Coping: With the Adrenaline Gene

In his book “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” Richard Bach lays out of the finest truths out there:

“In the path of our happiness, lies the learning for which we have chosen this lifetime.”

I was reminded of that by my son’s actions several times recently.

First time was when he quit his job as a communicable disease investigator at a major university in Seattle.  After five years of developing a pretty thick skin over occasional “straight-bashing” he quit recently saying things had changed:  People he was seeing in the clinic were becoming meaner.  Say “straight privilege” or “white privilege” and you can run off the good guys who are willing to put it out there for you.

That has driven me to press even harder to get Psychocartography (my next book) finished.  The broad brush is that not only are there seven major physical systems we all need to live life, but in addition there are what I call Reality Stacks we each own.

As I explain in the book, a Reality Stack if a belief system that runs your life.  Some people use the religion stack, while others prefer a political stack.  Then there’s the money stack,; and so on.  Victim Stack is popular, these days.

Like your morning vitamin stack, the stacks you pick are not exclusive.  One of my daughters is an Episcopalian helper in church, but she also goes on Buddhist retreats.  What drives her (an empath) is clearly the “do good, a Religion Stack” but she’s still at the high level of that “stack” learning several branches.

My son, on the other hand?  Well, he’s hooked on the Adrenaline Stack.

In other words, if there is one major concept that runs his behavior, it’s a terrible craving for adrenaline.

I was shocked recently when he posted a video of one skydiving adventure titled “Finally!  A Malfunction!”  I mentioned he’s an adrenaline junkie, right?

Over Memorial Day, if you’d been at Lake Chelan (in Washington State) he was the team leader (with smoke on) jumping over the lake, too.

Then, there’s is recent adventures in flying suit jumps – video on that over here.

His addiction to adrenaline doesn’t make him stupid:  Even with his chute malfunction, he had a back-up plan:  Cut-away the main and pop the reserve chute. He doesn’t press “low opens.”

Thing is, this kind of experience is what makes him a good – make that great – parachuting instructor.  Keeping calm and “doing the procedure” (‘cuz if you don’t, you die) under pressure is what he finds attractive about jumping.  With his instructor ticket – and no longer working in a high-risk medical setting, he’s eyeing the possibility of making a career out of radio communications, his EMT skills, and his skydiving background.

Which gets me to the point:

I think there’s an adrenaline gene somewhere that hasn’t been decoded, yet.  As such, however, it may not express unless you are raised in an “Open Reality Stack” family setting.

In other words, when you’re young, some parents grind their view of Reality into their children all the way through college.  On the other hand, I was fortunate-enough to be raised in an Open Stack family.

What this means is:  Yes, I was dragged to church (kicking and screaming, lol), but after learning about how much history there is in the Bible, however encoded, it got to be an interesting study.  Later, following confirmation, learned the wine and crackers weren’t bad, either.

Once there, however – talking age 12-13 – my parents both seriously backed-off.  The attitude was “You’ve got the basics, you know crime is usually followed by punishment, do unto others, and all that.  Now, go build on that…”

Which is still a work in process.

Thing is:  The Reality Stack that most fit me seemed to have an adrenaline element, too.  Being a big city news director – walking through a burned out warehouse, or hotel, with spot fires still burning…well, that is quite something.  Murder scenes, tear gassed at demonstrations (along with the demonstrators) and such…very….er….stimulating.

Driving the road coarse at La Guna Seca, was fun, but not as much as accidentally spinning an airplane on my first or second solo flight.  Those are the “Do you have your shit together, boy?” moments.

Runs in the family.  My late dad, as a firefighter, would use expressions like “We had a good working house fire today…”

How could a “house fire” be good, you’re wondering?

Truth is that to a seasoned firefighter it’s like going to an athletic event when the bell hits at the station.

You take the first “inch-and-a-half” and clear the building to make sure there’s no one trapped inside.  Then knock it down as fast as you can.  That’s the context.  Punctuated by an anything can go wrong – and the teamwork that goes with working a larger hose (like a 2-1/2 and up).  Toss in an occasional yell to “Ventilate!” and it’s very much a cross between an athletic event and adrenaline junkie’s dream.

A “bad” fire is where there’s a loss of life or serious injury.  Smoke inhalation that doesn’t just pass.  A “good” fire is where the whole art and science of fire suppression works hand-in-hand with fire safety engineering to turn a potential life-ending fire into just an “insurance event.”  Good fires, understand, do exist.

My son’s getting all his certs current again to go back to “riding the box” as an EMT and then into paramedic training.  He puts saving someone’s life as in the same league with skydiving – but it’s a different kind of buzz.

We talk a lot in today’s word about things like “intelligence quotients” (IQ) and in the touchy-feely worlds (mental health, and healthcare workers in general, psychology and so on) about emotional intelligence (EQ).

What I’m offering on a plate is that there’s something else ticking down inside each of us…  I call it the adrenaline quotient.

I see it in my own children.  One doesn’t like to fly – at all.  Takes a valium to get on a long flight – super-especially if dad’s weather briefing for along the route of flight includes potential holes in the sky (turbulence).  Her brother is at the other extreme of sky-induced adrenaline.  Teaching and wing suiting.

You AQ seems to change over time.  When young, I remember doing some of the damnedest, most dangerous crap possible with my buddy the retired major.  Why today, I’m sure some of what we did would be labeled domestic terrorism in the too-polite0to-make-sense-anymore country.  Back then, boys were allowed to be boys.  Today, we don’t even know what sex they are until age 50, or so.

In middle age, the AQ meant long motorcycle road trips.  When a cousin lost one of his feet when he had to “lay it down” to avoid an accident (which he wasn’t able to completely avoid, hence the missing foot) it resulted in me having a serious look at my own riding.

A 100,000 miles of two-wheeling and I looked at the data.  Virago 650 shaft drive by then – having outgrown the Yamaha RD-350 rotary-valve city “block buster.” – I considered my age and even though my reactions were (and still are) in the u7nder 20 ms. range, I knew my cousins were, too.

It came down to a showdown:  The AQ (adrenaline quotient) bumped up against the Statistical Reality.

Statistics won.

I went through Porsches and sailboats after that.  Racing in foul weather (like the Icicle winter races in Seattle) or passing in head to head with less than 6-feet between 40-foot sailboats each doing knots jockeying for the line in a Tuesday Night Duck Dodge… plenty of adrenaline but less presence of imminent death if you get it wrong.  ;I think the adrenaline hit is knowing the other skipper and both of us trusting the other wasn’t a bull-shitter who’d screw up under pressure.

Coming up on 70, my AQ is coming down.  I still feel a rise from new experiences – lighting off the plasma cutter was cool, for example.  But no death near-by, no major consequences of getting anything wrong.  Virtually no personal risk and learning to run a plasma rig is more a “personal skill.”  Small rush…but as we age, small rushes are good.

The aging thing shows up behind the white, too.  I get an adrenaline rush driving 60 with less than a car length – which is what everyone in big cities does.  Statistics argue we’re better off routing around Dallas, Houston, or Seattle, if we can.

Physiologically?   Adrenaline junkies might have more tendency toward allergies – since the release of adrenaline is what knocks down histamines.  Or, perhaps there’s a blood pressure sensor “wiring issue” in the brain?  Adrenaline raises blood pressure – and that gets you into max performance country physically.

Or, it may be related to insulin.  When the adrenaline hits for “fight or flight” perhaps the sudden change in blood sugar levels at work.  Adrenaline junkies may be able to keep weight off differently than, oh, couch cruisers, for example.

Neat concept, though, and highly useful.  AQ management is implied in elite military training, too.  So, someone has looked into it.

Keep an eye on your own…and if you happen to be a DNA researcher and come up with a simple test for SelfDecode or whoever, that can nail the DNA tendency, Elaine and I have our DNA’s as formatted text files and we’d love to run the numbers.

Around the Ranch, Ham Radio

Summer is definitely here:  Temps pressing to near 100 now, so most of the shop equipment is on summer break.  The dehumidifier is in the office now.  Makes the a/c feel a bit cooler.

I have a new 24 inch monitor coming today for the electronics bench.  Have a 15″ and with the eyes as they are, just not enough.  BTW, if you use a VESA mount, a fair number of the monitors that are cheap ($99 new) don’t have the VESA 100X100 mount – so read the Amazon (and whoever) reviews and product details closely.  I HATE fixed monitor stands.

Ham radio buddy Jeff hasn’t sent me a picture of his setup for the K0S – Strange Ham Radio Antenna Challenge. – that runs over the Memorial Weekend.  I didn’t get anything done on that this year.  Jeff’s used everything from a railroad track monument to a US Army display tank in the past – as antennas.

Liking more certain (of return on invested time) I am looking at where I could find a 1,000 feet of insulated (or electric) fence with the charger turned off, of course.  One of these days.  Been thinking the challenge could be combined with one of those 70-foot buck lifts you can rent.

Use it in the morning to work on existing antenna maintenance and load it up in the afternoon as a low-band vertical.  Park next to the ground system…

Millions of Light Crown projects, a new USB RF spectrum analyzer, and plenty of radio restoration projects are circling.

If you’re a ham and happen to have a Heathkit SB-220 linear amplifier, take a look at the transformer upgrade part of Lee Jennings’ (ZL2AL) update here.  Antek makes a toroid that  will push up the plate voltage a bit for the 3-500z’s.  Back when the SB-220 was designed, I think that was still when the input power was limited to 1,000 watts DC,  These days, with 1,500 PEP output) a little higher plate voltage might be useful.

Speaking of hams, we hope reader Hank out on the Big Island is OK.  When the eruption started out there, his home was a bit more than 5-miles from the lava.  Curious how far away the lava is now?

Worked on the book Thursday and on Peoplenomics today.  Book is now over 100 pages and 17,000 words.  Grew 8,000 words yesterday.  Need to measure butt callouses.

No-flash game camera should arrive today.  Think I’ll be putting it down by the creek where it looks like some hogs have rooted.  I’ll post a picture when I can…

Clear skies?  We miss the airplane like crazy.  Even though the eyes are good enough now, the contacts are still a pain to deal with.  I just keep remembering 4-degrees cooler per thousand feet up when it’s this hot.

Chad Moser – who oversaw the major o/haul on our baby Beech back when, is flying for ExpressJet these days.  Fine fellow.  Flies missionary and school supplies down to Andros Island in the Bahamas and elsewhere.  Been doing these supply flights for years and now there’s Blessings from D-Skies which looks to expand the work…if you’re a pilot/plane owner, take note.

OK, off to eye markets and the job numbers.  Peoplenomics for subscribers tomorrow and back here Monday.  Have a great weekend and remember who you’re working for on weekends, right?

Write when you get rich,

22 thoughts on “Coping: With the Adrenaline Gene”

  1. G., I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this, and I might be the only person who cares, come to think of it, but I really did like having the two links at the bottom of the page for previous post and next post. If it isn’t too much trouble.

  2. George… again you looked out of your box and hit the nail on the head.. great post..My problem was I wasn’t sure how to bridge.

    “a Reality Stack if a belief system that runs your life. Some people use the religion stack, while others prefer a political stack. Then there’s the money stack,; and so on. Victim Stack is popular, these days.”

  3. Two references you might enjoy, if you don’t already know them. The Brits (“kneelers” to you) sometimes refer to such as a large mansion as a “stack.”

    Also, at MIT, (I am told — didn’t go there) the term “stack” is applied to almost any assemblage of odd but related things, or to a practical joke.

  4. Totally related to and enjoyed this post, George. Our lives are definitely ‘stacked.’ RE: AQ-types, I started thinking of the numerous subsets, to include class clown, dare devil, athlete, rebel and explorer, among others. All of these actors get their adrenaline pumping. Risking the certain wrath of an angry teacher while irreverently entertaining one’s classmates trades risk for the rush. Taking a buddy’s dare to jump over a raging campfire, while not very smart, also gives an adrenaline jolt. The first humans to leap onto a log and push it adrift into a river, lake or ocean were definitely in this same category. Eventually, those who survived these risky types of AQ experience developed reliable (and less risky) water navigation. Humans then crossed the crossing of oceans. Same process for aviation. In short order, AQ-types may be living in sizeable numbers orbiting the Earth, living on the Moon or establishing a colony on Mars. A new species inevitably arises – Homo Adrenalisis!

  5. Hmmmm,I have always loved to do things that just “scared me a little bit”. One of the first female motocross racers (for a very short time)scuba diving, taking flying lessonsand soloing and not telling my husband, “trying” to hit 100mph on the lonely stretch of road……always just loving the feeling of being just over the line! I have always suspected I had an aberant gene somewhere and now I am sure of it! At 70 I still long for my tandom skydiving jump, a chance to go to space, and about a million other “fun” things. When I see my Creator, I will thank Him and ask him to send me off to do a few billion adventures! Thanks George!

    • I hear you. At 70, my wife & I were kidding while driving & she said we need to do something adventurous. I said, I am going 47 in a 45 mph zone. She said WOW, we have reach old age.

  6. Why Bigfoot can’t be found.

    Missing 411- Book Series David Paulides

    Missing-411 is the first comprehensive research about people who have disappeared in the wilds of North America.

    Bigfoot does not leave footprints to track or a scent for bloodhounds to follow. He throws you over his shoulder & you are gone.

    Some of the issues that are discussed in each edition:

    • The National Park Service attitude toward missing people

    • How specific factors in certain cases replicate themselves in different clusters

    • Exposing cases involving missing children that aren’t on any national database

    • Unusual behavior by bloodhounds/canines involved in the search process

    • How storms, berries, swamps, briar patches, boulder fields and victim disabilities play a role in the disappearance

    • The strategies of Search and Rescue personnel need to change under specific circumstances

    After reading this book, you will forever walk in the woods with a different awareness.

    • George Knapp, Host, Coast to Coast AM

      “Major news organizations do a deplorable job of covering stories and issues which are deemed too unusual or too far outside the box. Chances are, they will find a way to trivialize or ignore the disturbing evidence accumulated by David Paulides, a former lawman turned investigative journalist. The paper trail uncovered by Paulides through sheer doggedness is impressive, the evidence indisputable. People are vanishing without a trace from our national parks and forests, yet government agencies are saying nothing.
      At a minimum, this story deserves space on the front
      page of every newspaper in the country, and it warrants a formal high level inquiry by the federal agencies whose files leave little doubt that something very strange is unfolding in our wilderness.”

    • Thanks ECS. I haven’t read that book. Ill add it to my list to see if I can download it for a big foot weekend read fest this weekend.

  7. I wonder if we can discern who has a higher AQ by their reactions to stressful conditions. I remember sailing an express 27 in SF bay under a spinnaker, and rounding up and getting pinned down. Immediately clambering through the lifelines to stand on the keel, I watched the 3′ chop come into the cockpit. The rest of the crew either had huge eyes and were clutching stanchions or backstays, frozen into inaction, or they were looking up to see if we could blow the halyard while moving to the high side to prevent turning turtle. Since I was on the windward side and had the iron-hard spin-guy right in front of me, though at eye-level, i saw that removing pressure there would right us. We stayed like that for a few eternal moments, until I saw the leeward laz open, and water lapping at the edge. Opening my benchmade serrated folder, I shouted ‘cutting the guy!’, barely touched the blade to the line which popped immediately. As the boat righted itself, and the spinnaker flogged the mast, I climbed calmly back into the cockpit, and we got on our way. That day, some folks with higher AQs made sure nobody swam. And those with lower AQs added some points, or quit sailing.
    When the fecal matter hits the oscillator, you want high AQ folks around. I think Rudyard had something to say about it too!
    Couple weeks later, four of us race the same boat to Santa Barbara. We had a sea lion jump into the cockpit, had a hell of a night time rounding of Pt. Concepcion (more AQ stories, like the guy who, as I related a story of unlit concrete mooring decks for tankers, grabbed a flashlight to stand on the bow, vainly searching for obstacles. While surfing under spinnaker!), lost our headstay from the swage (!), and ran out of chocolate. Thanks for listening to these old sea stories. My lifestyle today doesn’t leverage AQ much, except when a young’un hurts themself. While the wife turns green and can’t even apply direct pressure, I’m getting the family to the ER. Male privilege?

  8. I seem to have lost any adrenaline reactivity for the last 20 years or so. Sometimes it’s helpful, but the actual F/F reaction can be useful too. I’ll do dangerous stuff, but there’s no thrill like there used to be – just no feeling at all. Has anyone else experienced this?

    • No, I still get an adrenaline rush, but nowadays it is usually in relation to something stupid I did, & I need to move quickly to avoid a diaster.

  9. Still here, still five miles north of the eruptive vents, watching the flows closely. One spreading flow has the potential to send a finger northward toward me. And there’s nothing worse than having an active lava flow give you the finger!
    Tradewinds most of the time keep me upwind of the vents. But a south wind can send sulfur dioxide plumes thru the neighborhood. We just close up the house, run the A/C, and wait it out. I have SO2 filter masks if we need to evacuate temporarily.
    Ham reports from the area are invaluable. County helicopter pilot is a ham and gives us position reports on the lava. The Kapoho area is being evacuated as an eastbound flow is about to cut off ‘Beach Road’, the last evacuation route to the north. The local important story is the refugees… now around 2500 people more being evacuated from lower Puna, looking for new homes or places to stay.

  10. Its called adrenochrome,which explains the trauma junkies I used to work with in the ER/OR.
    According to Wikipedia (if you call that reliable)
    **Several small-scale studies (involving 15 or fewer test subjects) conducted in the 1950s and 1960s reported that adrenochrome triggered psychotic reactions such as thought disorder, derealization, and euphoria.[2] Researchers Abram Hoffer and Humphry Osmond claimed that adrenochrome is a neurotoxic, psychotomimetic substance and may play a role in schizophrenia and other mental illnesses….

    Well now, what exactly would compel someone to jump out of airplanes for a thrill? A middle age nurse I used to work with who finally did a jump outside of Shelton and broke both ankles on the landing. That ended her adrenaline thrills.
    It could be induced by electronic mind control to cause anxiety in the targets to then harvest the chemical secreted by the glands.
    Take your pick.
    Personally, I prefer the DMT produced by the amygdala through meditation. Its a much gentler ‘euphoria’ to the body.

    p.s. I like the new format BTW

  11. Thanks for the link to Lee Jennings’ pages. I have two pristine SB-220s (bought a silent key’s entire shack two years ago. Sadly, his 23 [mostly Heath] boatanchors barely made an impression on my Hallicrafters pile. When I started doing this “HAM Radio thing,” folks neglected to warn me that Amateur Radio is a disease…

  12. Adrenalin Junkies … and flying:

    There is an old saying that is very appropriate here:

    “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are NO old bold pilots”.

    In the 48 years I have been a pilot I have seen the accuracy of that old saying many times.

    EVERY person I knew who flew for a living, and lived, was NOT bold at all. Not a single one of them had the adrenalin junkie gene in them. Most have now retired after many many years and many thousands of hours of flying. Now every one had some harrowing moments during their careers, but not a one of those was ever bold – just the opposite in fact.

    On the other hand EVERY pilot I knew who was “bold” and who flew for a living … DIED in the course of their career.

    (fwiw only 1 person I personally knew who flew full time who was NOT bold died – and it was the freakiest accident I have ever heard about in my 47 years since I became a pilot)

    The adrenalin gene allows people to take more risks than the normal person, which is OK I suppose if you are NOT doing inherently risky things regularly. On the other hand if you DO inherently risky things regularly your odds of having an unfavorable outcome are greatly enhanced.

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