The newest part of our brain the prefrontal cortex, ideally should enable us to over ride our lizard brain and be calm and reasonable in the face of problems and disappointments. However, that takes maturity and our brains aren’t even fully developed until we are about twenty-seven years old. By that time we are pretty adept at allowing our rage and frustration to over take us. This prefrontal cortex is our awareness system; it is where we decide, plan, and make responsible choices. I referred to it earlier as our “head office” This is what gives us the capacity to think out into the future, back into the past and then evaluate both to make sense of the present.
Right now the one who is in charge of your behavior/feeling center is your back office, not your newer reasonable thinking front office as you might hope. Initially this older brain has most of the control in how you are influenced; it draws conclusions about people you don’t really know, deems others dumb or ignorant before you have even one conversation with them, and dislikes or champions people through beliefs you don’t even know you have. It will believe a total stranger and refute your friends based on a gut feeling instead of information, it will join a team of people you don’t know, and defend causes you know very little about. It is where your beliefs and opinions are protected to the death. In short this is your ego personified.
Bosses often make the big mistake of allowing employees to feel that their jobs are not secure, assuming this insecurity will motivate them to work harder. When in fact, it makes them much less productive because they live in fear and crisis mode.
When uncertainty has you rattled, you may engage in any of the following behaviors to increase some brain chemicals, but the benefits are short-lived. If you complain to other coworkers about how bad your company or boss is, those who agree with you will make you feel safer and more connected because of serotonin and oxytocin. If you put the government or world leaders down, predicting doom and gloom, you make the world feel predictable, releasing some serotonin. Even making false predictions about the future will make you feel superior. If you like to get fired up and debate or argue about life events, you will release dopamine.
Misery doesn’t just love company; it needs it! It allows us to crawl on our knees, bleeding and bruised, side by side, and feel that it’s us against them…whoever “them” is at the time. Next time you are waiting in line in a public place, see how long it takes for someone to make eye contact with you and roll their eyes, as if to say, “Do you believe this?”Eventually someone else might either speak up with sarcasm or make some kind of disgruntled noise, and then for a moment or two you will all feel better.
As you are coming to understand our amygdala is the root of our over reactions toward setbacks, comments, and even a weird look from a stranger. Even having a simple disagreement with someone can switch the amygdala to the fight-or-flight position. You enter into a discussion in which you expect the person to agree with you. Then when the person doesn’t, cortisol releases, causing an immediate shutting down of reasonable thinking and processing. Cortisol interrupts the prefrontal cortex as it tells your brain, “Your life is in danger; this is no time to be thinking!” So you raise your voice, yell, and take on aggressive body posture. Your whole body is reacting as if the other person is a threat to your life. This is why arguments rarely prove fruitful and is why discussing topics such as religion and politics is so dangerous. Never forget that no one wants to hear what you think unless you agree with them. So save your breath and your energy.
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