Monday, 19 October 2020

Like machine-gun fire

There is one big difference though: for us, humans, the rest of the brain has grown much more and ends up interfering with the simpler nerve centers. Very broadly what happens is this: in front of a dangerous situation any animal always reacts in the same way, positions its muscles, ears, and eyes to understand in a split second whether it is a false alarm, a situation in to which he must attack or a situation in which he must flee. In animals, the brain does not take this decision. To simplify, let's say that the central nervous system decision-maker is the one from top of the neck to the column. That's all you need to do today. I'm a huge proponent of family-centered care. The whole family needs to be in on decisions, and doctors need to take care of the whole family. That's why we opened a free counseling service without insurance issues. People come to us and get free help whenever they want, simply because of what my family went through; Now, that's changed, at least for all the families we can service. It's not just the kids with cancer, either. There are so many siblings that walk through our door that are suicidal. It's mind-boggling. Those kids aren't getting the normal range of attention from their parents; Or when Ashley Richmond enhanced the lives of the giraffes at the Detroit Zoo. Or when Emeka Nnaka emerged from his accident to serve others. Or when Jeff Ashby dedicated himself to helping people experience the Overview Effect. Or when Shibvon resolved to make the lives of vulnerable children better than hers had been. The act of love begins with the very definition of meaning: it begins by stepping outside of the self to connect with and contribute to something bigger. Being human, Frankl wrote, always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself--be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter.

The more one forgets himself--by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love--the more human he is. That's the power of meaning. It's not some great revelation. It's pausing to say hi to a newspaper vendor and reaching out to someone at work who seems down. After fear chasing, I experienced that I cannot actually help anyone seek or find that which they yearn for, because it is uniquely understood within themselves in real time, and importantly, it only happens as they are willing. In every moment, it seems that fresh, inwardly expansive horizons arise in each of us. We all know of individuals, who are overcome by the apparent reality of their fears, anxieties, and resulting pain. They strike out against the world or determine that the ego-mind that they are listening to is right. While running from fear, and fueling themselves on fear, they think that the world is unbearable. They might believe that a possible solution can be found in some destructive or temporary distraction. If you are honest with yourself, can you find yourself in a similar scenario from a moment in your past? If so, this is where loving compassion is born. FEAR MAPS YOUR PATH TO THE LIFE YOU LOVE What I have come to experience from fear is that it points to the truth continually. In this area of the nervous system, the commander-in-chief is the amygdala. So, for us humans the proper fear management is a little more complicated than in the rest of animals. When the hazard warning reaches our amygdala, the neurochemical signals produced, make an uproar that is perceived a little higher, in the cortex where urgent decisions are complicated. There, a whole series of windows are activated to evaluate the consequences of the danger. If we return home attacked by a hooded stranger, our amygdala tries to behave as if we were any animal: try to decide whether we should attack or flee. But the part of our brain immediately above the amygdala begins to evaluate many other things: Do I call the police?

No, I can't use the mobile now! What do I do, do I scream? Will someone hear me if I scream? If I scream, is it better or worse? It is said that the pathway to hell is filled with good intentions. You can mean to do something, but it's meaningless until you really do it. So why do people sometimes fall short of actualizing their intentions? A fear of not succeeding is what holds many people back. I was determined not to let myself become one of those people. I was going to fulfill my promise to Amanda, no matter what. I knew that something had to be done, and that I was the only one to see it through. For the previous three years, I had seen the lack of available resources and a shortage of appropriate help in the world of pediatrics. People who have experienced life and loss are much more motivated to make a difference in the world than those who have never been there. We now provide many needed services, but one of the most important things we do is create what I call major distractions. It's helping people get in better shape and being a good parent or mentor to a child. It's sitting in awe beneath a starry night sky and going to a medieval prayer service with friends. It's opening a coffee shop for struggling veterans. It's listening attentively to a loved one's story. It's taking care of a plant. These may be humble acts on their own.

But taken together, they light up the world. That this article exists is a testament to the generosity of the people I've been lucky enough to call family, friends, and colleagues over the years. They've sustained, supported, and inspired me--and to the extent that this article has anything valuable to say, their guidance has made it so. My parents modeled what it means to live meaningfully, taught me the central place that love and compassion play in a life that matters, and helped me to find beauty and goodness in the ordinary--those little moments of meaning that light up the world. Fear shares how to emerge from the paralysis that can result from the fear itself; You are the pirate. The fears are our map points, and the endless buried treasure lies within us. Investing in making a full acknowledgment of our fears is a precursor to jumping in mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually into the sometimes murky waters of the pirate bay, our own inner worlds that we alone must navigate. Only you can uncover the fear that maps your path. And you can only find this map in the present moment where all of life is lived. Someday, you will remember how you came to live in a place called fearlessness. The how you did it will be less important to you because what will remain of you afterward will have no egoic identity. In the transcendent experience of fearlessness, you aren't a personality. It may even seem that what you are is less of an anything and more of a nothingness. Isn't it a joke? Oh God, my children, I can't die today! This barrage of thoughts creates what in physiology is called Amygdalin kidnapping literally a short circuit in the nervous system that causes the typical paralysis of fear. Behind the paralysis, there is a crazed nervous system that receives so many stimuli in such a short time that it cannot react. Amygdalin kidnapping is nothing more than a colorful expression used by physiologists to indicate that at those moments the one who commands us is not our brain but the amygdala. To be more exact, during the so-called Amygdalin kidnapping, the one who is trying to command us is the amygdala but since the rest of our brain short-circuits it with strains of thoughts, we are literally out of control.

The amygdala cannot intervene and the rest of the brain neither, the two sides cancel each other out. Fortunately, being codependent does not necessarily expose us to hooded attacks but the physiology behind the risk and dangerous situations that we perceive as fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, fear of not being understood, of not being adequate, not being accepted . If the warnings of danger are constant, we end up living so long with the feeling of being unable to react to the difficulties that we think we are seriously incapable of. A lot of this perception, therefore, derives from a purely physiological cause. This comes from a central idea of wanting children who fight cancer to have happy memories along their journey. Unlike adult cancer treatments, which can typically last from three weeks to six months, pediatric cancer can take two to five years to treat. We give these children and their families something to look forward to and we do our best to create happy moments they can look back on, to provide hope and faith in the future. I also get to advocate for patient-centered care, which is essentially what Amanda demanded during her second round with cancer. Imagine a twelve-year-old telling you that you can't just walk in and start poking her with needles and not even know her name. That was Amanda, at her best, teaching her medical team a better, more humane way to be. I appear at conferences and as a speaker/educator for the Phoenix Children's Hospital Family Advisory Council. I talk to new interns, nurses, and other new hires about my story, about family-centered care, and how to be a better provider. I often hear, You've made me a better doctor. I never thought of it that way. I'm also eternally grateful for the many sacrifices they've made for me, for their guidance and support over all the years of my life, and for nurturing my curiosity and encouraging me to think creatively and independently. They knew me better than I knew myself, and helped me find my path when I was lost. I'm enormously grateful, also, to my brother Tristan, who was always willing to help me out by answering my many (sometimes annoying) questions--Do you have a sense of purpose? What makes your life meaningful? Do you ever think about your legacy? He inspired much of the article on purpose and gave me an emerging adult's perspective on the search for meaning.

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