In this episode, we have a guest speaker, Frank Forencich. We talked about the relationship between man and nature and the importance of managing and mitigating stress, depression, anxiety, and the historical timeline from where we started to where we...
See show notes at: https://www.thinkunbrokenpodcast.com/e142-stress-with-frank-forencich-cptsd-and-trauma-healing-podcast/#show-notes
In this episode, we have a guest speaker, Frank Forencich. We talked about the relationship between man and nature and the importance of managing and mitigating stress, depression, anxiety, and the historical timeline from where we started to where we are now.
What are the signs and symptoms to know stress is starting to get to you right now?
Frank Forencich is a movement teacher and author of several books about health and the human predicament. He graduated from Stanford University in 1979 with a Bachelor's degree in human biology, leading to a passionate interest in human history, including several trips to Africa. Frank holds black belt rank in both karate and aikido and has presented at numerous venues, including Google, the Ancestral Health Symposium, the Dr. Robert Conn Heart Conference, and the Stanford University Institute of Design.
Let’s come and join us! As we dive into this episode and Frank will give you a tremendous amount of value today!
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Hey! What's up, Unbroken Nation! Hope that you're doing well, wherever you are in the world today. Super excited to be joined by my guest today, Frank Forencich, who is a Stanford University degree holder, who is a teacher, who's written several books on health and the human predicament, which I am fascinated by. Frank, how are you, my friend? What is going on in your world today?
Frank: I'm doing great and I'm just delighted to be here. So, let's dig in.
Michael: Let's do it, brother. I'm really excited. We’re going to go into a lot of depth today but before we do, can you tell the audience, some listeners, a little bit about your background? So they have a little bit of context about who you are in your human experience.
Frank: Right. Well, I've been I have a pretty diverse background, but going back to the early days. I was a pretty sick little kid, I had a lot of various allergies and digestive problems that kind of thing and that only went away when I got involved in swimming and water polo and then later, and martial arts, and everything turned around for me. And my body got strong, and I became really excited about all kinds of training. And, of course, the martial arts and then rock climbing, and I became kind of an evangelist for that kind of thing. And I look deeper and deeper into health, I had a professor Stanford, who said if you really want to understand the body and appreciate the body, you really have to go to Africa. And so I took him up on his idea and I actually went there a few times to study the ancestral environment and to think about what it would have been like to be a prehistoric human.
And then I got involved in other practices, I went to massage school and so I've kind of done the grand tour of various health practices and then I started writing so that brings me to where we are today.
Michael: That's phenomenal. And, you know, I think what's really interesting is a lot of time, you'll hear a teacher, you'll hear a mentor say this thing about opening up the expanse that you have for knowledge for wealth, for learning, and we just let it go by but there was something that it’s obviously hit you pretty hard real like – you know, I'm actually gonna go to Africa. Then you have the create this historical context, you can start learning about time and I know you talked about this idea about this mismatch and what is historical, normal and abnormal. Can you dive into that?
Frank: Yeah, and this is just fascinating to me. Well, I always start with a big history. So if you don't know your history, you don't know who you are and I go to big history, especially big human history and the numbers tell a big story here. So homosapiens 300,000 years of history and if you include our hominid ancestors, then the numbers become even larger and you might go all the way to five or six million years of history there compared to only a few hundred or a few thousand years of the modern world and that proportion, really tells a story. And if you look at history, it turns out that our identity, our status quo as an animal, we are hunter-gatherers, there's no avoiding that conclusion, we are hunter-gatherers and we've spent most of our time on this planet as hunter-gatherers and then all of a sudden bang! In just an instant now we have to live in this modern world what some people call an alien environment and that is a mismatch. Because we've got this legacy programming these, aboriginal bodies that are programmed, to succeed, to thrive in wild outdoor natural environments. Suddenly having to attempt to live in an environment that's completely different and there's a lot to be said about that and a lot of life lessons there too. So that's why I find it so fascinating.
Michael: When you dive in and let's create a little bit more context here because I know for certain there are people who are just not going to have any understanding about what you just said. And so that's to be fair because honestly, I'm even lost a little bit myself. When you speak about, aboriginal people, when you speak about like the beginning of time and context and I wasn't being meant to be the species whose outside, can you keep breaking that down a little bit more just in terms of, I guess the historical timeline from where we started to where we are now.
Frank: Right. Well, if you go back three hundred thousand years, you've got Homo sapiens, you've got people who are genetically and physically identical to people who are living now. And these people had big brands, they were highly intelligent, highly creative and they succeeded living in these wild outdoor environments and that helps. Oh, and they were illiterate as well. I mean, they didn't have books, they didn't traffic in, abstract symbols, but they succeeded and they had culture, they had a way of seeing the world to sustain them for 290 thousand years until the dawn of Agriculture and that's when everything changed. So with the dawn of Agriculture, we had a brand new relationship to habitat and a brand-new relationship with one another and that's what's been so incredibly challenging.
The thing that we need to realize is that evolution sculpts us in very specific ways to live in the world and every cell in the human body is the way it is because of that experience in prehistory. So we are made for that world and now we're trying to live in a completely different world.
Michael: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense and that's why I think you're here. So often about this relationship between man and nature and the importance in that and managing and mitigating stress, depression, anxiety, all those things, you know, and looking at this and consideration of this mismatch that were now living in these forest bathing animals now, being in concrete jungles, what are the consequences of that?
Frank: Right. Well, we have a whole cluster of consequences and the most obvious one is now that we're exposed to chronic stress versus what we had in prehistory, which was in general, episodic stress, and that's the way the body works best is that you have this autonomic nervous system, that scans the world for threats and maybe you encounter a predator, maybe you have some this highly stressful and you survive it, you go back to camp and you rest for a few days in a low-stress set in and nervous system resets itself and then you go back out hunting and gathering again.
So that episodic stress is a normal pattern for humans and non-human animals, but now in the modern world, we have a completely different set in and stress tends to be chronic for people and the autonomic nervous system now is working overtime to compensate for that. And as a result, we tend to be hyper-vigilant, we tend to be anxious and ultimately exhausted and depressed. So this cluster of symptoms and afflictions is actually really understandable. When you look at it through the lens of mismatched, it's not at all surprising that people are experiencing these things now, what is surprising is that so many people do manage to adapt to the modern world. And the life lesson here is really clear that if you are experiencing these symptoms, there's really nothing wrong with you and it's to be expected, you take an animal, you take your dog, and put your dog in the garage, for two weeks, he's living in an alien environment, he's going to have behavior problems, he's going to have other kinds of problems, and that's absolutely a normal reaction of a normal animal to an abnormal environment.
So the life lesson here is to give yourself some compassion and give the people around you some compassion as well because we're all fighting the same battle here, we're all trying to integrate into this alien world and some people do better than others.
Michael: Yeah, and that's so fascinating to me because when you think about that and you lay out the context, where now we live in a society where everyone is under a tremendous amount of stress. Like sometimes the only thing I want to do is just disappear from this room, this office, you know, these microphones things of that nature and I find that when I do even recently, taking a very in-depth mental health break, I come back rejuvenated, I comeback likable to show up. One of the things that I'm curious about though, is the kind of markers. How do you know, if you're in this place where you're being impacted with a level of stress, from being in this alien environment, like what are the signs? What are the symptoms to know, wow, stress is really starting to get to me right now?
Frank: Well, I think when you get the really overt signs, is that our clinical where you feel so overwhelmed that you have to seek professional help that's pretty obvious at that level. But you can also look at subtler signs of spirit you might say of the minor afflictions that you might pick up just in your daily life and that is I think sometimes evident in the kind of stories that we tell about who we are and the people around us and you listen to your own language and you could pick up some cues to how you're feeling and what kind of explanations you have about how about yourself and about how the world works and that will tell you a story of the state of your mind and body. So we could be really sensitive to that, you don't have to wait for a full-blown crisis and professional intervention.
Michael: That's interesting and that to me, sounds like little things, right? Just being aware noticing what's happening in your constitution and around you. You know, when you think about the way that people would mitigate stress in the past? Right? Let's go back prior to now, being in this alien state, and in modern society, what were some of the tools that they were using that may actually be adaptable to right now to mitigate stress?
Frank: Right. Well, the primal relationships here are really clear. And I think native people, indigenous people understand this really well, the relationship with the body the relationship with habitat, the relationship with the tribe, and a sense of the meaning of purpose and this is all something that native prehistoric people would do naturally. Go back to camp, hang out with your peers, with your family with your friends, I spent time there paying attention to your body and telling stories. Stories have a profoundly integrating effect. So this is something that I think, native people would do naturally and we forget this, we have dysfunctional relationships, all across the board now, in modern culture. We have dysfunctional relationships with our body, we have dysfunctional relationships with habitat, in fact, most of us have almost no relationship with habitat at all, if you live in an urban environment, you may know nothing about your bioregion at all.
And of course, we have dysfunctional relationships tribe, we are groups or tribes are constantly making up and breaking up changing affiliations all the time. And so it's the challenge is immense and native people – I think all you have to do is really imagine your life in prehistory or here's a great example.
There's a book movie, some years ago, called The Gods Must Be Crazy and this took place in South Africa and the first quarter, the movie highlights, the San Bushmen of the Kalahari Bushmen, and it shows their lifestyle and they note that there's no work. You can you could take care of your daily needs by maybe gathering, maybe hunting for a few hours a day and that's it. And then you spend the rest of your day gossiping and playing and hanging out with your tribe, that's the ultimate stress reliever.
Michael: That's fascinating to me. And I think if you take into consideration my position as being a coach, as being someone who works with people constantly every day, and this, the idea of stress comes up, I would be willing and even daring to say that the number one causes work, right? That's the thing that always comes up, and it feels to me like that almost seems like a problem with our narrative, right? What are your thoughts on that?
Frank: Right. Well, there's the way I see it. There are two levels of stress right now, and one is the personal and the individual, and this is work. This is having too many tasks to perform in any given day, this is individual stress and that obviously is a problem for a lot of people but there's also now this other form of stress, that's more social, it's more widespread, that's more existential and by this, I'm talking about our ecological crisis and the problem of social inequality, these are major systemic stressors that we feel through the collective unconscious. These are things that are surging through society and even if you have an easy work life, you're still going to feel these things to some extent. So we're being challenged on both ends now and even if you get your work-life under control, you're still going to feed the other form of stress too.
Michael: Yeah. It seems to me that when you're measuring that there must be some kind of way that you can take and make meaning of that stress to create a framework for mitigating the long term impact of it because I think and I'd love to know your thoughts on this, we look at stress and now as this marker of almost like I hate to say it but like – success in a weird way.
Frank: Yeah. I'm stressed. Therefore, I'm an important person. Therefore, I'm busy, therefore, I'm important and I don't know where we pick that up, but that's really a toxic idea. Yeah.
Michael: So with that idea and with looking at it from that perspective and knowing that there's almost a societal badge that's placed on our lapel with that. How do you remove that narrative from your nomenclature to be able to move into this place where, you know, also, I think that sometimes we are inviting stress into our life? I'm not sure why we do that, and I'd love to know your thoughts on that.
Frank: Well, first of all, stress has a stimulating effect and it can be exciting. And in that sense, it can be addictive. And what a lot of people fail to realize is that the stress follows the classic inverted, U-shaped curve. So a little bit of stress is beneficial, a little bit of stress sharpens our memory and our cognition, our performance, and a little bit more stress will give you even a bigger payoff and then you hit the tipping point, and now it's no good anymore. You go it past, the tipping point, and then stress becomes toxic and this points to I think a general failure across our whole culture to appreciate the dynamics in systems and the fact that this inverted U-curve shows up all over the place. So that's one thing I would point to.
The other thing is that stress is what gets back to your original point. How we are invited in because we feel like we need to be successful people and we need to be players in this. The Dalai Lama came out with a tweet, just the other day. He says; we don't need more successful people, we having too many successful people, is actually part of the problem. What we need are more changemakers or peacemakers, more artists, more humanitarians, that's what we need, and success as we conventionally define it is actually kind of a problem. So that is a reframe that I find really helpful.
Michael: That's interesting to me because I think about also the measurement of success is self-defined. You know what I look at success in my life as can I go and achieve this insurmountable goal of ending generational trauma in my lifetime. One of the things that I've been able to do with that understanding and the way that I preface it in my life and in terms of the way, I move, whether it be this podcast or coaching, or writing books, or whatever it is. I just simply look at it as a part of the process and I go stress is going to come like – there's no way around it and stress has for a long time and I know that you will agree been a mechanism for survival, but it also can be this mechanism for measuring change. Do you think it's fair that? I want to ask you about this question, the way I think about stress is sometimes I use that as a marker to know whether or not I'm pushing myself in the right direction. Is that unfair?
Frank: Absolutely. Okay, I'm delighted to hear this because what I see out in the popular culture is that we get most of our information about stress from glossy magazines, at the checkout counter at the supermarket. And this is what I call the standard narrative about stress and the standard narrative says, that stress is an individual problem with individual solutions, and not only that, but the objective is to make stress go away. And this is what we see on the cover of these glossy magazines where they're always promised to banish stress from your life to make stress go away, eliminate stress, live a stress-free life and that's actually really easy to do. You could just stop caring, stop it turn on the apathy and you can make your stress go away, but that's not an adaptive response. I think we really need to do is to coexist with the stress and remain functional and true to our meaning and purpose while experiencing the stress. It's a mistake to try and make it go away and that's a paradox here because sometimes it's really unpleasant but I think we need to live with it rather than against it.
And this is a there's a Buddhist Rider out there, Pema Chodron, and she as a book out there called the Wisdom of No Escape and she gets this completely. She said look, it's our attempt to run away from these things that make it worse. So, yeah, just sit down and sit with the stress, it's a marker a lot of times that you're doing the right thing.
Michael: So juxtaposed to that, when you're measuring stress, as a marker for health ailments, right?IE, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, things of this nature that we know can come along with stress. How do you find that balance, right? How do you mitigate the bad stress?
Frank: Right. Well, popular recipe, everybody knows the popular recipe right now and that is to move your body more, get out more, get out in nature and do some cardio, flush those toxic stress hormones out of your system, this is all good. But in general, I think there are two strategies and you might call them YIN and YANG. And the YANG strategy is simply seizing control of whatever it is, that feels out of control. So this is a work based strategy and we all know how to do this, this is making a to-do list, this is working your calendar and making sure that the details are all taken care of doing the work that you need to do to get over the hump and regain a sense of control and predictability, that's the Yang strategy and it's proven to work, it works for all of us. But then there's the YIN strategy and that's the strategy of acceptance and relinquishing the attempt to gain control and this also works. So the messages we get from the meditation community about acceptance and relinquishing the attempt of control that stuff works too.
So it is what I tend to do, I try one and if that doesn't work, I try the other, and sometimes, I'm just oscillating back and forth between those two strategies and that tends to work.
Michael: Is there something about this idea of running from the stress that's primal, that's like – built into us?
Frank: Oh, yeah, and in fact quite literally, I mean that's one possible strategy for success on the grassland is you're being chased by a predator and you run away to be sure that it's a reality and it's a metaphor for how we might do things, but it doesn't work that well on the grassland. It doesn't work that well in daily life in the modern world either. So, I think hanging out with the stresses is probably a good thing for a lot of us to try.
Michael: And I feel like there's a level of, and you can correct me if I'm wrong but there's this level of, I don't know, I look at stresses this point where I mentioned before about this being this measurement for, you know, am I testing myself? Am I putting myself in this right position, but I also look at it as on the counter side, it can become overwhelming, it can become this thing that is just entirely taking over my life, making me succumb to it and I find myself just stopping dead in my tracks. How do you really evaluate the good stress in your life? Are there markers for that?
Frank: Right. Well, that's something that comes with its experience. And if you've done any athletic training, you know what it feels like to be in the sweet spot of stress because you're going into a competition or you going into a high energy training and your lightly stressed and then maybe your coach or the competition increases the stress a little bit and you're just feeling almost euphoric because it's working for you and your whole body feels integrated, all the very systems of your body are participating are orchestrated towards this one goal. And then when you hit the tipping point, it begins to feel different, it feels more laborious, it feels like work and you are trying to avoid it and I think that's what Simone Biles felt when she went to the Olympics, and she was probably being really sensitive to the level of stress that she was experiencing and she felt like she was going over that tipping point and hats off to her because she was sensitive enough to that, to withdraw, and that's kind of a life lesson right there for us, to be sensitive to that.
Michael: And I think also to be okay with it despite social pressures, right? Because you see, we live in such a polarizing society right now, worldly, we're on one side of the coin or the other and there are people who looked at that and said, oh, she's a quitter, she's given up but someone who myself is being in this mental health space, I look at this and go, I would have done the same thing. And I think the big part of it is you do have to be able to, for lack of a better term when it comes to those stress markers, stand up for yourself and say enough is enough.
Frank: Right. And that's paying attention. She was paying attention to her body, their mind-body, or spirit, that the entire package, and just saying, there's too much noise in the system right now, it doesn't feel good, it doesn't feel like excited and I'm gonna honor that. Wow, that's great and what she was able to do, I think it particular, the man had a lot of trouble with because we're expected to be warriors, were expected to push the envelope and just never back down and that can be a really dysfunctional attitude. So good for her.
Michael: And speaking in terms of men in that, and I totally relate to that. Is that like Biological and as well, we're going back to hunter-gatherer days like – that was not even an option or were people more likely to a tune into that, like was there a point in time where you measure the history of this were suddenly you go from men were allowed to if they needed to take care of themselves, to the steak care of the tribe that it then turned into no men must sacrifice themselves at all time, regardless of taking care of the tribe or themselves for the greater good.
Frank: Right. This is just fascinating to me because if you look at our closest ancestors in the primate world, you've got chimpanzees and bonobos and I'm not a primatologist, but I've read enough about these two species to know that their basic characteristics. Chimpanzees tend to be Warriors, you might say they're patriarchal, they're very aggressive and they're very dangerous to humans and to each other sometimes but bonobos on the other hand methimazole, very tribal oriented, and much, more peace, love, and bonobos have been called the hippies of the primate world. And so, the obvious question is, are we Homo sapiens more like chimpanzees or more like bonobos? And this argument has been going on for quite some time but there's a fellow named Steve Taylor who has written a book called the fall and he talks about the Middle East and Northern Africa say 20,000 years ago, as being a kind of a Garden of Eden, not desert-like we see today, it was very lush, lots of plants, animals, good hunting and lots of tribes of humans living there and quite possibly in peaceful harmony. And then somebody started getting aggressive and that operated like a ratchet, the power dynamics tended to escalate between the tribes and this was the evolution of modern warrior culture because the more your tribe is threatened, then the more you increase your defensiveness and people became more like chimpanzees.
So, that's a cartoon, but I think it tells us a lot about, maybe we're actually quite peaceful and peace-loving at the core and maybe we've just been off track for the last few thousand years.
Michael: And we know that stress plays a huge role in the way that we are reactive, right? And with that understanding, and looking at there, to certain extent stress when in play can overtake your entire nervous system and suddenly you're operating through this stress-based response system, right? A lot of that is being in your sympathetic nervous system. And so, when you talk about this idea of mitigating and looking at the YIN and the YANG, and things of that nature, which I think are (A) their super practical and (B) I love that we're talking about it. Are there other ways also in terms of sleep diet, things like that, that we can use to mitigate or even lessen our stress response?
Frank: Right. Well, again, this is part of the standard formula that we see all over the media now, but one thing that I think is really important to do is look at culture and how we've come to stigmatize, sleep, and rest, and that is also incredibly abnormal. If you read books about hunter-gatherer tribes, native people they never did that they never stigmatized rest or sleep, but we do it all the time here and that's a recent thing. It's part of industrial culture, it's part of this push for productivity and this sort of machismo that we have around work now and it's baked into our modern system, but you have to realize and understand that's blatantly abnormal, and that's not who we are. So I think part of our relief package here is to understand that and to push back against that. There's no reason that we have to stigmatize sleep and rest, on the contrary, these things are not just good for us as individuals, they are highly pro-social. So if you go to bed and you sleep late and you laze around, that's not just good for you, that's good for all of us because your cognition is going to be better, you're going to be less reactive and you're going to be more creative and that's good for all of us.
Michael: Yeah, I think about this often. I often try to get myself to take a nap. It's something I've not been able to wrap my head around yet. I've been working on it for over three decades. I hope one day I get there, but I'll tell you this on the nights that I sleep, man. I feel like I can conquer the world and so prioritizing that in my own, personal development has been huge because I used to be very much of that I'll sleep when I'm dead, I'll work, even though I may still work over 72 hrs. weeks, I still prioritize that sleep in the schedule as much as I can even though because I'm a human being some days, it's off. One of the things that I'm curious about in this as you start to move forward, what do you think happens on the backside of the impact of stress? Because I know looking at it from the measurement of trauma and the impact that it has there, I know that there's another cognitive impact that it has on our body and our brain, and our memory. Can you talk more about, I guess the long-term impacts of stress and why it's so important to mitigate it or for lack of a better term, maybe even reverse it?
Frank: Right. Well, again, that goes back to the inverse U-curve. Once you go over the tipping point of stress, or if you camp out on the right side of the curve, where you are under, chronic stress, the cognitive effects, and the nervous system effects are pretty well known now, because cortisol, the glucocorticoids can be toxic to neurons and what they do is they cause the dendritic arbor in the brain to contract and so now, you have less connectivity in the brain. And so cognition slows down, it's harder to make the fresh connections that you need to function in the world. The good news is that usually temporary and that if you back off and you sleep and you rest and take time out that the dendritic arbor will tend to regrow it'll become bushier again and form new connections, and that's course what you want, but the other characteristic effect of stress that I find really fascinating is how it causes so many of us to revert to the familiar and we see this in individuals, but we see this also in culture. So people who are under stress, tend to go back to what they know and that means going back to watch the same movies over again it means going back home to your living room where it's quiet and safe and predictable, you read the same books over and over, you have the same kinds of conversations, you tell the same stories not because you're boring, but because that is your safe home base and that's completely understandable and I do that too, but I recognized it. But you have to also look at it in the big picture of culture now when people are under so much stress and at this time of social and ecological crisis, we need to be trying new things, but that's not what we're doing, we're reverting to the familiar and that's what makes it so intractable right now. So taking care of our stress is super important.
Michael: What kind of new things do you think we should be trying? Because I'm really curious about this, I consider myself a touch of a biohacker and I always want to explore other things and even mitigate my stress. I've tried my co-dosing psilocybin and I've tried float tanks of, try journaling, meditation, the whole nine. What other new things can we be trying?
Frank: Well, I just think what's happened now with the stress, is that people look at our ecological crisis, climate change, biodiversity, all of that, and they said there are really only two options now. There we can keep doing what we're doing and add more technology to the mix or civilization is just going to crash and that's going to be the doom scenario and so we have this real binary prognosis for what might happen. But what needs to happen, I think what can that people can start living in new ways, things like growing your own food, things like building relationships with people in your neighborhood, things like just, in general, flowing down, driving slower, living slower, being less ambitious, less successful, all of these things are options. And once we get some of the stress out of the way, we can explore those options.
Michael: So interesting thought process and I know that I'm certain, there will be people who will push back on the idea of slowing down especially against ambition because, you know, I even hear that and for a moment I go, I don't know but then, I remind myself of the fact that when I've tried to go 100 miles an hour, I will burn out. I'll red line that engine. I'll hit rock bottom back. Whoa, wait for a second, but when I'm creeping right? When I'm going, 25 miles an hour, and I'm just slowly hitting these little markers every single day, I find that the longevity as there it's so much more in-depth.
Frank: What we know this, I mean, we've got these folk tales about The Tortoise and the Hare, and I think that's really apt right now because the Hare is under stress, the Hare is under chronic stress, the Hare is growing, as fast as he can, and the Hare is going to burn out, but the tortoise will keep going, so that's it. I think a useful parable for our time.
Michael: Yeah, that's actually really fascinating that actually sees what came to my mind when you were saying that a moment ago because you do hear these parables and there are some legitimate troops to them. And I think, especially if you come from a traumatic background, you grew up in a cortisol state, you understand the impact of your nervous system is out of whack with your amygdala and your hippocampus being all over the place, the speed at which us navigate the world is so important to make meaning of a notice of because there's a difference between taking care of yourself while trying to reach goals and destroying yourself in the process. And I want people to really hold on to what you just said because, you know, when you adapt patients in this process, you can still reach goals, it takes time, even the people who move at this expedited speed, it still takes time, right? And so if you're a little bit more patient that's going to play a huge role. What do you think is something in the arena of stress and human biology in the course of our existence from you are forest-dwelling times to today that people aren't talking about that you think we need to be having a conversation around?
Frank: Well, I think it's fundamental to talk about attachment. And when I talk about attachment, I always start with the infant in prehistory you've just been born and you're naked. And we don't really think about this much but there's a lot of people that anthropologists believe that when human infants are born, they're born actually premature and you're born into a predator rich environment the prehistory and you are 100% vulnerable because you are naked and they're predators around and you have no ability to function on your own. Absolutely not, so your only recourse is to attach, to attach the typically to mom, to a caregiver, a warm body, who will take care of you and protect you. So, attachment is absolutely fundamental that is the fork in the road for the young developing body. And if that infant decides that the world is friendly, because there's attachment going on and protection going on then that infant will turn on this whole host of growth factors in the body and the body will become more resilient, more robust, and it happens right away. But if the infant decides that the world is not friendly, then it goes immediately into the state of vigilance and short-term action bias and that fork in the road will determine how that person's life will play out.
Now a lot of people have heard the story and that's great but we also attached in other ways, so it's very typical for human beings, especially in prehistory native and indigenous peoples to attach to habitat and we attached a habitat, just as strongly as we attached to individual people. And you could probably remember the habitat of your youth, where you went out to a park and you played and you remember the textures and the feeling and the look and feel of the grass and the soil and the water, the trees, all of that, that's your favorite habitat of youth, you are attached to that.
And we hear this from native people, where they say. I'm a land, the land is me. I'm the forest, the forest is me. I'm the river, the river is me and as modern people, we hear that and we think, oh, well, isn't that quaint? Isn't that special? These prehistoric people feel that way, but actually, that's historically normal, that's what normal people normally do is to attach to habitat, and then we had attached it tribe and we attach to story or culture sense of meaning and purpose. And so those points of attachment or absolutely vital, if those are missing as they often are four people in the modern world then we have to have substitute attachments and we attached to all kinds of strange things like substances or extreme sports or whatever it is and sometimes that help a little bit but really those are artificial substitute attachments that get in the way of what we really needed.
Michael: Yeah, if you look at some of the work that Dr. Gabor Maté has done, it's literally around this idea that the lack of attachment leads to addiction, right? And I can go and rewind my history and look at not having a mother not having a father being an orphan being, you know, homeless as a kid and then going to things like drugs, alcohol, sex money clothes, cars, and feeling like, oh man, if I get all these things, one day, it'll make me feel better. And then one day, you understand that actually doesn't work and the way that I found the most healing in my life and being able to feel normatively human was once I started getting into groups, right? Whether those be support groups or group therapy or group coaching, or whatever that thing is, and feeling like – I'm part of the human collective.
So, I love that, that's the place that we're ending on and I want people to really hear that part because when you step into creating a connection with other human beings like that's part of The Human Experience, right?
Frank actually, before we end up, I ask you this question because I think it's important. Is there a point of data measurement that proves that community is a bigger role that is played in The Human Experience and we attribute value to?
Frank: I'm not sure I understand the question.
Michael: Let me rephrase it. So is there anything that we can track through human existence that shows that when we are being communal as a communal species, we thrive better than we do now when we're often isolated and by ourselves, right?
Frank: Well, you can look at it through hormones. So we have this hormone, this informational substance in our body called oxytocin and that flows when we are together for classically at thanksgiving dinner and people are in harmony with each other and eating together at touching one another, the oxytocin begins to flow and oxytocin has all these pro-social and pro-health benefits in the body and that's been demonstrated, but it's also evident through evolution because every human has been hyper-social and we've always lived in groups and you can't make it on your own. Isolation is dangerous, and it's always been a stressor for people from the beginning, we were hyper-social primates, and no prime it likes to be alone.
Michael: And I say this all the time, no one great has ever done anything by themselves. Frank, Before I ask you, my last question, can you tell everyone where they can find you?
Frank: Oh, that's easy. Just remember exuberant animal and type that is, you'll find exuberantanimal.com and all the books are there and speaking opportunities, and that kind of thing so.
Michael: Amazing! Amazing conversation, Frank, my friend, thank you for being here. My last question for you today is, what does it mean to you to be unbroken?
Frank: Big answer because for me, I've often looked at what constitutes holistic, living holistic thinking, and what you normally hear in popular culture is that it's mind, body, and spirit coming together. And I've looked at that for a long time and now read in about Native and Indigenous Cultures, I realized no that's only part of it. If you really want to have a holistic, integrated approach, you need to have a mind, spirit, land tribe, and ancestry, and that's the primal formula for integration and hold us. So, mind-body-spirit land tribe ancestry.
Michael: Amazing, my friend, Frank. Thank you so much for being here.
Unbroken Nation, thank you so much for listening as usual.
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Frank Forencich is a movement teacher and author of several books about health and the human predicament. He graduated from Stanford University in 1979 with a bachelor's degree in human biology, leading to a passionate interest in human history, including several trips to Africa. Frank holds black belt rank in both karate and aikido and has presented at numerous venues including Google, the Ancestral Health Symposium, the Dr. Robert Conn Heart Conference and the Stanford University Institute of Design