Thought-tober: Overprotection

The more we try to control things the more we seem to open the door to being vulnerable. Overprotection and/or avoidance usually ends up backfiring on us most of the time. Hovering over a child and constantly watching over them on the playground to prevent them from getting into trouble or hurting themselves usually creates kids that don’t know how manage risk very well and judge their own limits. Consistently prevent someone from being criticized usually promotes hyper-sensitivity to being challenged or critiqued. This concept is nothing new, some people know it as simply being spoiled. Constantly protect and pamper someone, child or not, and they become fragile.

The point here is not to ignore risk or to make things overly or unnecessarily tough on people, it is to critically think through the concept of overprotection. The more we try to avoid things the more vulnerable we become to them. In essence, the more you protect something, the more fragile you make that system, the more prone it is to a destructive and often devastating event. Germaphobes, for example, usually get sick whenever they come in contact with germs because they’ve created a fragile immune system. Additionally, things that cause just mild discomfort in a normal person can make a germaphobe really, really sick. This avoidance of germs makes germs more problematic when they get in. In general, avoiding small mistakes make the large ones even more severe.

Which leads many people to ask: Does our fear of germs contribute to autoimmunity? A growing number of researchers believe that in the paradigm of immune regulation, while sanitation saves lives it also weakens the body’s ability to train and properly tune the immune system. If you take a little here you’ll have to give a little there. I’m not suggesting sanitation is a bad thing I’m merely pointing out that we are likely causing some unforeseen consequences the further we take the concept of sterilization and germ avoidance.

Bones become more fragile the less you challenge and strain them. The longer they go without challenge, the more fragile they get. Falling becomes more of a high risk situation. The more you avoid doing things in fear of falling the more fragile you make your bones and the greater you will be hurt when you do fall.

Overprotect your skin from friction or the sun and it becomes easily hurt or burned. Let it have reasonable challenge and it becomes much more resilient and healthy.

Managing risks more carefully, by allowing people (kids in particular) to be exposed to small risks but supporting (and possibly protecting them) during high risk situations allows for a better and more robust way to strengthen the human system. Allowing yourself to be challenged, take risks and contact germs makes you stronger in the long term and prepares you well for down the road.

Ignore small risks and small dangers but prepare for, plan for and be wary of the big and dangerous.

Thanks for thinking, have a great day!

P.S. Spend too much time in warm, climate controlled Southern California and you get pretty soft when it comes to cold and rainy weather…