Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Why Do We Have Sleep Problems?

Why do some of us have trouble with sleep?

Because we are afraid to die.

It's goes back a long time and is one of our most practical fears rooted in our evolution. We don't understand this unless we look for clues under the surface of language and who we think we are, and how we misunderstand images about ourselves.

 We can answer part of this issue by looking at one particular word we use about sleep. "Falling asleep". There you have it. Problems with sleep are deeply rooted in a fear of falling. You know that old stereotype drawing of the "march of man"? That figure is an urban myth and totally bad science. We didn't separate from our other primate cousins as knuckle-draggers. We actually, like many primates, lived in trees.

"The march of progress is the canonical representation of evolution – the one picture immediately grasped and viscerally understood by all.... The straitjacket of linear advance goes beyond iconography to the definition of evolution: the word itself becomes a synonym for progress.... [But] life is a copiously branching bush, continually pruned by the grim reaper of extinction, not a ladder of predictable progress." Stephen Jay Gould


We use the word "falling" for a couple of metaphors in our life. Often, people who have trouble falling asleep also have trouble falling in love. The reason we use the word falling for both sleep and love is because there is a physiological connection between the two. We need to "let go" when we fall asleep or when we fall in love. We let go of the day and an awake alertness in order to fall asleep. And we let go of our own self-invested interests when we fall in love. Both of these acts of "letting go" can be disrupted when we feel threatened or stressed. The reason for this is because we used to live in trees. It is our physical fear of falling and either breaking an arm, or dying from a fall, or being attacked by a predator that we have a fear of falling.

In some societies, especially capitalist societies, the definition of freedom and success is deeply associated with the individual and the ego. In North America we find that personal philosophies and lifestyles support the individual rather than the group. So falling in love can be very threatening to people. In order to maintain a capitalistic lifestyle and philosophy demands a lot of personal motivation to succeed. 

The fear of falling asleep and falling in love also relate to a "fear of commitment". Just the word commitment is associated with mental illness (committed to an asylum/hospital) and surrender is related to commitment in that letting go is giving in to something/someone else. When we have a strongly ego-based,  individual-based culture sleep is compromised for many because it is against our primate nature to live as an individual outside a community....even metaphorically. 

If we don't recognize the connection between our ego and "letting go" and combined with our family dynamic and how our families define freedom, love, letting go, and success....we may experience a dis-connect between sleep and love.

Our unconscious unresolved issues from childhood can manifest in cleverly disguised devices. Like being in relationships with commitment-phobe partners, or married people, or long-distant relationships. or excessive traveling for work, or drinking heavily, or substance abuse, over-eating, gaming, and many others activities that become dangerous if done too much.

The fear of falling is from a million years ago in our past, manifests unhealthily with unresolved connections. Fear of falling is ultimately a fear of death. Living in a  conspicuous consumption, capitalistic, patriarchal culture triggers "falling fears". This sort of economic dysfunction triggers our unconscious fear of death (falling).

North American society triggers a fear of falling because attempting to maintain and achieve the lifestyle demands a disconnect from community.

Primates are made to live and  thrive when they spend time with each other, sharing food, sharing resources, sharing stories and images. When we have an economy that creates hierarchy and divide among individuals with extreme internal competition an unbalanced fear of death will manifest via fear of falling in love and asleep.

Now that we know this...what do we do about it? We need to find things in our life that not only reveal the history of the words we use, but also the patterns of our ego. Threatening our sense of individualness and our ego also triggers a fear of falling and love. So we need to find a way to challenge our sense of reality without scaring our selves yet...the ego must be challenged in order to lower it's power of controlling our thoughts. The ego is in cahoots with social structures in North America. How do we shake loose from this control system? Well, talking about it helps. So does exercise, meditation, volunteer work and spending time with loved ones, and studying things about our own minds and lives that are tricking us into letting a fear of death hold us back from living as a sharing cooperating community.



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