Popping All Over The Joint


It’s tasty, isn’t it? In fact, I would probably have to say that no movie experience is complete without it. That strange salty-sweet smell sends messages jumping and hustling right along the first cranial nerve, to hit your olfactory bulb with a thump, and in less than a heartbeat you find yourself way back in that Art Deco cinema of slightly musty red velvet seats, crackling film reels, and the tap tap tapping of the floorboards from the usher with his torch, as he shows latecomers to their seats.


At our house we don’t buy it from the cinema any more, for even though the smell of it is still able to transport us back to a time of stolen jaffa-flavoured kisses, and magical worlds far from our familiar suburban streets, popcorn just ain’t what it used to be. 

So these days, we pop at home.  And we find it embarrassingly thrilling. 

I’m not sure if it’s the slight danger of that hot, smoking oil, or the anticipation, as we watch and wait for that first spinning kernel to build up pressure (it’s the moisture content inside, that causes internal steam to build and build, forcing that little seed embryo to bust out of the pericarp) getting so hot and bothered, and uncomfortable, until it bursts forth in a rush of heat and transformation. Perhaps it’s a little of each. Then of course we have the satisfying ting-ting-ting on the lid of the saucepan, as the remaining kernels follow the leader and join the wave of change. 

For those hard, virtually impenetrable seeds, times really are a changin’.

A bit like life, and music, really.

(You knew I couldn’t let an opportunity go by without Bob having a say, didn’t you?)

“The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

Your old road is

Rapidly fadin’.

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.”

What response do those words elicit in you? 

Do you rub your hands together, thinking of the opportunities that change could bring, or do you shift to a more protective posture: cervical flexion, sacrum in counternutation, waiting for the onslaught? 

Do you relish or perish?

I would venture to say that at this very moment in time there is more change in the world, and in our profession than I have seen in my twenty years of practice. 

Changes to legislation and leadership, to terminology and techniques. 

We can see these changes from an outside-in perspective, as stressors if you will, and attempt to thicken our collective epidermes in an effort to stave off the storm unscathed and most likely unchanged, staying safe within our kernels. Or we can see the rising heat as an opportunity to jiggle around with energy and verve, and…transform.

Psychologist Bruce McEwen  tells us that stress is often labelled as either “good” or “bad” as a result of prior programming, and perhaps that might be true of us in chiropractic. Our chiropractic history books are lousy with examples of Chiropractors vilified and even gaoled for practicing their craft, so it may be that we as a profession have been inculcated to view stress negatively.

When actually, the opposite can be true. In her book The Upside Of Stress health psychologist Kelly McGonigal tells us that it is the very perception of stress that determines what the effect will be. She tells us that it is how we think about the stress, that is of paramount importance. It turns out, that if we decide that the increased heart and respiratory rate that we experience when we are anxious is deleterious, then it will be likely to cause us damage. However, if we choose to view this stress response as helpful, or even necessary, to face a new challenge, then although we still may notice precisely the same increases, they will occur without the same blood vessel constriction, producing a response that is not only not at all harmful, but one that physiologically, looks just like courage.

And then we find that our Innate Intelligence just keeps on giving. 

For not only does this type of positively-interpreted stress make us more courageous, it stimulates our pituitary gland to secrete oxytocin. You’ve gotta love that. Literally. As of course this huggy hormone is our cuddle chemical, the neuropeptide that creates trust, empathy, compassion and caring. It motivates us to seek support and surround ourselves with people who care about us.

In fact, I like to think of oxytocin as the little chemical that orchestrated the building of communities, as I imagine our Neolithic ancestors, returning from a long day of chasing down protein, settling down by the fire, positively surging with oxy, (and possibly other chemicals that might not bear mentioning in this forum) with a desire to make joyous and meaningful connections with other humans.

In the context of our profession, it would seem that this type of favourable stress may well be the very thing we require, to do as Joseph Strauss once proposed: to be refined by fire. To utilise the effects of stressors to enable us to take action, with the knowledge that we can trust ourselves to handle challenges, whilst realising that we don’t have to face them alone. To define and then refine the rules of who we are right now, and how we want to play this game in the future.

In the practice setting, we may find that positively-interpreted stress gives us greater access to our hearts, hence allowing us to be more compassionate, and caring and able to find meaning in our connections with others. In the words of social researcher Brene Brown, the ability to establish human connections may very well be the reason we are here.

Irrespective of this, we do know that challenge aimed at a level significant enough to induce stress, results in increased strength and resilience. Creating more power around our ideas, our values and beliefs, our communities, our level of protection and our work, and ultimately; our politics.

So just as the parents who come to us report that their children reach new levels of development following the apparent stress of a fever, 

and just as the pupa requires the struggle of emergence from the chrysalis to give those delicate wings the strength to take flight, 

so too, must we absorb the heat and the energy and the apparent adversity, to allow us to reconstruct our experience, and jump up to the next level. 

Or not. 

For it is at this very moment that we have a choice. 

To sit in the heat, or turn it down.

To perceive the heat as irritating or even dangerous and something to resist, or to acknowledge the sensations, work with them, and choose to persist.

We can choose to turn down the temperature, step away from the discomfort and contract to our previous selves, essentially allowing us to remain the same, abeit slightly scalded. As sometimes, the very choice that would liberate and open us up to a whole new way of seeing and being, seems scary and lonely and hard. Sometimes it might be useful to harness all that oxytocin, to recruit others to help us on the shifting path: friends, family, mentors or coaches who will listen to the honest conversation of our hearts, to hold us accountable, and keep the fire burning.

However we do it, we always have the choice to utilise that fire, to bravely, even courageously take it within, and allow ourselves to be refined and changed. To transform. To shed the hardened carapace of our previous selves, and pop and pop and pop. 

Just like popcorn.

And so, only one question remains: what delicious flavour will you be?