The Biology of Courage

Yet another TED Talks video  in my recent binge of them when I have moments in my day too long to just sit, but not long enough to get into anything serious. This one made me feel very Curious (orange).

I can say I’ve been under a lot of stress inducing things recently. Walking into an interview and hearing “I’m really sorry but we have an emergency, can you help sub a class for a little more than two and a half hours? The age group is 4-6 year olds.” Another interview cancels, more resumes to send out, taxes to file, a small pain in my side that is terrifyingly (dark green) similar to what I felt the just before the last few kidney stones I had…

This list goes on. Everything from financial stress, medical stress, relationship stress, career stress, and more. All hitting me at the same time. I’ve been more than a little worried about what effects this would have on my health… yet another stress.

After watching this video and thinking back on all the times I’ve felt courage, it really never is the absence of fear. That moment when you choose to fight rather than flee, or that moment you choose to win no matter what, is filled with heart pumping fear.

Sorry I don’t have the link handy, but years ago I read an article or hear some speaker that compared the biological impact of modern day work stress to fighting a lion that wants to eat you. The chemical response was almost the same, and some people are working themselves to death because of how long the body stays in that chemical state.

I’m sure many of you have seen #firstworldproblems both as a joke about something silly, but also as a response to someone trying to reach out because they are going through something. Somehow suggesting that they aren’t fighting lions for food, so they should chill… when in reality, some of the things we deal with in the modern era are just as taxing on our bodies.

Luckily, it seems our bodies also come with stress resilience built into the stress response. The trick for me (and I’m sure many others) will be learning to use it properly. I know I have done it before. That moment when you’re playing a new game that you aren’t already max level, and a huge dragon shows up. I’ve been fighting scary bosses my whole life, and now my automatic response is “bring it on, this will be fun.” It’s to the point now, that monsters in my dreams make for the most fun dreams because fireballs. No joke, my nightmares are always about real life, and monsters in my dreams are just fun.

Of course, the levels of stress seeing the giant digital monster are no where near the stress I face in real life… but isn’t practice always easier than the real thing? Personally I plan to try to use that as a model, and see if I can put that feeling into real life using the ideas from this TED Talks video. Let’s see how it goes.


By Your Side

Today I was feeling Overwhelmed (a mix of red, teal, blue, purple, and dark green). It was a cocktail of all the emotions generally felt when needs aren’t being met. I was informed that my school is actively seeking to replace me next fall. They want to take the company in a different direction, and are hoping to have a more senior teacher in the position. Obviously this was shocking (teal) news, and I wasn’t super happy about the situation, but at least they are giving me a few months notice. Long story short, it’s been a rough few days.

A song that has been a song playing in the back of my mind since I got the news, By Your Side by Tenth Avenue North. A little history on this song, I heard it in passing while alone and depressed in Washington D.C. years ago. Remembering that time, and the song itself, have become a dull ripple from the depths of my mind, that has been creating a calming hum. The last two lines of the chorus to be exact.

’cause I’ll be by your side wherever you fall
In the dead of night whenever you call
And please don’t fight these hands that are holding you
My hands are holding you

Today I was going to another branch to teach a Saturday afternoon class, and I did something I only do about once or twice a year… I missed getting off at the correct MRT station. I got off the train, and crossed to the other platform to go back the way I came, but the screen said there were a few minutes left to wait. My back has been acting up a bit again because of the weather, so I looked for a bench to sit down on. There were people on them, so I kept walking. I saw this:


The plaque was very nice too, so I’ll share what it said. Try to look past the broken English, and just feel it. After you read it, pause for a moment to try and feel all the people who have ever sat in these hands.

Wandering in a quiet, green park, feel tired? How about take some rest in a chair? A Chair is a comfortable company for humans; no matter people are in psychological or physical fatigues. The shape of this sculpture derives from the hand gesture that meditators often use, called “Samadhimudra”, which symbolizes the fluctuating emotions. The transformation of this gesture into a useful chair can be compared to the elevation of a fun life to a metaphysical lever. Sitting on it could invite insights to the passengers’ minds; children climb on it as well. This sculpture serves for various functions; it is reflective, visually amusing, fun to play with, and it is useful as a chair itself. In real life, very often, a minor stuff has certain temperament to induce our insight. Chairs are often no exception. This piece of work is a miniature of national park. As such the creator of this artpiece names it “Small Park”

All of the overwhelming emotions are still here. I still feel hurt, tired, and angry. But at that moment, waiting for a train, they no longer felt as heavy.  In the midst of a very dark moment, I have been wishing that actual hands would hold and comfort me. I felt tired of symbolic or imaginary hands, and wanted real hands to hold me. A rare mistake on a route I only take to teach a class a few times a month brought me to these.

I couldn’t ask for more.

Motivation & Habit

I feel Interest (orange) and Apprehension (dark green) toward Habitica.

This website was recently left for me in a comment by @Jeremey on one of my last posts (which was posted a long time ago… I haven’t done any personal writing in a long time). I’ve tried a website like this before, and it ended up being more work and sucking more time than actually doing the tasks I wanted to do. This one seems to have much… much less work involved. And it has a phone app, so I can deal with it on my bus commutes rather than other more productive times.

While the system seems much more developed than things I have tried before, I worry that I will need to party with people to actually fight monsters… which I don’t really know how to get, and the phone app seems limited on FAQ type information. We’ll see how long it keeps my interest and how much it helps, but here’s hoping! If it works, I just might become more active on this blog again…. I get gold for doing this, which I will need soon to have video game time.

Basic Fear

For this special post, I’m going to talk about something that makes me feel Fear (dark green).

As part of some personal research on the integration of personality types and emotions, I took some time to explore the Enneagram. This was very popular among my peers in college, and is the topic of a very good friend’s PhD dissertation. Here are some helpful links:

Basic Wikipedia:

The Enneagram Institute:

After taking several online tests (all the free ones I could find), I narrowed down which type I was to a few. Looked up their long explanations and still wasn’t sure… then I saw a basic chart on Wikipedia. Just from the “Basic Fear” and “Basic Desire” categories, it was very easy to see that I was a Type 2 (The Helper). There is of course a lot more to this (obviously there are more than just nine kinds of people), but at least to start with I can begin here.

The basic fear of a Type 2 is “Being Unloved”.

The times in my life where I experienced the greatest levels of fear, were when I felt I might be losing my best friends. It happened at two different times, and for different reasons… and actually I was never at risk of losing them so much as just a perception… but that perception caused levels of stress and nightmares (literally) that were at least on the same level as fear and stress experienced in a war zone. In some ways the fear was greater.

This wasn’t really news to me. I have been studying my internal workings for a long time now, but it’s interesting to look into from a more academic perspective.
This fear is still present in my life now. Although I have much more experience dealing with this fear in healthy ways, it is still one of the main sources of stress in my life that I strive to (and most of the time succeed to) keep in balance.

If you don’t know what your greatest fears in life are, I suggest trying to identify them through one of these typing systems, or just through your own self exploration. Knowing them in an articulate way is half the battle of fighting them.

I do plan to continue delving into this personality typing system from the light of emotions, so stay tuned. After I also want to get into the Myers & Briggs personality typing system, and one other that involves a lot of color imagery… if I can find it again.

Stay tuned!

February 3rd, 2017

Today I felt Fear (dark green).

I was watching TV when a very loud alarm started, and was yelling things in Chinese. I couldn’t really understand it, but an alarm is an alarm. I got out of the building. Lots of other people were standing outside too. Kept watching my apartment building for smoke, didn’t see any.

The firemen, EMT, and police came. They seemed really calm, went in and checked things out. One of the EMT guys was explaining stuff to people, but all I could catch was something about the 4th floor. I live on the 2nd so that made me feel better.

It wasn’t long before I was back in my cozy cave.

January 18th, 2017

Today I feel Fear (dark green).

I’m not sure how much coverage these events are getting in America, but the rest of the world is getting ready for World War III. Australia is already having debates about how they will respond to a war between China and the U.S. Both sides (Trump’s administration and the PRC) are very easy to get hot under the collar, and neither like to admit that they might be wrong about something.

I finally feel like I have a home for the first time in my life on this island… and there are very real possibilities that it and the South China Sea around it will be the center of the next world war. A war that won’t endanger the people who start it, because they won’t be the ones fighting it.