Are We More Than Just Chemical Reactions?

chemical_reactionI remember having a conversation a while ago with someone and the topic came up of what makes us who we are. It’s an important and deep discussion. We talked and wondered if each of us as humans were just a complex formula of chemical and biological reactions but without any kind of soul inside making conscious decisions for ourselves. I think about this today for myself and what makes me think and do the things I do.

Two Types of Reactions In Life

There’s two types of reactions that DRIVE EVERYTHING WE DO in life. We are either moving TOWARD something or trying to move AWAY from something. I wrote many years ago about approach and avoidance motivation. This stands very true in what the primary driver is for us as humans. Every waking moment of our life is a move toward something we want or something we are trying to steer clear of.

The Reaction Away From

The reaction away from something is done typically because whatever we are trying to stay away from brings us pain, sadness, or discomfort of some kind. It makes sense to me – why would we ever do something that makes us feel pain in our life? Who would consciously do something that they associate with pain? What are some of these common activities?

  • Exercise (with weights particularly)
  • Sky diving
  • Public speaking
  • Saying difficult things in a relationship
  • Asking for something you want not knowing if you’ll get it
  • Playing with alligators
  • Petting rattlesnakes
  • Running in front of buses at high speed

You get the idea though right? When I was a young man in middle school, I felt an instance of the flight syndrome. I was sitting down in my social studies class and in what was typical of teachers back then, we were just reading from the book and going around the room. It was very dull and boring and as such, I was not paying attention. The problem was is that it came my turn to read and I didn’t know where we were in the book.

This spawned some major crazy reactions in my body as my heart rate increased and my breathing intensified and I really felt like I was going to throw up. I didn’t know where we were but I was too prideful in myself to say it. I simply said, “I’m not feeling well, I’m going to throw up,” and walked out of the class room. This happened a few more times in school and all throughout my schooling, I dreaded having to read out loud in front of the class because of this.

What I’m saying is that I believe an imperfect program/chemical reaction goes on in me to this frickin’ day. If I had to sit down in front of a group and read a paper or book, I would have the same reaction happen inside of me. And THERE IS NO GOOD REASON for it. It’s an imperfect piece of software in my body that pulls me to fear and to run from a situation.

The good news is that I recognize this for what it is. It’s an imperfect chemical reaction. So if I EVER have to read out loud again and feel it, I will have an amusing story to tell whatever group I am with. I’ll tell them how I’m having a panic attack right now because of an imperfect piece of software and chemical reaction that built up in me from a silly incident in middle school where I was asked to read out loud in front of the class but I didn’t know where we were in the book because I was bored and not paying attention :).

I think the point here is that at least part of us is chemical/biological and is simply just physical reactions that occur. This knowledge is crucial to me because there are OTHER THINGS in my life where I can feel an imperfect chemical reaction occurring and I can recognize it for what it is – an unnecessary happening in my body. If I have situations where I feel my body reacting negatively, I don’t have to react right away. If I’ve found myself reacting due to a bad chemical reaction I can look back and notice it and now over-ride my behavior!

This is critical for anyone looking to be brave in their life. I can think of TWO things in my life right now where I feel imperfect software and chemical reaction trying to govern me. In both these cases, I recognize the imperfect reaction and now I can make a more conscious decision and over-ride that chemical reaction by thinking deeply about what exactly I want. It’s really a beautiful thing.

Think about the things in your life that you feel the chemicals reacting in your body. Is that what you really want? Do you simply react a certain way just because you feel a chemical reaction in your body? Is that a very conscious way to live? Surely you have more of a soul than that and have the ability to make deeper and more meaningful decisions than to just run away from things due to your body reacting chemically.

The Reaction Toward

I believe the chemical reactions in our body that make us afraid aren’t useless – but they generally steer us away from things that could otherwise be very growth-oriented and serve us well in our lives. When I first started doing public speaking, it was pretty scary! What if I fainted? What if I farted? What if I drooled on myself while talking? What if I had to take a wizz while I was talking and couldn’t hold it? So many things could go wrong!

I had a speaking gig a few years ago at Sinclair Oil. It was awesome because I took a PTO day from work to go spend all day speaking to people about health and wellness, along with sharing my story. I loved it! I am going to plan a seminar before the end of the year to speak and see if anyone comes too! Let me calm down a little and try to make my point though.

I was very afraid of public speaking at one time in my life. And guess what? I still get frickin’ nervous and sweaty under my arms even today when I have to do it. But the difference is that I understand my body being imperfect and knotting my stomach for no good reason and I can over-ride that crap with my mind and still make the decision to go public speak ANYWAY! And every time I do it, I feel a rush of growth inside me like I’ve gained a level in my favorite role playing game.

The reaction toward scary things requires a high level of consciousness in my opinion. It requires courage and a willingness to be uncomfortable. There’s plenty of other things besides public speaking that moving toward are scary. But there’s plenty of things that moving toward are effortless, let me name some of them now.

  • Getting a massage
  • Laying down and sleeping when tired
  • Having someone you love whisper sweet nothings in your ear
  • Playing your favorite sport
  • Laughing at something funny
  • Eating a chocolate Sundae. Yummy!
  • Listening to uplifting music
  • Having a deep and stimulating conversation with someone like-minded
  • Having sex
  • Not jumping off a 100 story building

Again, you get the idea. This list is simply meant to show things that are relatively effortless for most people. Given the opportunity, I believe most people are drawn toward these activities. And I believe part of the reason is chemical – they make us feel good inside our physical bodies. I think the higher level of thinking comes from doing these activities, but for a sense of purpose greater than satisfying the chemical reactions in our body.

When I eat a chocolate Sundae, of course it feels good. But I like to understand the nature of the damn thing. When did it come into existence and how? Who made the first one? Why does it taste so good? How do I feel when I eat it? How do I feel AFTER I eat it? When I embrace the whole experience beyond just the feeling good, a whole new world of discovery opens up.

The same goes for all of the other activities I listed and what other ones I may have missed. If you can look at the experience and look beyond just the physical feeling good part, but embrace the whole experience and ask questions around it – it becomes much more of a spiritual and soulful experience than just feeling good chemically in our bodies.

I’ve had some experiences this year where I certainly felt myself feeling both good and bad chemically in my body and reacting strongly to both. I’m thankful now to have a great understanding of myself and recognizing my body for what it is doing and being able to think consciously now and over-ride any of the negative happening inside my body. I feel much more like a soul-explorer who seeks to have deep and meaningful experience as opposed to anything thrill seeking just to feel good.

How About It?

I think there is a soul in each of us. But in our physical forms, we have to contend with the laws of physics and chemistry in our bodies. So, how about it for you – what do you like to do that feels good? How could those experiences be enhanced by asking more questions about them? Do you have any fears where your body goes into scare mode?

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