Personally, I find that anything in life is easier to manage if I understand, even just a little bit, how the human brain works. My car is an example of this. I do not need to know the entire workings of its engine, the parts, and all of the mechanics, however, just knowing its high-level design empowers me to follow a proper maintenance routine so that it continues to run as smoothly as possible.
The same desire to understand pertains to the human brain for me. I found the more I know about how the brain works and why we humans are the way we are, the less anxious I feel about feeling anxious.
The desire to know more about the human brain has allowed us to realise that we are all wired perfectly, and it is like this intentionally to ensure the best chance of our survival. After years of personally dealing with anxiety, knowing that I can rely on and trust my brain and its inherent design was a breakthrough. It opened up the possibility that I could work with my brain to overcome my anxiousness. I no longer saw my brain as my enemy but as my ally.
The amygdala is the oldest part of our brain and consists of cells near the base of the brain. It’s designed to scan for problems, and when it finds a problem (or perceives it has found a problem) it floods our bodies with adrenaline and stress hormones sending us into the flight-or-fight mode. The amygdala is where our strong emotions like fear and pleasure get processed. One can see how our ancient ancestors relied heavily on this part of the brain to keep them safe. It signaled to tell them if something needs to be feared or if they can relax and rest.
This fight-or-flight response system continued to evolve in humans over the millennia. Those that had the most sensitive systems were the ones that lived on and reproduced. These are the ancestors from which we all come from, the highly triggered, most evolved fight or flight humans. Their automatic response system to physical danger allowed them to react quickly, increasing their success rate.
The two large frontal brain areas are known as the frontal lobes. This is the newest part of the human brain, and they allow us to think rationally, reason, make decisions, and plan. The frontal lobes allow us to process and think about our emotions, give them meaning, and discern a logical response. Unlike the amygdala, which is automatic and reactive, the frontal lobes are controlled consciously by us.
Knowing that each of these two parts of the brain is uniquely and perfectly designed, we can begin to look at our experiences with anxiousness, fear, stress, and even panic differently. We can reflect and see that we are not harmed or broken, even if we thought so. We can now see that we are designed perfectly, and that the issue is not with our design, so much as it is with the triggering of our fight-or-flight system.
Today, unlike what it was like for early humans, there are far fewer physical threats. There are, however, more psychological threats caused by the pressures and stressors of modern life. These psychological threats can seem real to our safety and survival as the threats that man faced five million years ago with the woolly mammoth. The problem we have today is that our stressors are often a result of illogical and irrational fears. These are fed by our own deep, unhealthy way of thinking and perceptions of the world, in which we live. These perceptions are more often than not debilitating to our belief in our powerfulness. This depletes our sense of options and possibilities, and is dangerous to our health whether physical, psychological, financial, or spiritual.
For our ancestors, their fight-or-flight systems kept them safe from the woolly mammoth and let them live another day. Today, we do not have to fight for our daily food, shelter, and physical survival. Instead, we need to navigate a world of instant messaging and 24/7 exposure to terror-filled media. These conditions are triggering such deep psychological fears, that our fight-or-flight systems are lighting up like never before, and anxiousness is on the rise.
Unlike our ancestors that lived in a jungle filled with hungry predators, we can choose how to perceive our reality. Importantly, we also have a choice as to how we react to our emotions. Discoveries in the area of neuroscience over the last two decades have proven that our beliefs and perceptions are malleable. As a result, we are in more control of our state of being than we ever realized. We can change our environment whereas our ancient ancestors could not.
Want to know more?
If you are ready to stop your fight-or-flight reaction to the world and want to realize a different way to relate to your emotions, book a complimentary consultation. I would love to talk to you about how life Can Be Different.