Find your best self by understanding how your brain works
"Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin
This very simple statement reminded me of challenges I'd faced in my own life that had to be confronted, dealt with and changed in order to create the life I knew was available to me yet I wasn't able to access. What is the journey we need to take in order to acknowledge and accept our role in bringing our best self to surface? Taking Baldwin's very clear observation to heart means we perhaps need to understand what drives us. By us I mean, rather than the personality, the brain and mind.
Dr Evian Gordon provided the key organising principle of the brain, proving that every decision we make is geared to either threat or reward to ensure survival: "Everything you do in life is based on your brain's determination to minimise danger and maximise reward.”
David Rock, in his work on neuroscience, gave us the five domains of human interaction (ie. the SCARF model), which is also recognised as a way to understand how the brain responds to threat in our modern world. Linda Ray, from NeuroCapability, has built on this to provide a more accessible model as SCARE, which is outlined below:
Significance - in any social situation we care about the degree to which we feel a significant member of a group or in relation to the contribution we bring to a group. When we feel less significant than others or feel our contribution is not of value or not valued by others this can generate a significant threat and activate our limbic brain.
Certainty - our brain is highly geared to prediction. Uncertainty about your role or a situation or purpose causes significant uncertainty and we can use up vital resources available to our thinking brain in trying to find and create certainty.
Autonomy - no one likes being told what to do, which is why micro managing doesn't work. We like to feel we have choices over our work and destiny.
Relatedness - we are born to crave social connection and feel part of a group or tribe. When we see others as foe or not in our 'in group' this can generate threat given our need for social connection and belonging.
Equity - we like to feel we are being treated equitably and get a fair share. When we feel others are getting a better deal or that we are being treated in an unjust way this can generate a significant threat.
How does this help? Recognising that emotion does not exist outside us is a starting point where we can identify which of the parts of the model are affecting our behaviour and take the time to reflect and review why we are allowing the situation to trigger us and the triggers themselves.
As we journey into that reflection and, if we are seeking to develop, we begin to build emotional resilience and over time increase our emotional intelligence through self-awareness.
The end result over time is a far less affected life and a greater perspective on our role in it.
Nick Bennett is a facilitator and coach at mindsaligned.com.au