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Thinking about one’s birth is as uncanny as thinking of death
Do we suffer from birth anxiety like we suffer from death anxiety?
Many people feel anxious about the prospect of their death. Indeed, some philosophers have argued that death anxiety is universal and that this anxiety bounds and organises human existence.
But do we also suffer from birth anxiety? Perhaps. After all, we are all beings that are born as well as beings that die.
Whereas philosophers have said a lot about our anxiety about death, they have said little about birth anxiety. This is part-and-parcel of the broader neglect of birth in the Western philosophical tradition. The guiding thought has been that 'all men are mortal' ('men' in the sense of 'human beings') rather than 'all human beings are mortal and natal'.
Once we bear in mind that we are natal as well as mortal, we see some ways in which being born can also occasion anxiety. As the bioethicist David Albert Jones writes in The Soul of the Embryo (2004):
We might be telling someone of a memory or event and then realise that, at that time, the person in front of us did not even exist! Someone who is real and significant in our lives, who is the centre of his or her own story … once did not exist. If we seriously consider the existence and the beginning of any one particular human being … we realise that it is something strange and profound. Many philosophers have recognised that the existence of the world is something mysterious … However, if we truly grasp the existence of any one person we see that this too is mysterious …
The same goes for each individual's own existence. I began to exist at a certain point in time, and there is something mysterious about this. I haven't always been there; for aeons, events in the world unfolded without me. But the transition from nonexistence to existence seems so absolute that it is hard to comprehend how I can have passed across it.
To compound the mystery further, there was no single crossing point. In reality, we don't begin in the sudden, dramatic way announced by Ruby Lennox, the narrator and protagonist of Kate Atkinson's novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum (1995): 'I exist! I am conceived to the chimes of midnight on the clock on the mantelpiece in the room across the hall.' Rather, I came into existence gradually. When first conceived, I was a single cell (a zygote). Then I developed a formed body and began to have a rudimentary level of experience during gestation. And once out of my mother's womb, I became involved in culture and relationships with others, and acquired a structured personality and history. Yet the zygote that I began as was still me, even though it had none of this.
This might seem to suggest that being born is mysterious rather than anxiety-inducing. But it is disconcerting that my particular existence defies comprehension in respect of its beginnings, and that the Universe contains many people each of whose beginning is likewise mysterious. When we confront these disconcerting realities, we can feel uneasy and uncomfortable. Our everyday, familiar world is exposed as having respects in which it goes beyond our understanding. We cannot feel so straightforwardly at home in the world. This is a sort of anxiety.
Another factor in our difficulties making sense of our own origins is our inability to remember being born. This is part of our more general inability to remember our infancy – a phenomenon that Sigmund Freud in 1905 called 'infantile amnesia'. Essentially, this amnesia is caused by the fact that our systems for forming and laying down memories change during childhood. This process of change is largely complete by ages six to eight. Whereas our early forms of memory are tacit, practical and emotional, the forms of memory we have acquired by age eight are explicit, linguistic and narratival. This change makes the earlier memories unavailable to us, and some of them are even destroyed.
At the same time, the period of infancy is formative for us. This is when many fundamental features of our personalities take shape, under the influence of the particular individuals and circumstances we encounter then and of our relationships with our first caregivers. We form habits, patterns of action and reaction, that will remain with us throughout our lives. Every time I feel scared of a dog approaching me, I exhibit an emotional response I first formed in childhood. As I walk along with a particular gait and style of movement, I re-enact habits I established in childhood.
But since infancy and childhood are formative for us, and yet we can explicitly remember little about them, we are left in the dark about fundamental features of our own personalities. Why do we fall in and out of love with the people we do? Why does a certain song move me to tears and leave you cold? Infantile amnesia means that the rationale for much of our emotional lives lies out of our reach.
To be born, and therefore to begin life as an infant and child, is to be destined to forget much of one's early life, even while it still lives on within one. It is to be limited in how far one can understand oneself and the wellsprings of motivation from which one acts and reacts. This aspect of being born, as well as the mystery of our own beginnings, can arouse anxiety. For, when we pay attention to infantile amnesia, we can feel uneasy and uncomfortable realising that we will never be able to make full sense of ourselves or of our own motivations and impulses. We are bound in important ways to remain strangers to ourselves.
Yet there might still seem to be a basic reason why we cannot feel anxious to have been born as we feel anxious about death. My birth is in the past, whereas my death is in the future. One might intuitively think that we can feel anxious only about future possibilities.
Then again, at times people do feel anxious about the past. Sometimes they feel social anxiety remembering having said or done the wrong thing in a past social situation. And post-traumatic stress disorder is anxiety about traumatic events suffered in the past. Indeed, the psychoanalytic theorist Otto Rank, author of The Trauma of Birth (1924), believed that we all experience birth anxiety understood as a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (although he didn't use the phrase): anxiety prompted by memories of the trauma of leaving the mother's womb.
But taking it that we can feel anxious about past events, the forms of birth anxiety discussed in this piece are not about my birth as a specific past event. Rather, they are anxieties about ongoing features of my existence that it has insofar as I was born – for instance, anxiety about how I am bound to be strange to myself by virtue of having been born. Here, these forms of birth anxiety are not so different from death anxiety after all, because death anxiety is likewise about my ongoing condition as a mortal being – I am always vulnerable to death, which can always intervene to leave my projects interrupted and unfinished. Similarly, in birth anxiety it is my whole condition as a natal being about which I am anxious.
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- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
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How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
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Credit: Virginia Tech