Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Sympathetic Nervous System

The nervous system is normally divided into two main parts, the Central Nervous System (brain and spinal cord) and the Peripheral Nervous System, which includes the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is further divided into two more parts - the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. In times of emergency, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is what initiates the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response includes:
  • increasing heart-rate (so more oxygen, nutrients, and adrenaline are delivered to the organs)
  • increasing the breathing rate (thus providing more oxygen)
  • dilating the pupils (resulting in greater sensitivity to light)
  • moistening of the palms (thus providing better grip)
  • reduction in digestive functions, including salivation (putting them on hold) and
  • relaxing of the bladder (suspending another function not crucial for an emergency)
I always think it's interesting when SNS gets activated, and I wonder whether I'm the fighting type or the flighting type. Because most of what we face in our lives isn't life or death kind of ordeals, the SNS has also adapted to other situations that we identify as "emergencies": public speaking, taking tests, etc.

Almost a year ago, I posted about a run-in I had with the guys from downstairs. I don't know if they did it as much last year, but this year they've taken to pounding on the floor whenever they think we are too loud, which turns out is all the time because they're pounding like 4-5 times a week. It'll be for things like Rock Band, karaoke stuff, but then also if we (I) are cleaning and moving some chairs around, talking too loudly, or just walking around in church shoes. It's the most obnoxious thing in the world really.

So last night my roommate and I were watching a movie a little loud when the one guy comes over and asks us to turn it down. I let my roommate answer the door knowing it was one of the guys downstairs, paused the movie, and listened to the conversation. My roommate is a really nice guy, and has talked about how he was going to let him have it, which I thought would be interesting. To his credit, he didn't back down, but was still really nice about asking the guy to cut us some slack. I thought the conversation was nearing an end, but then the neighbor started getting belligerent about it. I couldn't believe my ears. He just started becoming really rude and insulting, and that's when I felt like I had to join in.

I reminded him of the several recent weekend nights when we were woken up to screams of "help me" at 2-3 in the morning because someone is tripping on something they had taken, how every time our windows are open we have to smell them smoking out in their apartment, and how we never complain about a darn thing. I said that we would be happy to oblige, but that he was going to have to be more discriminating about those times when he was going to bang on the floor. Then he finally started to back down.

The conversation ended well enough, but I thought it was interesting that I felt all of my fight responses ignite - quickened pulse/breathing, moist palms, etc. It took about ten minutes for the parasympathetic system to kick in and tone everything down.

I just think it's funny those times when you've reached your limit and you don't feel like holding your tongue anymore. All of a sudden something snaps and things that you had been letting go just cannot be tolerated anymore, then boom! Mt. Vesuvius erupts and anyone in your vicinity is covered in the ash of your indignation.

I have really unkind feelings toward those guys. And you know what else? I even shoveled snow off their sidewalk and driveway last week to try and counteract some of the hostility I had been feeling towards them. But that's it, I'm through with them.

1 comment:

Kira Cook said...

When I started reading the snow part I was getting excited that you dumped your snow onto their sidewalk or something... but alas you had to be the nice guy.