We get what we tolerate

Dis-ease, disease and how we might get what we tolerate

Our full selves, including our bodies and minds and personality traits and habits and everything else that adds up to that thing called our “self” are in continual mass flux, and science and medicine is only really just beginning to understand how this whole thing connects together.

If I’m to consider the statement “we get what we tolerate”, does that disable me or empower me?

Clearly, it empowers me. If there’s something that’s making me unhappy, and I continue to tolerate it, how is it going to change?

Accepting is not the same as tolerating. Acceptance is necessary when we find ourselves in a situation that we cannot undo. Tolerating something is different. Tolerating is putting up with a situation we can undo, if we had the courage to do so.

This could possibly go deeper and further than just surface discomforts.

I’ve started reading a fascinating book by a Dutch psychiatrist who has dedicated his career to specialising in in post-traumatic stress, called Bessel van der Kolk. The book is called The Body Keeps the Score, and it outlines ways in which trauma and traumatic experiences cause physical residue inside our bodies.

Sample line:

Our gut feelings signal what is safe, life sustaining or threatening, even if we cannot quiet explain why we feel a particular way … If you have a comfortable connection with your inner sensations … you will feel in charge of your body, your feelings and your self. However, traumatized people chronically feel unsafe inside their bodies: The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort. Their bodies are constantly bombarded by visceral warning signs, and, in an attempt to control these processes, they often become expert at ignoring their gut feelings and in numbing awareness of what is played out inside. They learn to hide from their selves.

This line in particular leapt out of the page at me:

The past is alive in the form of gnawing interior discomfort.

What is the outcome of this gnawing interior discomfort? Is it possible that deep unease within our innermost self can manifest in illnesses of the body and mind? Is it possible that dis-ease can cause disease?

I don’t think the “we get what we tolerate” message means that everything we get is something that at some point we’ve tolerated. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes we’re exposed to toxic chemicals that will wreak havoc with our bodies, and there’s not much we can do.

But I suspect there is a lot that we tolerate, a lot that we find ways to cope with without really addressing, a lot that is simmering under the surface ready to bubble over into depression or anxiety or more severe mental conditions, and also into physical ailments that can become debilitating and even life-threatening.

If we get what we tolerate, becoming aware of the things we tolerate and can with courage find a way past could be the key to unlocking a flourishing happiness we never thought could be ours.

For more on toxicity and chemicals and the food chain, check out this phenomenal conversation between Rich Roll and Dr Zach Bush. For more on nutrition and how what we eat can affect our bodies and our minds, my podcast interview with nutritional therapist Orla McLaughlin might be worth catching. To buy Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score, go here.