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February 14th, 2020
In biology, and in simplistic terms, an allergy is when a perfectly innocuous compound triggers an alarm reaction in the body’s immune system. Our natural defense system mistakenly decides that this innocuous compound, like a peanut or maybe some pineapple is foreign and dangerous and things get cranked up into a hair trigger gear.
It’s fascinating that this biological mistake also occurs in a mental way, and especially in the modern world. We are filled with worries and fears and anxieties that perhaps don’t actually warrant such strong emotional responses.
With an allergy, the body is reacting as though a peanut can kill you, and the reaction can be so strong that the body actually makes it happen.
The same is eerily similar on a mental level. We can be rendered paralyzed with incomprehensible levels of panic over an issue that, in reality, doesn’t actually pose us any real harm.
Indeed, we seem to have a capacity to have allergies of the mind.
The much tossed around subject of ‘victim mentality’ is perhaps a good example to trap between glass frames and examine with some specificity.
Regardless of whether someone has actually experienced trauma, there’s two somewhat polar responses that seem to dominate. Either a person is crippled by the experience and fully inhabit this victim mentality, whether it’s ‘justified’ or not…
or, the individual finds the idea of being viewed as a victim, or feeling like a victim as offensive, even repulsive, and this mentality is characterized the a somewhat phoenix-esque underdog. There’s total refusal to let the victim mentality take hold, because the person does not want to be defined by the trauma (real or imagined) or defined by the identity of victimhood. This is often marked by a total reclamation of one’s life, and weirdly enough, the experience can indeed empower people in a way that wasn’t present before.
Interestingly enough, a recent antidote for biological allergies that is being used to reported success is repeated and increasing exposure to the allergic compounds, and starting with very small quantities. A person’s system seems to gain a sort of familiarity with the substance and seems to learn or figure out that the substance isn’t actually harmful.
Might the same be true for our mental allergies? Can some form of exposure therapy, regarding the monster in the mind actually be good for us?
Is it possible that our exuberant resistance to a feeling or a thought is triggering an entire host of other feelings and thoughts that are largely unnecessary, and this, all due to the fact that we aren’t willing to calmly and peacefully simply be with that first thought or emotion?
An experience with meditation seems to indicate that the answer is yes. Mindfulness in particular is marked by the simple process of looking a stimulus, or a feeling or a thought square on, and simply being fully aware of it. This might sound strange, and perhaps even scary, but it functions like the terrified but brave child who finally throws open the dark closet doors and shines a flashlight into the darkness to find that there wasn’t really ever anything there.
Our greatest fears, our most terrifying monsters, are almost always a creation of the imagination.
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