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Crumpage: My unifying theory of behavior

Bottom Line
By: Marvin Bionat

In my longstanding attempt to create a grand theory of human behavior, I have invented a new word: crumpage. Yes, move over Freud and Jung, here I come with my much simpler but more universal explanation of behavior. It will be used as the preeminent theoretical framework of behavioral science in the coming decades.

Okay, enough of my facetious thinking. First of all, crumpage is not really a unifying theory, as the pretentious title of this column indicates. I don’t even really know if existing theories are unifiable or if anyone cares about unifying them. Unifying theory just sounds more avant-garde—like trying to reconcile quantum mechanics with Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Put simply, crumpage is the amount of crumple or crease made by crumpling. As soon as we’re born, we’re dealt a piece of paper that’s been crumpled, with our face unmistakably printed on the page. Some are given a relatively neat piece of paper (low crumpage), while others have their paper really messed up (high crumpage). Each wrinkle or crease represents stress or anxiety. Needless to say, the troubled among us have very high crumpage and are bound to lead a stressful and anxiety-ridden life.

The amount of crumpage a person is born with is affected by inborn physiology. It is thus largely a genetic gift or scourge. For example, if your body tend to produce a healthy dose of serotonin—nature’s feel-good chemical—then you are likely to have low crumpage. Advance brain scanning technology is now able to tell which babies are more likely to be well-adjusted as adults. However, a highly anxious mother carrying a baby is bound to create significant crumpling. A dysfunctional childhood can make it worse.

I’m certainly not suggesting a fatalistic world view of human behavior—cast at birth and further nurtured during early childhood. In fact, this is to argue that we can take steps to overcome or manage our individual level of crumpage. At times, when all of life’s pieces fall into place (either through planning or sheer luck, or a combination of both), we feel that life is well and good and so our mental wrinkles and creases disappear—momentarily, until nature takes its course and our mental state return to “normal.” If we do nothing to keep our crumpage low, we naturally settle back to our natural level of stress and anxiety.

The important implication is that we should be deliberate about how we deal with our predisposition to stress and anxiety, because we naturally and subconsciously seek our normal level of crumpage. In fact, when there is no drama in our lives to cause us to worry, we actually create situations that will generate such drama. Why do you think we wait until the last minute to pay our bills or to leave for an appointment? Why do we cram for exams? Why don’t we save enough for emergencies? Those with high crumpage subconsciously set themselves up for stressful and anxiety-ridden situations, while those with naturally low crumpage have such a low pain threshold that they take active steps to avoid worrisome situations. They thus tend to be planners, more organized, and are wont to save more.

There are quite obvious and practical ways to minimize the wrinkles and creases in our lives. Calming activities such as meditation and exercise are proven to have de-stressing effects. In fact, serotonin levels are increased when one engages in endurance training, such as running, swimming, and yoga.

Doing or simply watching acts of kindness (even on TV) also positively affect crumpage. Shows that reward or empower disenfranchised but deserving people are not only morally uplifting; they are also great ways to unwind.

Another obvious way to lower our crumpage level is to watch our diet. Some foods tend to make us hyper, such us high levels of sugar or caffeine. Food directly affects mood, although it can be subjective—that is, one food affects one person differently than another. It is thus wise to keep a tab on what sorts of foods make one edgy and those that tend to give one a sense of well-being.

Having pets is another proven way to unwind and loosen those mental wrinkles. Dogs are popular in nursing homes and hospitals, because the loyal and friendly canines have such a relaxing effect among residents and patients. According to studies, actually taking care of a pet, or someone else other than ourselves, tend to make us happier.

Perhaps the simplest way to fight stress and anxiety is to get enough sleep or rest. When we know that staying up the night before a critical presentation at work will adversely affect our performance, then it should be our top priority to hit the sack on time.

As we deliberately lower our crumpage level, we are likely to keep it low as our anxiety threshold (that is, the maximum point at which we can tolerate anxiety) is also lowered. The result is more personal planning and organization, as we stave off avoidable stress and drama from our lives.

Marvin Bionat is the creator of PhilippineUpdate.com, a news and views site that has served as a virtual platform that promotes various advocacies, including the political empowerment of overseas Filipinos and accountability in government. He wrote the National Bookstore bestseller How to Win (or Lose) in Philippine Elections (Anvil Publishing, 1998) and is now based in the U.S. working as an editor.
Read more articles by Marvin Bionat ************************************************************************
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