THE ISLAND SYNDROME
Part 1: Understanding the Island Syndrome
(August 12, 2010)
Like anyone else who wants to be healthy, Dave must understand and work with three important systems. First, he must come to terms with the powerful, dehumanizing technology and social customs that influence so much of his life: email, text messaging, smartphones, video games, television, and so on.
Second, he must learn to work within the systems formed by the vast array of complex, computerized tools that run so many of our enterprises (including the company where Dave works). As we all know, although these computer systems are created by people, they can often be impersonal, dehumanizing, and frustrating.
So far, this all make sense. However, there is third system Dave must understand if he is to feel comfortable and fulfilled from day to day. Although Dave doesn't realize it, he is laboring under a serious limitation and, until it is addressed successfully, the chances of him becoming completely healthy are remote.
To approach the underlying problem, let us observe that there are many people at Dave's company who work under similar circumstances. To some extent, all of them are prey to the Island Syndrome. However, many of them do not suffer as much as Dave. Why is this the case? Or to ask the question more generally, why don't the unnatural demands placed on us by modern life affect everyone equally?
The answer is that our thoughts, feelings, and motivations are, in some way, created by the cells within our brains. All other factors aside, Dave's life will never work well until his brain cells are working well. Such a statement seems obvious and yet, it has powerful implications that are often unrecognized or ignored.
To a large degree, our mental health depends on the chemicals within our brains, the most important of which are the "neurotransmitters". Although it would be simplistic to think that healthy brain cells and ample neurotransmitters are all we need for a perfect life, the converse is certainly true: unless our brain cells and neurotransmitters are working well, we cannot thrive.
Much more than we would like to admit, the ease with which we respond to the demands of daily life greatly depend upon the health of our brain cells.
As such, one of the most important responsibilities Dave has to himself is to make sure his body has the raw materials it needs to do a good job. For example, if Dave's brain is to function well, it must be provided with a large variety of nutrients, including carbohydrates (sugars), proteins (amino acids), vitamins, minerals, adequate water, as well as certain types of fats (such as the well-known omega-3 fatty acids).
This is true for all of us. Much more than we would like to admit, the ease with which we respond to the demands of daily life greatly depend upon the health of our brain cells. For that reason, as odd as it may seem, if we want to fully appreciate the Island Syndrome and what it does to people, we must have, at least, a rudimentary understanding of neurotransmitters and the nutrients we need to produce them.
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