Before she finished her sentence, I could feel the tears start to burn my eyes and my throat began to tighten. I considered pulling off to the side of the road to spill out what would have been a life changing cry, but I was in tremendous pain from the burns I had on my face and shoulder and didn’t want to stop.
“This endless pacing or rocking or self-mutilation—“motor rituals,” as they are known—is of a piece with all the wondrous variations of obsessive-compulsive disorder… And indeed, it is: a defense against the burning torment of anxiety.”
The sentence shot straight into my chest from my truck’s speakers as I was driving down the dusty I-5 through central California.
I was listening to Melissa Holbrook Pierson, “The Secret History of Kindness: Learning from How Dogs Learn,” Audio book.
She was describing why the carnivores in a zoo pace back and forth and engage in self mutilation.
“Zoochosis,” I’ve since learned, is what they call this strange act of zoo animals, particularly carnivores, hurting themselves out of boredom and frustration.
Though she was talking about a polar bear, my mind was translating it just for me. I heard what I needed to hear to change my life, my business and the way I’d approach human performance forever.
Trapped In A Zoo Enclosure - No I Mean Office - No I Meant Zoo Enclosure
Eric. The reason you get anxious— work too much, drink, obsess, fight with your wife, is because you’re bored and frustrated. You’ve allowed yourself to get trapped in your own zoo enclosure and it’s killing you.
Having now been deeply engaged in the art and science of human performance since 2001, when I became a SEAL sniper instructor, I’ve made it my business to observe what enables and what stops an ambitious person's ability to perform.
I can share with you that performance breakdowns are often not caused or cured at the site of the breakdown, but resolved at some deeper, often hidden, area of concern.
Like the captured lion pacing back and forth in the Zoo’s version of a cubicle, in today’s modern world I find myself experiencing the same horror.
I, like the lion, am the product of thousands of years of being bred to fight, hunt, and explore the limitless terrain of this planet in search of food and resources.
Trapped in my home, office, on my computer, phone, or a mall I’ll turn to excessive spending, eating, drinking, prescription drugs, T.V watching, social media, internet surfing, you name it. They’re all inadequate substitutes for the real thing as proven by my collective state of mental and physical health when I solely rely upon them.
Soothing Habits Of Harm
You’ll notice that each harmful coping habit has something to do with escaping. Or better said getting out.
They’re all tiny pipelines to the adventure but none are large enough to squeeze my human soul through. They're the things we do to feel better in the moment, but snowball into feeling worst in the moments to come. An overstuffed belly, a hangover or another wasted evening.
I've come to learn that my wellness and ability to perform is in direct portion to my ability to live the life which I was designed to live.
I’ve tried to fight it, and have watched others try to deny it in an effort to escape the burden of taking time to live a healthy, fit, and adventurous lifestyle and I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t work. I’m done with that.
When a man acts strangely and eventually hurts himself out of boredom and frustration, we label it alcoholism, attention deficit disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, or anxiety. For me I've come to believe all of those things are merely symptoms of "Human Zoochosis". You know... that thing we do when we hurt ourselves with short term soothing habits.
Man, like the caged Polar bear, was not built to sit on his ass all day. I don't care how many peanuts are getting chucked at us by the onlookers.
Our modern environment, and the bad habits we form to deal with it, not only limit our ability to perform in other domains, to include intellectual, but, if left unchecked can kill us.
Habits of Heroes:
There’s nearly an endless list of activities that we humans have invented to care for the warrior within us. You’d likely recognize them as things like soccer, football, tennis, baseball, bike riding, hiking, and the likes.
All potent in their own right, part of the equation, but still not the real thing.
As our culture moves further away from our hunting, fighting, and exploring roots so too will our practices and understanding of how to care for that which dwells within us. We need access to people who have and will keep the "Old Ways" alive, well and accessible.
Luckily, in this computer driven sit-on-our-ass world, there are still those who’ve kept our natural state of well-being alive. Real modern day warriors, those whose job has allowed them to remain engaged in fighting, hunting and exploration, have been spared the fate of the masses.
The way they eat, sleep, workout, and live their lives is still driven by man’s natural state of being. Their habits remain true to who they are and have become a light for the rest of us to follow.
Through the many stories of these men and women, I’ll be embarking on journey which will take us deep into the personal and professional lives of these heroes. Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Green Berets, SWAT Teams and rescue units. I'm going to work to extract and share the habits that keep them safe, happy and healthy and demonstrate how we can do the same in our own lives.
Follow me and this series to awaken the hunter, fighter, and explorer inside of you.
- What bad habits have you picked up in an effort to temporarily sooth your inner warrior?
- What hero habits have you adopted and how have they helped you?