The Right Amount of Stress

Some stress is good for you, but there's no uniform right amount that works for everyone.

Your Mind Does Not Care What Your Brain Thinks

Because your brain is a snack and your mind is a meal
Billi Gordon, Ph.D.
This post is a response to The Fatter the Body, the Hungrier the Brain by Billi Gordon, Ph.D.

The brain is most often associated with the mind, but they are not the same. The brain is part of the body. The mind is part of the transcendent world of wisdom and thought. Although the brain is the organ most associated with consciousness, the brain does not completely contain the mind. The mind’s intelligence permeates every human cell, extending into the environment and carrying with it the wisdom of the ancients, social journey and kinship. The brain only connects the body; the mind connects all things. Pain communicates with the brain; suffering speaks to the mind.

Imagine the human brain as General Motors. Regulating stress and maintaining balance would be GM’s mission statement. The cortex, or new thinking part of the brain, would be GM’s corporate headquarters. Downriver, Detroit’s rusty factories would be the old mammal brain. Your actions would be the vehicles rolling off the various assembly lines.

The thalamus, which serves as the brain’s clearinghouse for sensory information, would be Detroit Harbor Terminal (DHT) where the raw materials arrive by frieight train; the raw materials would be the incoming stimuli from vision, hearing, taste and touch. Smell, unlike the other senses does not go through the thalamus, so it would be like a barge that goes directly to its destination. The operational mechanism of the thalamus dispenses the sensory information to the appropriate brain regions for processing, like DHT dispatching containers of raw materials to Zug Island or River Rouge.

This sorted sensory information then travels back from the various brain regions to the hippocampus and amygdala, which are like GM’s Central Foundry. The hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory, then compares this information from the outside world with its perception of how the world should be, like quality control checking the numbers to make sure it meets “Dee-troit steel” standards. The hippocampus reports problems to the amygdala, which sends and receives information from every part of the brain and body, like the company troubleshooter who has every GM division on speed dial.

Signaling From The Body

Think of the blood stream as freeways and hormones (which are informational substances released by endocrine glands into the blood stream) as trucking companies carrying things from one plant to another. For example, taking housings from GM Central Foundry to GM River Street for heat-treat, and from there to GM Truck and Tank for assembly.



Neurotransmitters, which are chemical releases that signal between nerve cells, are more like forklifts moving pallets around Cadillac Yard, or emails between members of corporate. Like trucking and inter-company communication affect GM’s operations, hormones and neurotransmitters affect interoceptive awareness (how you feel what you feel), which determines why, and dictates how, you do what you do. 

The Problem With Stress

Any intrusion on the homeostasis or balance of the organism is stress. So not all stress is distress, but all distress is stress. Thus, anything that impedes on the maximum production and sales of the GM workforce would be stress in this analogy. That would include the work itself, vacations, economic variables etc. Sidebar note: Because not all stress is distress people that seemingly have “easy lives,” because of money or looks incur as much stress as every one else. They just incur a different type of stress. To the brain, stress is stress.   

The factory workforce and UAW and the Teamsters are like your body’s protective mechanisms. When the workers are over-worked, they become ineffective and if it escalates to an intolerable level the unions strike. This is how increases in blood pressure and serum glucose levels that prepare us for the eventuality of fight-or-flight become hypertension, cardiac disease and diabetes. As these conditions persist, they disrupt the quality of life the same way a long strike disrupts GM’s business and threaten its solvency.     

To describe the influence of mind over brain, picture the GM boardroom. The executives gather to direct corporate strategy. They are men and women of various ethnicities, ages, educational backgrounds, sexual orientations, and marital statues. Some are there because of hard work, others are lucky sperm flow kids, and some are just lucky. Some of them hate men others hate women; some hate ethnic minorities and gays, some hate themselves. Comprehensively all of the external factors that each person brings to the table i.e. where they come from, what is going on in their life at the moment, how they treat others in the room, and how others treat them effects the global functionality of the GM Board. In essence, every unforeseen intangible variable the people in the boardroom collectively bring to that table is the mind. The way domestic and other distractions affect their work is how the mind affects the brain.  

Dopamine, release from the Ventral tegmental area VTA into the reward center of the brain, which measures life satisfaction, is comparable to GM’s executive memo measuring corporate performance. This memo should reflect the corporate mission of William Durant and Charles Mott (GM ‘s founders), which was to make the best motorcar and provide fair employment for all, which was the distinguishing difference between Ford and GM, originally.  However, that was 1908 this is 2014 and GM, like everybody else, measures success by monetary gain. 

The former is the mind and the latter is brain. The mind is a global economy and the brain is just a bunch of factories doing business with each other. The brain is about getting the dopamine, and because it does not have the panoramic vision of the mind, it makes mistakes like eating compulsively, doing narcotics, getting sucked into Internet pornados, hatred, violence and other self destructive scenarios. Without consulting the mind, the brain cannot understand that you can never get enough of something that is almost satisfying. Simply working for pay is not satisfying enough for you, or anybody, no matter what your brain tells you, your mind knows better.  

If you are not making this world kinder and more salubrious, you are not satisfying your mind. If you are separating your self from everybody else, you are not getting enough. Overfeeding your brain will not prevent your mind from starving. Satisfy your mind and your brain will be happy. We cannot separate ourselves from each other, the animals, the plants or the planet. The mind connects all of us to every thing. As counterintuitive as it is, we have to love everybody and accept all things, even those things that must change, and those people that are truly hard to love. The harder it is to love something, the more we have to love it because giving and receiving love is neurotransmission in the mind. It is like GM making a car that a mother or father uses to drive his or her child to their first day of school. Then eleven years later, that child drives that same car on his or her first date. Remain fabulous and phenomenal!

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The Right Amount of Stress