Every test in life can make us better or bitter, every problem can make us or break us. The choice is ours whether we become victor or victim!
Think about a lobster. It is a mushy animal that lives inside a solid shell. That rigid shell doesn’t expand. So, how does the lobster grow? As the lobster grows, it feels under pressure of its shell. It goes under a rock to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off its shell and produces another bigger one. Eventually, that shell becomes uncomfortable and, again, it goes through the same process.
The stimulus for the lobster to grow is that it feels uncomfortable. Times of stress are also signals for growth. A tough ride shouldn’t be viewed as adversity, rather as an opportunity to renew, revitalize, and strengthen oneself.
On a collective level, terrifying events piled up on each other in 2016: terror attacks, Zika virus, Brexit (in the UK), police shootings, Syria, the US elections, record-hot temperatures, the losses of Prince, David Bowie, and George Michael. On an individual level, many people lost loved ones, their jobs, and their peace of mind.
But, not all was bad in 2016. The high school graduation rate in the US is at its highest. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in 10 years. There’s finally peace in Colombia. And researchers found new genes that may help cure ALS (thanks ice bucket challenge), among many other pieces of good news.
So, was 2016 the worst year ever to become pregnant?
The decision is yours!
Understanding our brain to be victorious
Put your hand on the back of your head. This is where our “reptilian brain” resides. Fully functional at six months in utero, it is responsible for satisfying our physical needs, such as food, touch, stimulation, and material comforts. When our reptilian brain dominates, we cannot bear discomfort or deprivation and insist on getting our desires satisfied now, at all costs, even if it means hurting others or indulging in addictive substances or behaviors.
Hold your hands over your ears. Between the two hands, embedded in mid-brain, is a plum-sized mechanism known as the limbic system. It is responsible for getting our emotional needs satisfied, i.e. to feel loved, validated, understood, and important. By the age of five, our basic emotional patterns are firmly in place, telling us whether we are lovable or unworthy, capable or incompetent, and whether we can trust people or must be fearful of contact. If we were criticized and disciplined severely in childhood, we became “addicted” to negative mood states, such as anxiety, jealousy, sadness, or anger. The limbic system is loyal to childhood beliefs. Some are good, such as “brush teeth after meals” and some are destructive like “I need constant attention and praise.”
Together, the reptilian brain and the limbic system make up the lower brain. In this realm, there is no free will –only automatic, instinctive responses based on genetic destiny and socio-cultural conditioning. This is where children –and many adults- spend most of their thinking time. Thankfully, we also have another area of the brain called the cortex.
Put your hand on your forehead. This is where the cortex, our executive center, is located. It is our choice center, which allows us to liberate ourselves from the primitive responses of the lower brain. While the lower brain develops on its own, it takes discipline to develop the cortex. A disciplined mind allows us to respond with logic, delay gratification, anticipate the consequences of our behavior, focus on long-range goals and empowers us to bring positivity to the world.
The cortex does not reach maximum cellular growth until age twenty. Thus, the lower brain has a huge head start and has determined most of our habits and beliefs long before we had any choice in the matter. This is why our addictions and prejudices persist so tenaciously despite our efforts to free ourselves from their grip.
Thus, the brain is in a war zone, with different voices fighting for dominance.
You have room to grow. And, like the lobster, if the room is too tight, you can get rid of it and create a larger one.
You are pregnant. Your baby needs space to grow. And whenever that space is no longer large enough, he or she will be born.
You bring life to the world. And with every new life, there is hope for a better future.
You are not the victim of the world, but rather the master of your own destiny. It is your choices and decisions that determine your destiny. Be a victor!