Hysterical Strength (and Thinking)

I was watching a TV show other day about stories of people allegedly exerting almost superhuman levels of strength in times of extreme danger/panic. One example was of the lady who saw her son trapped under a car which had fallen off the hydraulic jacks; she managed to lift it up to allow her son to escape. The explanation given is the use of “hysterical strength”. The theory behind hysterical strength; typically, all reasoning, thinking is carried out in the neo-cortex, a layer of brain at the top of our head. Any muscle utilisation requests are sent through this, and in turn, this “restricts” the percentage of muscle to be utilised in any task, be it day to day moving furniture, or pushing weights. The theory of hysterical strength argues that in extreme panic, the command to engage a muscle doesn’t go through the neo cortex, and thus is not restricted, resulting in 100% (or near) utilisation of muscle. There is much debate as to whether this is scientifically true.



Regardless of the veracity of this story, what if we were to apply the same theory to our day to day actions? Too often, we think about the risk and not the reward, we choose the safe path over the new path. Risk needs to be put into perspective. We “limit” ourselves in the same way the neo-cortex limits the muscles. Remaining within our comfort zones doesn’t allow us to challenge ourselves, and we are stuck in a monotonous cycle, not allowing ourselves to progress. We are content to simply tread water. seek new challenges. Learn new skills, or push yourself to enhance your existing ones. You don’t learn to ride a bike without falling off.

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