Battle of the Brains

By: Terri Hayes

Battle of the Brains 

Have you ever witnessed someone who was a rockstar in one arena but once the arena was changed, they fell out of their zone of genius and floundered, sometimes affecting more than just themselves? 

Consider a top-notch salesperson who demolishes his/her sales quotas, bringing lots of $$$$$ to the company. Naturally, someone “high up” says, let’s make him/her the sales manager! The new sales manager beams with pride at the “promotion” but soon finds their zest for the work they do wanes and the whole department suffers as well as company profits.  

A similar thing happens with our brain. There are two sections in our brain that are experts in the role they play but when one of them tries to be the boss, the system can suffer. Here’s a brief description of these two segments: 

Thinking Brain (Prefrontal Cortex): This part is often associated with reasoning, decision-making, problem-solving, and conscious control. It’s often called the “Rational Brain” or “Smart Brain.” 

Protective Brain (Limbic System and Brainstem): This part handles basic survival instincts, emotions, and automatic responses. It’s sometimes called the “Reptilian Brain” or “Emotional Brain.” 

If you’re being attacked by a tiger or participating in a fast-paced athletic event where quick thinking is crucial, the instinctive response from the Protective Brain is beneficial in allowing us to react quickly without the need for deliberate thought. These incidences are a small portion of our lives if they even exist at all.  

There are times in our life where we want the rational intellect of our Thinking Brain yet the Protective Brain steps into the roll and the “system is compromised.”  

You’re having a discussion with someone and it escalates into an argument. Threat: Protective Brain to the rescue! Feelings of defensiveness or anger arise and the next thing you know, words are said that you later regret and possibly didn’t even mean.  

How about this one? Your child is getting into everything you’ve dubbed a “no-no,” and won’t even give you peace when you try and take a bathroom break. When the toddler throws a tantrum because you cut his toast in a rectangle rather than a triangle, you lose it. Threat: Protective Brain to the rescue! Frustration takes over and you end up reacting in a way you swore you never would.  

Perhaps you’ve been considering a big purchase and had plans to go shopping on Thursday after work. Thursday rolls around and you’ve had a terrible day at work. Your biggest client is unhappy and is considering other options and you had two employees call in sick. Threat: Protective Brain to the rescue! You’re tired but you’re going to keep your commitment to get this purchase taken care of. The next morning you wake with buyers’ regret. You spent more than you planned and didn’t put much thought into getting the features you initially wanted.  

One of my favorite sayings to remember is: When emotion is high, intellect is low. Of course, this refers to emotions that we generally don’t enjoy experiencing. Our knee-jerk reactions impair our response-ability. 

Keeping your Thinking Brain in its area of genius takes practice and tools. If you have areas where your Protective Brian shows up in the wrong job and want to diminish those occurrences, let’s visit about tools you can employ to keep each brain in their respective area of genius. 

High Five! 

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