Why are we so *#$!@ reactive?
Wokeness, Anti-wokeness, Cancel culture, Anti-this and anti-that. Trolls. Anger. Divisiveness.
The world is rife with irate people who are just reacting, sometimes to the smallest slights.
Let me be clear, I am a big proponent of activism and raising awareness about serious issues. What I notice is not working is the loud levels of blame and shame which seem to be creating more sensitivity in some and total resistance in others. And those responses are not helping. It might create a little more awareness, but it won’t lead to positive action and change.
This cycle of shame and shut down, blame and oversensitivity only creates more division – stronger and stronger division.
It is hard to live amongst so much hatred, anger and separation; it just isn’t healthy for us.
But why are we like this?
Here are some thoughts, all based on the dynamics of how we generate, process and respond to emotions in the brain.
- Powerful feelings. The combination of adrenaline and the dopamine we get from belonging to a passionate movement are a potent mix that feel really good. Then, these internally generated chemicals are addictive, and we need more and more of them to keep up with the high they provide. Powerful feelings of righteousness then lead people outside of our old boundaries of what was considered civil behaviour.
- Lack of impulse control. When we are stressed, tired, anxious, or feeling uncertain, our executive brain functions become tired. In this state it is harder to contain the impulses that come from the emotional brain. It is harder to say no to the potential high that drama provides.
- We can’t see the bigger picture, nuances, or complexity. When our executive functions are tired or overridden by the emotional brain, we cannot see the bigger picture of the story or event. The emotional brain is fast, reactive and sharp. It will jump on a story, react and generate all kinds of hate and misery before we had a chance to think. And then, once reacted, the brain is invested in making sure we were right, even if we have to make up a ridiculous scenario to defend our position.
- Cognitive Dissonance. To then test our thoughts, theories and actions against facts and see that we may not be right? That is just too hard for the brain.
Drama vs reason
With these forces, it is no wonder brains lead us in this direction. But what can we do?
Start with self. Make sure your executive functions are well toned. Invest in wellbeing practices because these support your executive functions which help you:
- See the bigger picture
- Use reason and can evaluate facts
- Resist the pull of shouting on social media and engage in activism at a level where your actions are powerful.
To do all of that, you need to take care of the part of your brain that manages emotions, that supplies big-picture thinking and reason. That takes self-care and ensuring your wellbeing.
For more understanding of how your brain works and how to shore up your reasoning brain, check out Rewired to Relate.What are you grateful for today?Traditionalists – how do we get around them?