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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What’s your emotional temperature?

By: Carisa Peters

We all understand body temperature right? Our body is like a furnace and it puts out heat all the time. It comes from your body doing the work that keeps you alive. When it puts out more heat than usual, this is your body telling you that there is a problem.

So you get a thermometer and you check your body temperature, right? It used to be that normal was 98.6? Now they are saying it has changed and is 98.2. But the normal range for an adult is anywhere from 97 to 99. Babies and children can be a little higher and they range from 97.9 to 100.4. Now there are all types of thermometers. If you are a Mom then you know all about this. We had rectal thermometers for our babies. You could use one in the mouth, under the arm, in the ear and now they have these fancy ones that just scan your forehead. Many different ways to tell you your body temperature. So that you can be aware of what is happening in your body and take appropriate measures to support that. Whether that be medicine or checking in with a doctor to find out what is going on.

It’s kind of funny, as a mom of young children I was always a bit obsessed with their temperatures. Probably all moms have this but sometimes I could just have this sense by looking at them or slightly touching them..and know they had a fever and then go into problem-solving mode. So that is all about body temperature.

Ok…so now…. what do I mean by our emotional temperature? Well, I had this light bulb go off. Over the last couple of years, as I would be out in public, I would interact with people and I kept seeing this common theme in my mind. Everyone has an emotional temperature. That person is really losing their crap…they must be at 104! Could it help us to see it in this manner? If we had an elevated body temperature we would be much more aware of what this means and how we are potentially going to feel as a result. Like when we have a fever we may not want to be around others because we could spread illness or infection to them. We take it seriously, right? Well, what if we knew we had an elevated emotional temperature? Could we be mindful and take steps to support ourselves in a better way?

Let me paint more of a picture of what this could look like. I began to reflect on my life prior to my career change. I could see that I had a very high emotional temperature most of the time. For a long period of time, I would say my emotional temperature was consistently either a low-grade or high-grade fever. What I mean is, every day I would wake up, do what I needed to myself ready for work, and then later get the kids ready for school. I would go to work and my emotional state was in this heightened place. Like if my emotional state had a temperature reading it would range from 100 to 105. Do you follow me?

Most days when I arrived to work my emotional temperature was already elevated. Maybe it is because someone said something to me that bothered me. And then my child is not doing what I ask and I feel disrespected. Then I deal with an angry driver on the way to work and then a person cuts in front of me in the gas line. Then I have a customer being demanding and rude when it is uncalled for. I bet their temperature is elevated too.

Can you see this? We all walk around in various states of having an emotional fever. We like to think we are pretty self-aware but the painful truth is that we are not most of the time. Because we are often thinking and acting on autopilot so our body can conserve energy. This is just how we were designed. However, taking a proactive approach and knowing what happens when our temperature gets too high can be beneficial. What happens when our emotional temperature gets too high? Well, sometimes all hell breaks loose. This is when people cross that line or go over that edge. They scream at their kids. They yell back at the rude customer. Their driving escalates to road rage. They may do self-medicating or take harmful actions against their own well-being. These could range from mild to severe actions.

So like I said, this light bulb went off for me. I recognized that I have taken many proactive steps in my life to lower my emotional temperature. I used to be that person ready to snap. Ready to cry if someone said the wrong thing to me. Ready to turn to my buffers of overworking, overdrinking alcohol, and overeating to try to make myself feel better. But those things didn’t really lower my emotional temperature. I thought they were helping but they weren’t. If it did help the reality is that it was just a temporary fix that would come with a negative consequence later. I needed more intentional actions of self-care and compassion to help me. What I would like to give you is a new tool to have in your toolbox. A tool that allows you to know what your temperature is at all times and how you can lower it if need be.

The first thing that helped me is believing in the 50/50 life concept. That I was not placed on this earth to have everything go my way and experience happiness 100% of the time. I reconciled with the truth that as a human being I actually evolve and grow through trial and adversity. Not when things are smooth and falling into place. I realized I can use that adversity to help others around me. Which is the pinnacle of life. To give back to others and leave a lasting impression on the world and the people in it. We aren’t typically thinking this way. We are all wrapped up in our own lives and we just can’t see the bigger picture. So when I wake up each day. I give my thanks for being here another day and I say to myself, this will be a 50/50 day and I will do my best to navigate that without adding more negative energy into the world.

So how do you know what your temperature is? You can evaluate this bynhaving the self-awareness to regularly check in with yourself. You can do this by:

1. journaling – writing about how you are feeling and what thoughts are creating those feelings.

2. meditating – setting aside quiet time to reflect and listen to ourselves.

3. reflection – look at the actions you are taking. Are they positive or negative? Proactive or reactive?

4. asking ourselves a great question – what do I need more or less of right now?

And after trying some or all of these things, then put a number on your emotional temperature. Awareness must come before you can change. So give yourself a number. Do I have no fever, am I a healthy normal emotional temperature right now? 98? Do I have a low-grade fever? 100? Mid-grade? 102? Do I have a high emotional fever? 105? Once you give your emotional state a number. You now have the awareness to stay there or choose to do something to change it.

So what are some ways to lower that temperature? There really are so many things you can do to support yourself by lowering your emotional temperature. I’ll just start rattling off some things and just know there are many more beyond this that could support you as a unique individual and for what you are specifically struggling with most.

-Get more sleep.

-Stop engaging or being present around gossip.

-Ask your spouse or partner for support and help with what needs to get done.

-Deep breathing exercises.

-Stop listening to the unrealistic stories your brain likes to create about what your life should be like.

-Read a good book.

-Take some time off of work or use that vacation time.

-Volunteer your time or give to someone else that needs it more than you.

-Ask yourself what has really gone wrong here? What are the facts?

-Do something that makes you happy? A walk, a massage, a trip to the zoo, exercise, dinner with a friend.

-listen to your favorite music.

-take a warm shower or bath.

-talk to your doctor, a coach, a therapist, or a counselor

Are you getting some of your own ideas of what you would do when your emotional temperature is elevated? I hope so.

I think the most important takeaway from all this. Is that you become aware that you have an emotional temperature and know when you are becoming feverish. Because we are on auto-pilot most of the time and our primitive brain is leading things this is the most crucial step. That you can pause long enough to assess your emotional temperature and place a value on it. That pause and creating awareness can be just enough to interrupt the path you are on. You can choose something different. I wish we did have a device like this that would take our emotional temperature and it would be crystal clear that we need to do something about it. But we don’t so we have to find other ways to monitor this ourselves if we want more peace and contentment in our life.

Take it from someone that lived with an elevated emotional temperature for many years and did nothing about it but complain, feel like a victim, try buffering away my feelings, and become depressed about it. If I would have known about a concept like this, I could have had a tool to interrupt what was happening and give myself a chance to modify it. The longer this goes unmanaged the harder it is to regain control. I truly felt many times I was on the verge of a mental breakdown and I just didn’t know what to do about it. My goal is to create awareness around our emotional temperatures and give us tools to support ourselves when we need it the most.

Until next time, my wish for you is that you can become aware of your emotional temperature and know when you need to go inward and focus on yourself to lower that temperature. Life is 50/50 right so we don’t need to add to the complexity of it by not being able to keep our emotions in a healthy range.

“Sometimes in life one experiences an emotion which is so strong that it is difficult to think, or to reason.” Eric Cantona

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