It is commonly known for centuries we have organised our workplaces from positions of power and domination. This has contributed to inordinate stress from being controlled, pushed and pulled as if we are can do work objectively without feeling. The ways people are treated in the workplace lead to cultures that either mirror humane respectful behaviour or the opposite. When it becomes the norm to “bully” and “harrass” people at work it comes at a huge cost.

The price of incivility from HBR:

80% of people are unhappy or are overly stressed in their job

5.6% of full time workers say they are depressed

20% of workers have an increased risk of heart disease when working under poor leadership

1 in 3 adults worldwide have high blood pressure that can be attributed to unhappy and stressful work

$134 million was paid in benefits to Australian workers making claims related to workplace

Why is that some people treat each other as if we do not have a human heart?

Why do some people in organisations still design work in ways that alienate human beings?


Until we understand the reasons at the root cause we will continually put a bandaid over the top, and the causes will still fester away underneath. Going to a yoga session once a week may give temporary relief for an hour or so but may not resolve stress at the root cause. Calling someone an Engagement Officer and then controlling them with paralysing decision making processes “kills off” initiative, engagement and passion.

My focus is on the alienation that we create for ourselves when we override basic human instincts and intuitive capacities of being human, and focus on the rational and the mind at the expense of our body and our intuitive wisdom.

Natural Instincts

As a human being, it is a natural instinct to protect ourselves when threatened, emotionally, psychologically, financially, or physically. We have the capacity to “leave our bodies” and disconnect from our feelings and senses to protect ourselves from an emotional state of pain and suffering. We escape our bodies in times of trauma. This is a natural protective mechanism.

So do other animals. It is known when prey animals, such as a deer, finally accept their fate when being attacked by a lion, they will go into a state similar to having amnesia. Scientists believe it must numb the pain of dying. It is also known that if the lion retreats and the deer find safety, the natural instinct is to release their stress through shaking their body. The deer’s body returns to a contented state. This is the deer’s natural instinct to stop, sense safety and shake out the trauma of the chase. When back in safety, the deer returns to being relaxed and grazes, while still maintaining its’ senses to be on cue for the next predator in its’ territory.

Animals in the wild, have maintained their natural instincts. Humans, on the other hand, have numbed them down or over ridden them.

The simple natural instinct of shaking and moving our body if we feel stress can shift our body into a state of ease.

Examples of natural instincts:

  • sleeping at night
  • waking with the morning light
  • blushing
  • laughter
  • goose bumps
  • tears
  • yawning
  • sneezing

Many of our natural instincts we have no control over and others we have consciously chosen to adapt. Some of the ones we have adapted are:

  • working to all hours and being sleep deprived
  • sitting for long periods of time when our bodies need to move
  • restraining emotion
  • being overly clean resulting in a loss of natural good bacteria that help our immune system keep well

David Abram says in his book, ‘Becoming Animal”, we have became sanitised and de-animalised.” We have disconnected with our bodies, with the earth, nature and our ancient senses. We stop and control our natural body and animal instincts. We forget to come back home into our bodies when we are no longer under threat, or no longer reading abstract material and working with technology. Humans have overridden many of our natural protective responses, even those of benefit.

Becoming Animal, David Abram

On the other hand, there are natural instincts that are beneficial to overcome.

Social scientists say that it is a natural instinct for us to gather in likeness, in tribes, whether that be gender, culture, religion or ability. We look for likeness. In earlier centuries different tribes have dominated others to make them like themselves. We could not have expanded the human population unless we learnt to live with difference. We would have continued to have wars to oppress groups different from ourselves and the world would not be as populated. Now that most of us live in cities that are inhabited by people from many different cultures, religions, sex, etc. it is imperative to choose consciously to overcome this instinct and learn how to empathise and accept people who are not like us. This is both an imperative and a challenge.

The age we live in has been referred to as The Consumer Age, The Information Age and The Digital Age. Philosopher, Professor Richard Kearney, has another view on our current age that is diagnostic. He refers to our modern era as:

The Age of Excarnation. The “out of body” age.

The phrase captures the unseen and unspoken normal way in which our culture goes about our daily affairs. Day-in, day-out, we predominantly live in a mode of being in which we are out of touch with our bodies; as a result, the world exists for us more often as an idea than as a felt reality. We are in our minds anywhere else than in the present moment.

Our bodies are stressed and overwhelmed.

The signals of stress, anxiety and overwhelm are like a language. These signals are like cues to change what we are doing and thinking that is disconnecting our mind and our body. Stress is a cue to say, we need to create our lives, workplaces and relationships in ways that give us ease, peace and creativity. We are not listening to these as cues.

Phillip Shepherd, in his book, “New Self New World” suggests that approximately 1400 years ago, we made a shift from our gut and pelvic area as the seat of our intelligence, to our heart and then to our cranial brain. We generated a belief that intelligence was in our brain and not connected to our body. We focussed on the brain to the detriment of the intelligence that arises from a connection with our whole body.

It was Descartes who said, our thinking is not connected to our bodies or to our emotions.

We now know this is not true. Our brains create meaning through connection to the intelligence in our bodies, our senses and every cell in our body. Intelligence arises from an inter-connection with our mind, body and energy. Dr Bruce Lipton, says, in his book, “Biology of Belief”, there is intelligence in every cell in our body. Our physiology and well-being is connected to our beliefs. Words affect our physical state, our physical state affects what we think. We are an inter-connected system of thoughts, feelings, senses, energy interacting with the environment and other people’s thoughts, feelings, senses and energy. However, modern society is still recovering from Descartes view that thought, feeling, senses and energy are not connected.

When we emphasise our thoughts as if they are separate from our body, we literally live “in our heads” imagining our worlds. Living in our heads disconnected to our feelings and senses results in anxiety. The very suppression and avoidance of sensing our physical state are not healthy.

Since we were small many of us were told, not to cry, not to feel grief, to control being angry, to stop talking about how we feel, as if logic and reason are more important to what we feel.

This created a false disconnection. This disconnection between mind and body is the source of much anxiety, stress, tension and conflict.

This leads us to reducing our sensory awareness of our “gut instincts” which are making sense of more information than our logical thought processes can consciously manage at any one time.

Our gut instincts can help us navigate life as they are primed for well being. We have not been listening to them or learning to interpret them for our well being. Often the response required is counter intuitive to what we have been taught by a society that has held reason and logic above intuition.

This is an excerpt from the book, Trust Your Senses — Embodied Wisdom for the Modern Age.

Deb Helfrich says, “A Book to Experience”

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