As I am continually striving toward greatness, I decided recently to enjoy a lengthy self-improvement seminar. Or, it was required by my job. In any case, in this seminar I learned from speaker Robin Rose that the reasons we make poor decisions in life and act rashly is due to our tendency to use our survival brain, and not our thinking brain. These two brains are located in two separate places (but don’t worry, they’re both in your head). The speaker bases her lectures on actual brain research, but regardless I would first like to state that:
The information found here is not necessarily that of the author, but of important brain research people. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure your condition and please refer to a health professional, or psychic, or circus clown, or your friendly neighborhood barista, before beginning any new program such as the one advocated here, which is not advocated here by me, the author, but by important brain research people, as stated above. For more information, please contact anybody who is not me.
So back to what I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself. So, you can tell that you’re using your survival brain by certain trains of thought, or behaviors. Some of these include critical thoughts, irritability, and getting stuck in circular negative thought patterns without being able to think constructively about how to solve them (For example, “I’m sure tired today! Why am I always so tired?” without coming up with a positive solution, “I should drink ten more cups of coffee and then I’ll never be tired again! I’ll also never have to deal with the nuisance of sleeping again!”). The thinking brain, on the other hand, is open to new ideas, collaborative, supportive, and resilient (for example, “I should connect a coffee IV to my arm to that caffeine can be intravenously delivered into my blood 24 hours a day!”)
Why do people use their survival brain if they would be so much happier using their thinking brain? Well, you see, people don’t realize they’re using their survival brain. We begin using it in high-stress circumstances. For example, when people become agitated, frustrated, or concerned, they begin to hold their breath. Holding our breath releases adrenaline and cortisol. According to the lecture notes, “An excess of these chemicals diminish calm, clear thinking and raise excitation and defense mechanisms.” Moreover, “the survival brain requires so many chemicals that when it is activated, the chemicals needed for healing, thinking clearly, digesting food and health, etc. become depleted.”
Oh, so that’s why everybody around me is such a miserable human being! That’s why they constantly wrong me and mistreat me! They are all using their survival brains! They are, in essence, all out to get me! What terrible survival brain users they are! I”m the only person left in the universe who still uses my thinking brain! I’m great, and they all suck!
No, you see, that above paragraph actually exemplifies the thoughts of somebody using his or her survival brain. Blaming, complaining, and considerng oneself the victim are all signs that one is using the survival brian, and not the constructive, happy thinking brain.
So if we’d all be happier using our thinking brain, how do we access it? According to the seminar, the most important thing we can do is ‘belly breathe.’ When we “belly breathe and exhale fully, the brain stops manufacturing stress chemicals and begins to produce calming chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins. These cause the thinking brain to stay accessible so that the person can think clearly and stay calm and professional.”
Another disclaimer: That was actually not an exact quote from the seminar paper. It was intended to be, but the OCD author of this blog (also known as me) was so disturbed by a grammatical error as well as the misspelling of the words ‘manufacturing’ and ‘serotonin’ that said author (still me) was forced to correct these errors leading the author (me again) to claim, by way of quotation marks, an exact quote when in actuality it was not. Must have been a “survival brain” moment.
The thinking brain needs not only belly breathing to function properly, but also glucose. As you can imagine, this delighted me. Nothing better than a research-based excuse to increase my sugar intake. “But I HAD to eat that fourth candy bar to combat my survival brain and bring about the supreme reign of my thinking brain!”
Oh shoot, I’ve just been informed by my thinking brain that the glucose necessary for my thinking brain should not be in the form of simple fast-acting sugars but rather complex carbohydrates that gently urge my thinking brain into proper functioning. Damn.
So, if you have any further questions or comments about the thoughts shared in this blog, or if you have trouble sifting through my commentary to find the reputable, valid information that was shared during the lecture I attended, then please contact somebody. But not me. I am not yet your thinking brain expert. I still spend most of my time in my survival brain.