According to brain researchers:
Emotional needs and passion are at the core of our decisions!
As much as we may try to pretend otherwise, in our natural state, we really only use rational thinking when justifying our emotion-driven decisions.
The emotional side that makes our decisions has been charmingly called “the old brain.” The old brain doesn’t understand words (which are a product of reason), but it does understand threats, survival and reproduction.
This changes the way we think of conflict. It’s no longer a perceived difference of rational opinions (as according to Wikipedia); the new idea is that conflicts are emotionally driven and affected. Conflicts seem reason-driven because we cover them in cost-analysis rationalization that helps us to legitimize the confrontation.
Here is how the human brain works:
- The new brain thinks: it processes rational data.
- The middle brain feels: It processes emotions and gut feelings. and is active in searching for solutions for our emotional needs.
- The old brain decides: it takes into account the input from the other two brains, but it is the real trigger of the decision. In other words, the old brain is the boss.
This idea is very practical, because day-to-day, we can ask ourselves:
what primordial needs has my old brain today?
- Do I feel insecure in my relationship or my job?
- Do I feel threatened?
- Is there some basic anxiety around my gut today?
- Is my old anxious attachment making me see the world as a threatening, cold and uncaring place today?
After locating the source of present stress in an old brain model, created way back when you were a helpless child, your task is clear now: your job is to activate your middle and new brains (the place where empathy, connection and trust live) and from your adult self check those old panic triggers:
Is a sure thing that you will starve today?
Are there enemies at your door or is it a simple alarming noise?
Do you need to fight to death for a piece of bread or is there enough for everybody?
In this way, we avoid making decisions ruled by the survival brain, the older one! We need to mature and become a safe haven for ourselves, and we do this using the resources of intelligence, experience and new connections gathered along the years.
Our decisions will be more rational and emotional if we evaluate and change the messages from the older brain.
The point is not necessarily to avoid all conflict the old brain alerts us to, but we can learn to separate defense mechanisms (being unnecessarily aggressive with a co-worker) from constructive conflict (a discussion about how to reprimand your children).