I am fascinated by books about the mind.
This is probably because my own mind is such a mystery to me.
Sometimes I catch myself thinking, “Why does my mind hate me so much?”
Other times I might wonder, “Why do some things hold my attention for years but with others I can’t pay attention for two consecutive seconds?”
Like I said – a total and complete mystery.
Luckily, the mind (mine and others) is not such a daunting place for some folks – mostly those who write instant mega-best-sellers-to-be like “Untangling the Mind,” my newest read by psychiatrist and researcher Theodore George, M.D. I can’t remember how I heard about this book or who recommended it to me, but I do remember the moment I heard about it I was online hunting down a copy at my local library branch.
It arrived yesterday. I started reading immediately. I am on page 30 (mostly because Dr. George opens up with a fascinating story about a patient that takes about 29 pages to finish).
Then, on page 30, I read this passage:
In fact, we possess two kinds of survival behavior. One is attuned to react to threats and the other to pursue reward. Each makes immediate sense. We need to be able to protect ourselves and stay clear of danger, and we need to be able to feed ourselves and reproduce our kind. Each set of instincts comes with its own battery of emotions.
That’s as far as I’ve gotten in the book so far, because this concept is so profound I stopped reading when I read it.
I mean – WOW.
And how did I not know that human beings have TWO survival instincts?
Maybe I should back up and explain that I have always been, well, basically obsessed with the human survival instinct. And considering that I work in mental health and oversee the largest mentoring-based nonprofit for persons recovering from eating disorders in the world, I am continually on the hunt for that certain something that can transform a person who is “on the fence” about pursuing recovery into an avid recovery warrior.
I also want to know why my own father, who grew up in poverty surrounded by mostly negative role models, is the sole sibling in his family to emerge as a shining success in every conceivable way. I want to know if his DNA is also why I was so determined to recover from my eating disorder, anxiety and depression – so determined in fact that no lack of money, insurance, understanding professionals or even my own belief that I could actually recover managed to stop me.
While we’re at it, I want to know why some people become victimized by their situation and others turn into their own personal heroes. And I want to comprehend how some of those folks not only rescue themselves but then go on to become mentors and heroes for others as well.
Perhaps it is the dual survival instinct – the instinctive search for sanctuary (safety) and for fulfillment (reward).
Since I am quite sure that the author has already figured this out and the answer is just a few pages away, I will keep reading and let you know.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever thought about what has supported, driven or otherwise incented you to persevere through your own challenges in life? How do you feel about the concept of a “survival instinct” – one or two?
Castaway climbing image available from Shutterstock.
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Last reviewed: 8 Aug 2013