Challenging Homeostasis

(If you love your work, like everything you do and have run out of paper and pencil checking your bucket list, skip from reading this post, and congrats for you)

We, must of the human beings, spend great part of our existence working in a job, which is required for the actual specie’s development level, but sometimes not in the field we’d like, not the amount of time we would and/or not getting rewarded/paid as expected; and still, we feel in homeostasis if our economy is stable, and get to watch a tv show on the weekends for an hour.

We’ll talk in this first part about why and how we feel in homeostasis in such an ugly situation.

Our brain has always been considered proof of human superiority in evolution. From my point of view, it’s just what we had to come out with to survive. Other animals have organs we neither have nor need to perpetuate our existence, but those other organs are not be considered signs of superiority because they don’t handle ego.

The more super-specialized an organ is the more chances of turning it against itself or against the organism. Few examples to explain this statement: how the heart collapses its own blood supply while working, causing ischemia to itself when working too fast, known as tachycardia; the immune system gets so sensitive to external antigens that end up crosslinking against its own body due to antigenic similarities; and how the brain has so much trouble analyzing itself, and sometimes (not seldom) confuses itself to keep its balance.

While some organs like the kidneys control the balance between salt and water in the body and the liver detoxify our blood from most of the harmful substances we intake, our brain, have to keep in balance emotions and desires, control reflexes to be socially accepted, and find the way to make us feel in agreement with ourselves when “force” to do thing we don’t want.

It’s been very studied the psychology of a selling a process called “problem recognition”. The term is considered a key factor in making a person buy something, but I think we could use it more widely. The process could be explained as follow: a person is running low on a kitchen supply (current state), but no action is taken until the storage reaches an established minimum or zero (threshold). The threshold could be considered as the difference required between the desired state and the current state to trigger an action. This whole process is called problem recognition: when the person realized that the current state differs from the desired one and is followed by different processes that will determine whether an action would be taken or not.

Few extrinsic and intrinsic factors influence the decision we make to solve or not the recognized problem. Among the extrinsic factors consider available time, money, distance, product availability or any other elementary conditions implicated in the buying process. Intrinsic factors are related to our brain modulation of the problem, and they feed themselves from the extrinsic factors. In some occasions, a person may perceive a discrepancy between desired and actual state but no initiate actions for several psychological reasons. They could engage in denial, give themselves excuses or evade the problem, preventing from acting and psychologically diminishing the problem’s relevance or widening the threshold at which the problem is perceived.

Extrapolating a little away from the seller/customer environment, we could apply these concepts to other parts of our life. Reminding ourselves that our brain would try to keep us psychologically balanced, in Homeostasis, it is reasonable to assume that we are ignoring, denying or giving excuses to some unsolved problems in our life.

Ignoring is one of the simplest processes our brain could use to avoid overwhelming data, but more than a sophisticated system, it could be considered a limitation. Like our cardiovascular system cannot supply blood to all organs in full-functioning state at once and must prioritize to not collapse; our nervous system cannot handle all kind of information received from sensory systems and reasoning at the same time, leading to loss of data, including problems to be recognized. Therefore, our cortex uses its own priority system for what we pay attention, what we feel, see, listen, etc., hence the importance of correctly rating problems and related situations.

Denial thinking like: “I don’t need a haircut.” or “I don’t want to learn to dance.” when they do, only piles in the background as unconformity and frustration, that could affect negatively our mood at some point but not being able to recognize what’s causing it. False affirmative statements work the same way: “I want to be a lawyer.” when they really want something different but are following their parent’s desire.

Not every strategy applied to keep us in homeostasis is negative, I like to think most of them are positive, but it is good to be aware that some states that appeared to be in balance, might have a brain modulation that could affect us in the future, sometimes not too far.

This is my proposal: Let’s challenge homeostasis!

Picture a bodybuilder or anyone trying to become better at any sport. They must push themselves to try harder, faster or longer, against what their body-brain suggests with pain, fatigue, and stopping thoughts, to overcome that threshold between static and improvement. Important note: the pain I talk about here is just the mild tender due to lactic acid in muscles when working out, no the pain coming from a damaged structure requiring stopping.

It’s common to see people at economic homeostasis, with a stable balance between earnings and spences for years, with a monotone life and a huge bucket list with few or no checkmarks, until something breaks it. When homeostasis is broken, a problem is recognized an action should be taken, in this example maybe reduce spences or change work aiming for higher earnings, but:

Why not breaking homeostasis by ourselves? Why waiting for a crisis? How to safely break it?

I hope to hear some ideas or different points of view about this topic in the comments. In part two we’ll bring some insights aiming to answer the last three questions. For now, let’s identify the problem and brainstorm together for solutions.

Peace and Love, by d.

2 Responses

  1. Kahbaj says:

    Good point, easier to propose than doing. Waiting for your feed back about how to actually do it. Think about it, it’s like pushing yourself towards the pain.

  2. RJ says:

    I don’t know if this counts, but I didn’t sleep yesterday at all working on a project I was very interested about. I think that had unbalanced my routines homeostasis😅, and I’m soooo tired 😴

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