• Sim

Lobster Vibes




In 12 rules rules for life Jordan Peterson highlights the neurochemical balance in lobsters and how that pertains to the hierarchy. When a lobster lost a conflict (and possibly got injured) their neurochemical balance dipped because of the drop in serotonin and consequently they drop in hierarchy. Which reflects in their confidence to be involved in future conflict. Why that was brought up in the book, and why I think it's fascinating, is that the nervous system (reptilian/brainstem) in humans reacts in a very similar way when it comes to hormone regulation and status. It's just as interesting to be able to back up something similar with my own anecdotal experience.

Not long after I got injured I was involved in a verbal altercation where a particularly verbally aggressive person made some threats. The instance on it's own was not what stressed me out the most. What unhinged me was my understanding that if it came to a physical conflict I'd be basically useless against a much stronger and uninjured opponent. I would physically be unable to do much fighting back when just moving around was already very painful. The injury had already pushed my nervous system to a red line with the severity of the injury and the pain. That confrontation on top was the drop in the stress bucket that sent my nervous system in complete overdrive. My confidence tanked.

My place in the hierarchy would probably have remained the same if I was working in an office, but in a workplace and social environment based on physical requirements: down the ladder you go. My strength was nullified, which took a part of my confidence with it, down-regulating my mood. My fighting prowess was equally nullified, which took another part of my confidence and really put a dent in my psyche. There wasn't all that much left of hormonal balance before that altercation kicked the bucket down the abyss. That's a struggle that is hardly ever mentioned nor emphasized when a person who's identity is intertwined with their abilities has a severe injury.

It felt like stripping the coating of copper wires: being exposed, vulnerable and wide open to the volatility of the world. My reflexes in my left arm were completely cut off, the neurological connection to muscles in my shoulder were rudimentary at best. My left arm could perform only the most basic tasks that didn't involve gripping or holding anything, even opening doors was impossible. It's not hard to understand that if something did happen, I wouldn't be able to do much. Which was a thought that went through my head daily. Hyper-vigilance is a mechanism that is activated in periods of extreme duress, which this period was. So every day I wondered: what if this happens? What if that happens? Then I can't do A, or I can't do B. For over more than half a year it was a daily mental struggle to fight specters of fear, panic and inability. A deep psychological wound, because what I built myself on and had pride in was cut away. You don't feel particularly manly or even useful /valuable when you're outperformed by every member of the age pyramid. It forces you to think and be confronted with many thoughts and feelings that otherwise would've been stayed in the background. Such as the topic of self-identity.


In that same vein it was a transformative experience on many levels, even when the tail of this injury is long. There is a very clear link between genuine confidence stemming from real capability. It was an exercise in practicing serenity (as the Stoics would see it) in dealing with that injury physically and mentally. An exercise in acceptance and perseverance. More importantly it forced me in detachment from things I was so attached to that I was blind to their flaws and blind to other things in the wider world. We hardly ever see anything for what it is when we're in the middle of it. I kept reminding myself in the worst and most painful period that something good will come out of this injury. Plenty of good things have come out of this injury. Perhaps that's a self-fulling prophecy thanks to some Stoic intervention, but still. In broad strokes the injury has put me on a path to a much deeper understanding of being and the complex systems of the organism. It has also given me the chance to hone in on what I want for myself now and in the future.

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