Favourite author Martha Beck says that we suffer more from our thoughts about events than from the events themselves. She says Psychoneuroimmunologist Robert Sapolsky claims wild animals don’t get stress-related illnesses because they react with fight-or-flight responses only as needed and return to a baseline calm state quickly. They remain mostly present and don’t use verbal thoughts to analyse, dwell, remember and self-torture with doubt over possible alternate scenarios and outcomes. So they don’t get ulcers because they experience life as it happens – e.g. lion attack!! Panic, fear, pain, horror, death, grief, safety, relaxation, peace, peace, peace. Humans, however, can relive past pain and stress responses for decades, e.g. lion attack!! Fear, horror, pain, death, memory of lion, horror, pain, fear of future lions, pain, grief, impotent rage, protective numbness, grief, despair, despair, despair.
Her tip: Overcoming the wont to quantify every experience with words, from keeping journals to analysing every nuance of any encounter, can be freeing. There is no practical need to explain or recount every conscious moment (unless you’re giving a police report); you could just be. Wordlessness and not focusing on verbal thinking is practised in many cultures to remain present, including to enable natural pain relief in modern medicine. From 14 I have trained (and been graded) for my way with words so practising wordlessness is challenging, yet incredibly quieting, calming and catchy. Years ago I stopped taking my camera on holidays when I realised I couldn’t capture all the facets of what I aimed at; this week I’m leaving for Africa and wonder if I can forgo my journal. Like a wild animal would. At the least, I vow to be silent out there in the serenity.