Keep your cave-person grounded

Photo by Drini Teta on Unsplash

Have you ever jumped to a conclusion, without much thought, to find later how big a mistake it was?

Even when you decide on something good and pleasurable, it has a less intense taste most of the time.

I know for a fact that I had both. When I started studying stress mechanics, I was able to understand why it happens.

Our limbic system is the ruler of our emotions and social behaviours. All inputs we have from our senses go straight to the thalamus to be distributed to our neocortex and the “all-powerful” amygdala.

I don’t want to drown you in details, let’s say that our neocortex is where our logical thinking resides, and the amygdala is where our “cave-person” lives.
While the neocortex takes time to process all the information, analyze, and dwell with a hypothesis before concluding, our amygdala is always ready for action.

And what this means?

It means we will jump to a conclusion faster than we think things out, and we don’t believe that it is our fault. We have been designed that way!

And I would like to state the importance of the amygdala, though.

There are times when we need the amygdala to bypass all logic and take care of our course of action. It helps us face danger; we flee or fight (some studies include “play dead” as a third option).

But when times are free from peril and the amygdala takes care of our decisions, a more significant question comes after time passes and we taste the outcomes of our decision.

Was it worth it?
Have we decided wisely enough?
Is the outcome aligned with our values and intentions?

And it doesn’t matter if the decision was towards something pleasant. We are humans, and therefore we will create expectations on our beautiful minds. Those expectations are so filled with emotions way beyond reality most of the time. And that leaves a bittersweet aftertaste.

Well, not much to say about unpleasant moments. We enter the realm of our personal “fight club”, and only when the dust seats we can see the damage we have done – to us and the ones surrounding us.

It seems a good enough explanation for the existence of popular phrases like “I need to sleep over it”.

When I have some decision to make, I always like to take a moment for myself, have a cup of tea or a glass of water, while allowing my “caveman” to settle.

Sure enough, sometimes we don’t have an escape, or at least so we think.

It does not take long to settle our cave-person most of the time. When in the middle of a heated argument, we always have the chance to go back to the most critical thing we have – our breathing. Try to relax for 3 to 5 seconds while performing deep breaths. It will prevent, automatically, your cortisol and adrenaline levels from increasing exponentially.
Our organism is a fantastic machine; we have to provide space to run correctly.

So remember, next time you see yourself in the face of a tough decision, a heated debate, or even a rush-for-gold decision, take a break. Let your amygdala get out of your way, and you will have a deeper understanding of the decision you face.

Bye, Ric Castelhano