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 the olfactory bulb with a thump, and in less than a heartbeat you find yourself 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 and 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 connect us with memories of stolen jaffa-flavoured kisses, and the magical worlds other than 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 steam (it’s the moisture content inside that causes internal steam to build and build, causing 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. Or maybe it’s a bit of both. Then of course we have the satisfying ting ting ting on the lid of the saucepan, as the rest of the 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 kind of 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, safe within our kernels, or we can see the turning up of the heat as an opportunity to jiggle around with energy and verve, and…transform.

Psychologists McEwan et al tell 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 their practicing of their craft, so it may be that we as a profession have been inculcated to view stress negatively.

When in fact the opposite can be true. In her book The Upside Of Stress health psychologist Kathy McGonnigal tells us that 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 may experience when we are anxious as deleterious, then it will be likely to cause us damage. However, if we choose to view the stress response as helpful or even necessary in order 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 that our Neolithic ancestors, returning from a long day of chasing down protein would settle 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 act 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 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, and hence allows 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. Of our ideas, our values and beliefs, our communities, our level of protection, 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 seeming adversity to allow us to transform our experience and pop to the next level. Delicious. Just like popcorn.

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



…From The Ashers