Defcon 1

After a steady diet of CSI shows and Netflix, most of us know how to set up a bad guy for interrogation: sleep deprivation, isolation, poor diet, bright lights, overstimulation and noise. Then at the beginning of questioning, fill them with fear. Sound familiar?

This is the American lifestyle (my past lifestyle that I am trying hard to change) – sleep deprivation, loneliness, inadequate nutrition, constant exposure to blue light and information from our e-devices, and noise. We are primed and ready, so when the political party of our choice bombards us with tales of terror from the other side, we fold – or more likely explode.

Our lifestyle puts our brain in continuous fight or flight mode, flooded with cortisol. Twitter, Facebook, CNN, and Fox News all lead us to believe we walk out our door in constant danger. Is it any wonder that we feel like we live our entire lives at Defcon 1? We no longer debate, banter or agree to disagree. We instantly scream, curse, hate and burn anything we consider a threat.

Our friends and family who we believe have gone to the dark side are not possessed by evil. They are in fight mode. They are primed by our fast-paced lifestyle and then triggered by the constant assault of information and fear, and they are reacting like any normal human does when filled with cortisol and adrenaline.

Maybe if we can step back and understand the mechanics at work, we can remember that people are not their political party. Most people don’t even fully understand their political party. They only know what has been fed to them by their information faucet of choice, and those sources of information keep them on the hook by reinforcing their fear with every “news” segment.

Stress hormones can be addictive like any other substance. They give us a temporary high and power to overcome dangerous situations. Most of us are probably walking around with cortisol levels far higher than what is healthy. Some of the signs of this? Moodiness, overall fatigue, addiction to coffee, drinking too much alcohol, brain fog (high cortisol shrinks the hippocampus, the part of your brain where you consolidate memory and regulate your emotions), and extra weight around our midsection due to chronically elevated blood sugar levels (so that we can be constantly ready to flood our cells with energy in case of attack).

Most of us need to be actively pursuing lifestyle changes to lower stress hormone levels and break our addiction to the cortisol/adrenaline high, but I’ll save that for another post. The point I wanted to make today is that we need to extend GRACE to each other through understanding. We are not our true selves!

If we understand that our friends and family who have “gone to the dark side” (the dear readers of my blog fall just about equally on both sides!) are set up to be easily triggered, we can see them as more than their politics. If I understand that I am set up to be easily triggered, I can remember to take a deep breath before responding or take the social media apps off my phone.

One side or the other will “win” the election in a couple months. Only one person will be elected president in 2020. We all lose if we let hate rule our hearts and stop seeing each other as fellow human beings.

The power of the people is being decimated by hate and fear, but it can be restored by love and grace. Pollyanna! I know… but I do believe that it’s not too late. We can change our filters, then our minds, and finally our hearts – one family, one friend group, one neighborhood at a time.