How do our bodies compensate for less-than-optimal, even traumatic, life experiences?

At this point in the course, you have completed FOUR readings:
• “Love 2.0” by Barbara Fredrickson
• “The Mind’s Eye” by Oliver Sacks
• “Immune To Reality” by Daniel Gilbert
• And… most recently… “When I Woke Up Tuesday Morning, It Was Friday” by Martha Stout
Take a moment to consider what these texts have in common…
Fredrickson shares a new, scientific perspective on love — what she calls love 2.0 — based on interactions between the brain, the hormone oxytocin, and the Vagus nerve. She spends the latter portion of her essay describing the potentially positive ramifications of embracing this new understanding — through “positivity resonance.” As we discussed in class and online, there is “fairytale” love, and there is “brain” love.
Sacks unpacks several cases in which individuals who went blind later in their lives ultimately developed diverse means for coping with their blindness. He raises questions about the extent to which we are “the authors, the creators, of our own experiences… How much are these predetermined by the brains or senses we are born with, and to what extent do we shape our brains through experience?” In some of our conversations, we discussed the brain’s way of finding potential “upsides” when experiencing trauma.
Gilbert discusses the complex, often counter-intuitive manner by which individuals come to understand and cope with challenges in their lives. He describes the “psychological immune system” — how it is triggered, how it influences our perceptions, and how a deeper understanding of its mechanics might enable us to increase our happiness. Hopefully, you’re itching to make connections between Gilbert and Stout… there are many.
Stout writes about the brain’s power to divide consciousness — the blessing and curse of “dissociating” when faced with trauma, and in turn, the potential long-term repercussions associated with that dissociation.
The ideas across each of these texts shed light on the interplay between brain, body, and mind.
How do our bodies compensate for less-than-optimal, even traumatic, life experiences? Are these “systems” only activated and significant under negative or traumatic circumstances, or do they have implications for how we might enhance the overall quality of our lives?
*You must place THREE authors into conversation in this essay — and one of those authors must be Martha Stout.

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