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Unconventional Advice from a Conventional Doctor by Charles Glassman, MD

Our brain has evolved over tens of thousands of years for the primary purpose of protecting our physical body. Our primal instincts, which reside in a place I call the automatic brain (AB), do not arise from conscious thoughts but are instead sheer reactions to sensory input. Because our AB cannot conceive that our actions or reactions could result in death, I believe that the “survival instinct” is a misnomer. Our instincts are more danger, threat or vulnerability instincts. Our primitive reactions are similar whether or not they take place in life-or-death situations. The AB brain simply reacts.

For instance, imagine yourself in a crowded audience listening to a speaker. The speaker poses a question and suddenly points at you, asks you to stand and come up to the podium and address your off-the-cuff answer to the audience. Your AB drives you to react in one of two ways when faced with danger: fight or flight.

If this brain could actually understand the risk of death rather than danger, then you should not be trembling, feeling sick, stammering or feeling your heart pound out of your chest and into your throat as you head to the podium. But your AB perceives an audience as potential danger and being in front of that mob could expose your vulnerability, so your AB has you fighting, fleeing or both.

This AB has us fighting and fleeing throughout our everyday lives. It happens at work where we face deadlines, decreased wages, unreasonable bosses, crazy workloads and schedules; on the road with cars weaving in and out cutting us off; in relationship and family disagreements; and from health challenges. The fact is that our physical body takes the brunt of this fighting and fleeing. In order to fight or flee danger, threat or vulnerability our body reacts exactly the same way as it once did to prepare our prehistoric ancestors to battle or run from predators.

What happens when you prepare to fight or flee? Among the more common signs: • Muscles tighten and shorten so you can spring into action

• Respirations become shallow and rapid to maximize oxygen intake

• Blood pressure and heart rate rise to increase nourishment of the muscles

• Intestines and bladders contract (often experienced as butterflies) to expel excess weight

• Thinking gets clouded from blood shifting from brain to muscles, extremities and sensory organs

You may head to a doctor’s office with the symptoms of this reaction. Unbeknownst to the doctor, challenges in your everyday life are the basis for your symptoms and so it is important for you and your doctor or practitioner to get at the core of these issues and not just treat the symptoms.

If you have stress in your life (i.e., activation of the AB, causing fight or flight), the result is definitely having an effect on your physical body, which can lead to symptoms that will help your doctor form a diagnosis. In many cases, it would be highly beneficial to connect with practitioners of the following modalities: • Acupuncture

• Chiropractic

• Craniosacral Therapy

• Feldenkrais Method

• Massage Therapy

• Meditation

• Pilates

• Psychological Therapy

• Reflexology

• Rolfing

• Yoga

(This list is specifically to deal with the effects of the AB on your body and not a recommendation for treatment of any particular diagnosis.)

So, the next time you find yourself screaming at the car next to you after they cut you off, understand that processes are happening in your body at that moment that may best be handled by seeking alternative approaches which may give you exactly what you need to break the cycle and interrupt the automatic reactions of your brain.

Charles Glassman, MD, is the author of Brain Drain and has a private practice at the New York Center for Longevity & Wellness in Pomona. For more information call 362-1110 or visit Charles- GlassmanMD.com or Coach MD on Facebook.

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