In Brain, Conflict, Control, Dopamine, Dumb Things, Intelligence, Neuroplasticity, Politics, Stress by DC McGuireLeave a Comment

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Sometimes it’s just a lack of good information, miscommunications, or accidental mistakes.

Our worst mistakes though, are the ones that happen when we say or do something out of anger.  Observe carefully, and you’ll notice that where there’s anger, there’s fear.  Anger may be what we see and hear, but the message our brain receives is, “uh-oh, this could be a possible threat to survival. I’m on duty.”

Alerted to possible danger, our brain instantly shuts down all non-essential systems, including our ability to think analytically. In the heat of an argument or confrontation, at the moment we most need our wits about us, we pretty much go dumb.  A good way to think of what happens is that when we’re angry/afraid, our muscles become more powerful, while our thinking brain turns to mush.

In genuinely dangerous situations, this is exactly the warning we need. We get a jolt of the neurochemical, dopamine, to get our attention and help us remember that particular threat in the future.  The problem is that dopamine reacts in the brain a lot like amphetamines and cocaine.  So, the rush that comes with anger/fear, gives us some of the same feelings of energy associated with amphetamines, along with cocaine’s temporary feelings of invincibility, and all we’re good for is fighting or “flighting”.  Neither of which encourages sound thinking, or good judgment!

And, like its neurochemical cousins, amphetamines and cocaine, dopamine can also be addictive.  More fear/anger guarantees another “fix”.  The result is that argumentative, aggressive, belligerent behavior, and faulty decision making can become habitual.  Upsets, conflict, and problems at home, work, or school become a way of life.

What to do about it?

At the first signs of tensions and emotions rising,  take three of the slowest, deepest breaths possible.

Quickly ask yourself. “What feels threatened?”  Hint: usually it has something to do with time, money, love, respect or status. Now you’re empowered with clear insight about why you’re feeling angry/fearful.

More slow, deep breaths.  By this time, dopamine levels are heading towards healthier levels, and your thinking brain is beginning to take charge.  You can start to analyze the facts.

Stay with those slow, deep breaths. At this point,  you can trust that your words and actions will work for instead of against you.  You’ll have your own back, and whatever the circumstances might be, enjoy the best possible outcome!

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