Obafemi Origunwa MA: Ifa Priest | Counselor | Educator
If you assembled a team of psychologists, investment advisors, and neuroscientists, they would all agree that things like road rage, impulse shopping, test anxiety and fear of public speaking will drive a person to do some pretty irrational things, like attack a perfect stranger, spend money you don't have, stammer uncontrollably or even faint. Although the reaction is very real, the need is totally imaginary.
It turns out that our irrationality has a lot to do with the nature of the human brain, which is perfectly designed to handle physical threats. If you were being chased by a big dog, your brain would kick into high gear to move you out of harm’s way or help you fight for your life. But it's impossible to outrun a stock market crash or a broken heart, even though your perception of danger is just the same.
Your brain is divided into three sections: upper (the cerebral cortex), middle (the limbic system), and lower (the basal ganglia). The upper brain is where you create reason. The middle brain is where you react to emotional impulse. The lower brain is what regulates the operations of your physical body.
The limbic system is where your emotions are created. This middle brain has one function; to move you toward pleasure or away from danger. Even the word “e-motion” suggests movement. Intense emotions like fear, anger, and sadness can cause the limbic system to move you away from a perceived danger. Likewise, joy, pleasure, and happiness move you toward a perceived benefit. There is no gray area with the limbic system. It’s either black or white, good or bad.
When you encounter high anxiety circumstances, your limbic system reacts reflexively to a perceived threat in much the same way it would to an actual physical threat. It immediately sends a message to the lower brain to prepare your escape. Your heart starts beating faster, the blood-flow to your stomach reduces, and your palms become sweaty. The limbic system also disconnects most of the upper brain’s ability to reason. The limbic system is now ready to evoke motion by making a seemingly rational decision to move out of harm’s way. Its way of eliminating the threat is for you to react as strongly and quickly as possible.
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Fortunately, neuroscientists tell us that we can rewire our brains to separate the actions from the emotions. This is done by creating new neuropathways between the cortex and limbic system. A number of methods help the brain accomplish this, including cognitive behavioral therapy, spiritual therapy, experiential therapy, brain training, and awareness meditation. They all take time and practice.
If you don’t think you have the time or money to engage these methodologies, just remember the last time you reacted inappropriately to a situation at home, at work or even on the highway. Imagine how much better it would feel, not to mention how much time and money you would have saved, if you had done things differently.