There is a somewhat controversial concept within environmental health called “hormesis”. The majority of the scientific community are in agreement that all radiation exposure, at any level, is terrible for you (cancer and all that shit would always be a potential side effect). Hormesis however says that potentially very low doses of ionizing radiation may prevent cancer. I promise I am turning this into a kick ass metaphor, and am only going to sprinkle in some boring scientific terms here. In an effort to maintain full disclosure, there is a small chance I am subconsciously writing this to both memorize the concept and find an acceptable reason to procrastinate. Seventy pages of environmental health can be overwhelming for any distracted and reluctant reader. Yet, my mind did perk up at this definition and not so much at chloracne, luckily for you guys, since that shit is rough.
What if hormesis could be translated into the society we all live in instead of simply the scientific community? For instance, there is that archaic saying involving sticks and stones and words never hurting us. But words do. They sting and they stay with us, constant reminders of cruelty and often foundations for our own insecurities. I can recall with distinct clarity the hurtful things two random girls hurled at me in middle school. Yet, what if much like radiation below .2 Gy some terrible words will not destroy us but make us stronger?
Quick side note, this is a concept many reject so we’re going to have to pretend it’s completely valid for my metaphor to work.
There is no way to measure our potential capacity to withstand the various hurtful sentences people wield against us. If there were it would make life so much easier. We could have a scale to ration which phrases would stick, and which we could file under “cultivating a resistance to this type of bull shit.” I am choosing to believe some of it can build us into more irrepressible individuals. I am 99% sure emotional hormesis is not a thing, but I am an individual who needs balance. I need for some fragmented piece of good to leap away from all the cruelty.
I will throw myself into the concept that some degree of positivity must come from all of the nights I spent licking my wounds in a dark corner. I, for one, am choosing to believe in an emotional hormesis. Even if it is just from the things I have told myself. It is possible that all those times I slashed my self-esteem and said I was not proficient in math or science are what pushed me to pursue a Bachelor’s of Science. That every time I do not initially grasp a concept in my Data Analysis course, those words I silently muttered in my mind, are what push me to succeed.
Harsh words suck. Bullying is never justified. I have been on the end of both, either from outsiders or from myself. This is not a post meant to condone hatred in any form. Rather I am attempting to give myself the opportunity to review memories in a way that feels healthier. If I can understand these concepts within science, then what should keep me from implementing them in my quest for peace and emotional stability outside of it?
For right now, I can only hope that all this studying and sleep deprivation will somehow pay off. My aspirations are not lofty goals where I earn a ton of cash or win some Nobel Prize (HA that’s not even on the spectrum of possibilities) but with any luck it will help me become a better mother. If I can start to conceptualize ways to comfort myself hopefully it will translate into ways I can better comfort my son. If I can master the art of self-kindness, perhaps I can show my kid how to treat himself with respect. These are all far off possibilities that my kid does not have to worry about right now. Currently he is sitting beside me playing with a sword (also known as a spatula to us mere mortals) without a care in the world.
One day emotional hormesis will be important. There will come a time where a kid will spray insults or he will encounter some form of discrimination. It will be the prime opportunity to flip out these tools and teach him to build himself into whoever he wants to be. To look at the words less like weapons against him. It is my hope that we can both learn to let those small moments of people being gross make us stronger. Considering my kid likes looking at my PowerPoints on necrotic brains, watching NatGeo documentaries on crocodiles and stealing my Environmental Health textbook to look at the side effects of dioxin poisoning, maybe he will also be a science bad ass too.