf gene play important roles in determining both the susceptibility and the adaptation responses to chronic stressful events.
The health risks of low social status or social defeat are due in part to the chronic psychosocial stress of the rat race itself, and of perceived social subordination, whether by other individuals or by institutions. With physical aging and a decreasing ability to sustain a productive contribution is when we see a big increase in cortisol levels and depression. As our ability to support ourselves and our kin, to feel and be useful to others, decreases, status declines and depression increases. Depression may be prolonged or worsen if you remain a chronic burden to kin. Under those circumstances, we often see a downward spiral of physical health eventually leading to death. Sovereignty, or the sense of self beyond the sociosphere is vitally important to maintaining health, cognitive functioning and creativity throughout life, but especially in old age. Transcending the pathological imposition of false power leads to reduced cortisol damage, lower free radical oxidation, and less glycation and plaques.
Alzheimer's disease with its dementia and memory loss symptoms, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. When the aged lose their minds what does that say about the culture at large?
To defeat the false power paradigm, we must understand its affects, and countermand them through compassion and higher conscious living. SourceSelf, now and forevermore!