Are you an Adrenaline Junkie or a Movement 'Junkie'?

December 12, 2018


Chris Bertish - South Africa’s first Mavericks Big Wave Champion - in his book ‘Stoked’ provides a stunning insight into something few of us will ever experience to such an extent, yet can intimately relate to.


“… [we] had risked everything that day, not for money, but for the thrill, the love, the rush of riding those beasts, and living to ride another day. We were ecstatic beyond imagination. Although drained and fatigued, we were on an adrenaline high. We were stoked, in every sense of the word.”




Stop reading for a moment and image yourself on the lip of that beast of a wave with your adrenaline pumping. Now ask yourself does this evoke a nice feeling or does it evoke feelings of dread?


If you answered a nice feeling, then you have to seriously ask yourself why on earth would adrenaline make you feel good? 


Were this the case, surely, it would drive us to seek out life and death situations all the time.


Yes, if we do push through the dread leading up to our moment of madness and if we do survive, then everybody would probably agree that the ‘adrenaline rush’ would indeed feel awesome.  But the reality is these big ‘ifs’ prevent most of us from experiencing anything like the intensity of Bertish’s high. 


We are all aware that having our bodies revved up with adrenaline & cortisol convinces us to desist from our present course of dangerous (to us) action. For this reason it definitely doesn’t feel nice to have our bodies unnecessarily riled up by adrenaline. Only after successfully completing a sought after goal will things like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins and the like combine in a balanced way with adrenaline and cortisol to make us feel good.


Sometimes/oftentimes we have to push through our fears and dread to grow as a person; the warning chemicals help us to gauge whether the goal we are pursuing is right for us and hence worth the danger and the effort required.

Let’s look beyond the rush associated with the chemical release to explore what the chemicals are actually telling us.


It all comes back to the hierarchy of our 3 motivated behaviours.  Mega doses of dopamine, adrenaline, and the like are released during ‘life or death’ situation to help us survive; the kick we get that much greater than what we can ever hope to get from a bout of reproductive or ingestive behaviour, chocolate cake or not. 


Amazingly, we are able to tap into this good feeling resulting from generating the correct balance of chemicals via posturally correct movement sequences. What is more, this not only makes us more fit to survive, it also helps to protect us from non-communicable diseases.


The key principle is that defensive behaviour is the highest priority of the R-brain and as such our thinking brain should always endeavor to minimize the nervous energy in our hearts, because feeling deeply relaxed signifies that all is well in our world.  According to the ‘map of consciousness’ proposed by David Hawkins, peace is the highest level of consciousness we can achieve in this world. 


Kind of makes intuitive sense, because if we are at peace with ourselves, we don't need food, drink, chocolates or partners to help us release more feel good chemicals.  They are already there in exactly the right mix.  In fact, engaging in ingestive or reproductive behaviours can only but upset this delicate balance in your brain. A clear illustration that points out a further key principle:


Only engage in reproductive or ingestive behaviour when you are at peace with yourself.


This is the essence of our teachings - if you are at peace/deeply relaxed then you can go out and enjoy a good meal and be intimate with your partner, because you will have to sacrifice the good feeling of being deeply relaxed in order to forage for food or to captivate your partner. There should thus be no unnecessary drive to engage in ingestive and reproductive behaviour; and more importantly, each time you do engage in these behaviours you will be able to enjoy them so much the better in a relaxed state.


The corollary of this argument is that if you are not deeply relaxed then it is not good to use hard exercise, food or sex to try and relax yourself.  The simple reason is that engaging in these types of behaviour cannot do this for you. While you may benefit from pounding the pavement to keep fit and 'use up' nervous energy, it is never a good idea to leave all your energy out on the road.


Correct movement training - which is associated with a balanced chemical release - enables us to become more productive and more fit to survive. And hence the title of this blog: Movement Junkies


Eventually movement training will help us to reclaim our bodies’ dependence on hard exercise, food, alcohol, smoking, sex, drugs and rock and roll to make it feel good.


A child is a perfect example of what a Movement Junkie looks like as the first 10 years of life is critical for learning how to move properly.  Can you remember how good it felt to move and play when you were a kid?  How that good feeling helped you persist with a particular movement?


The movement feels good because it leads to balanced chemical release, letting us know the movement is executed correctly.


This movement ‘teaching’ operates via our right brain - basal ganglia - brainstem – spine axis.  There is no thinking involved, rather a heightened awareness 'observing' whether movement execution is optimal in relation to obtaining the immediate goal.


There is a limit to what the feel good chemicals can teach us as kids, though.  We also need input from the masters/teachers that use their thinking brain and the teachings from previous masters/teachers, in combination with continual practice, to maximize the efficiency and utility of a particular movement.

Another important concept is that the chemical release is associated with how likely you are to achieve your goal - not simply because you are doing a proper movement for its own sake.  There must always be an immediate (current) goal (within the scope of an overarching life goal) that you are working towards with any particular movement. 


For myself, movement training helps me to self-regulate and stay calm when the chips are down, but it only works if I practice doing the correct movement every day so that my body stays supple and alive.  Hence I try and incorporate correct movement patterns into my everyday living. Correct posture when sitting down is most important for me, because I spend so much more time sitting in front of a PC than moving around.


My immediate goal aligns with this key principle of our teachings: we need to practice self-regulation via movement on an ongoing basis to prevent ourselves from 'going into a collapse' that will then ‘allow’ the nervous energy, always present in our bodies, to 'overwhelm' us. 


It is good to go into a collapse for a while to give your body some rest, because this fits into the overall goal of working with your body. However, going into a collapse while at work due to overwork/over-stress/lack of sleep, etc., is never a good thing as this will simply increase the nervous energy in your body. This is because you are not making productive use of your time, which will lead to the body's defensive behaviour program kicking in.


Fixing up ones structure/focusing on keeping a good structure is the best way to prevent unproductive collapses, but one may also have to keep fewer balls in the air at any one time.

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