Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fight or Flight or Settle Down and Get on With It

Anxiety is an ally.  That is what we are told when we learn about the adrenal glands in our kidneys.  When our brain perceives a threat it sends a message to our adrenal glands and they secrete adrenalin.  Adrenalin keys up our bodies for fight or flight.  Trouble is, in our sophisticated and very rich society we engage in safe activities that trigger the same chain of events.  I mean safe in the sense that we are not likely to be chased down or clubbed to death by the piano we are about to play, or by our friends sitting nearby anticipating our song.  It seems that the brain makes no distinction between performance anxiety and an on-coming train.  And that explains everything.  If I am in the path of a charging bear, a flood of adrenalin is the primal defense system I will need to save my life.  My rapidly beating heart will pump blood to the areas of my body with which I will prepare for my fight or flight  My fingers apparently are not needed which explains why I have cold clammy hands as I open my music.  My deepening and accelerated breathing is providing the extra oxygen my body will need to run as fast as I can, which explains why I feel a smothering tightness in my chest.  My rapid breathing decreases blood to my brain which is why I feel detached from the music I know by heart.  And my mind shifts its focus to the charging bear, which is why I cannot remember the first note. I'm sure this has never happend to you.  So, just saying, I'm glad to know this adaptive function works so well.  You never know when you might encounter a bear. 

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