Saturday, October 21, 2006

How you can shorten your life and have a painful old age

"You lose a lot of time hating people.
- Marian Anderson, ground-breaking African-American singer (1897–1993)

I'm going to go so far as to say that you lose a certain amount of your life, even by holding grudges. Let's walk through this thought process together.

First of all, in most cases hate is a one-sided affair. Emotional energy is expended by one person, with no possible gain, while the other (hated) party usually knows little and cares nothing about it.

In some cases, hatred is an active affair between two people who actually care a great deal about each other. This can be between brothers, other family members or (former) friends, for examples. Active hatred is a form of commitment to the other, though one to remain forever unrequited so that the hatred can be reformed into love.

Racial hatred (the term has survived enough to still be used though humans have no DNA differences that distinguish one so-called race from another) is a sign of fear. Those who hate "others" because of their differences harbour insecurities that can only be relieved through aggression or removed through intensive psychological reprogramming.

In order for hate to thrive in a body, the person must emit a fairly constant supply of epinephrine, a secretion of the adrenal glands, better known as Adrenaline. This is the same chemical that is produced to create our "fight or flight" response to stimuli that we perceive to be risky.

In other words, a hateful person is always "on guard," if not in fear. What for most of us would be a normal degree of caution as we move through our lives is intensified for the hater.

The opposite chemical to epinephrine (if they can be said to have opposites) would be dopamine, the feel-good chemical that helps to give us good sleep and that calms and soothes us when we are awake. Epinephrine and dopamine are never secreted together, as this would create a chemical conflict, which would result in chaos in the brain.

A hateful person--fuelled by epinephrine--will not sleep or even rest well, a consequence of which would be sleep deprivation, which has its own peculiar effects on behaviour (none of which are good and most are socially unacceptable). In the absence of dopamine, periods of happiness or satisfaction with life with be few or non-existent for the hater.

This one-sidedness of chemical production has the effect of having the body running full blast all the time. This means aging at a rate faster than normal. Faster aging means earlier cell breakdown (and cell suicide), shortening of DNA strands (with uncertain results) as cells divide (they normally shorten as we age) and likely an earlier death for the hateful person than for the average person who does not bear hate.

Holding a grudge is a milder form of the same emotion as hate. It has the same effect on the body, though likely to a lesser degree. Grudge-holding is always one-sided, so the other party seldom suffers at all.

The human body has incredibly strong resiliency. It can suffer abuse of many kinds and still carry on. However, what most people seem to be unaware of is that abuses of our body earlier in life tend to have a great impact 20, 30 or even 40 years later. By that time, most people have changed their harmful behaviour and have no idea why their health is causing them so much grief.

In short, hate and grudge-holding could make the Golden Years of life into years of pain and sorrow. By then, the former hater or grudge-holder will have forgotten the abuse of their own body years earlier and simply believe that their bad health is a matter of bad luck.

This is not to say that every senior with poor health once abused their body with hate or grudge-holding. That would be the reverse of the process I have described, and would be illogical and unsupportable. But...some.

It has wisely been said that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is forgiveness. Now you know it may lengthen your life or give you better health in your old age.

Besides, why expend emotional energy on someone who cares nothing for you?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to help people find better health through healthier thinking.
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