In this post are some brain research tips involving human reactions and habituated impulses and how they work. Rather than being at the mercy of automated or accidentally learned reactions, listed are some practical experiments and suggestions useful for strengthening the ability to deliberately direct response. These work to compensate for the brain's design limitations.LOWER AND HIGHER BRAIN FUNCTION
The lower reptilian brain that thinks in images is the first part of the brain to mature. This part of the brain drives self-involved imperative survival reactions - such as sex, avoiding danger, protecting family and clan members. This reptilian brain dictates swift and sure reactions that preempt the slower, deliberate and complex reasoning ability in the upper fore brain area. The advantage of the reptilian brain is it takes over, makes a quick and sure decision that sizes up a situation, hopefully in enough time to preserve survival.CONNECTING FIBERS: GABA
What brain scientists called GABA fibers are what connect the higher cognitive reasoning function of the upper brain and the survival-oriented reptilian brain. To start out, these GABA connecting fibers are thin, so the faster reactions of the lower reptilian brain are the default. Maturation of the upper brain occurs starts at around twelve years of age and grows until around twenty-five. This growth can be accelerated by the person's responses to circumstances - along with which external circumstances exist to test responses from integrating advantages from both brain areas.WHAT COUNTS - AND WHAT DOESN'T MATTER
What enhances this GABA fiber growth is confronting fear and gaining the ability to differentiate meaning from significant vrs. significant evidence. With experience, the person realizes that most apparently dangerous conditions are, in fact, inconsequential, (and which are, in fact, dangerous.) They learn when to act and when to to calm themselves and not allow their "chain to be yanked" unnecessarily. These connecting GABA fibers bulk up, as muscles do, each time this internal reassurance happens. As specific fears are countermanded by reassurance, the growing bulk of these connecting GABA fiber eventually allows the action of the fore brain to happen at the same time survival measures are being taken. The person learns to fight smarter when fighting is necessary, to be coolly calculating to determine this need. Wisdom and reasoning eventually eliminates the need for desperately trying harder at any cost.
Thinking deliberately in spite of (or in addition to) feelings & impulsive reactions gets easier with practice - even though this foresight takes more time and must be cultivated with accumulated experience. With practice, it's possible to preempt knee-jerk survival images, fears, interpretations & conclusive suspicions that so effectively run the lower brain entirely.HOW GABA FIBERS INTERCEPT FEARFUL REACTIONS
Each time reaction is refused or redirected, we send a new electrical response along these GABA fibers that connect the two brains. Each new response makes the fibers fatter, as a muscle grows stronger by exercise. Eventually the GABA connectors bulk up and make it easier for us to stop fear impulses entirely. The GABA fibers eventually act like insulators. The GABA fibers can be described in a poetic way as courage - or "grace under fire."INSTINCT, PREJUDICE, OPINION, TASTE
After some experience, the person learns the differences between a gut instinct, a prejudice and a preference that is merely a customary opinion of personal taste. They learn to "choose their battles wisely." Of course, they often learn from unfortunate lessons that negative speculation & paranoid suspicions are not always a benefit to one's long-term survival advantage. The reptile brain functions only with a short-term need to survive now.WHY GROWING GABA FIBERS IS A GOOD IDEA
Not growing GABA fibers has more than a moral danger of a lack of wisdom. The reptile brain manufactures fears and motives that are sometimes self-fulfilling prophesy. If a person never gets the practice of calming themselves and learns to laugh at their unnecessary fears, this ability to countermand and temper the reptile brain does not mature. The person remains at the mercy of their lower brain. This comes out in the roles of suspecting those who are loyal, complaining and creating troll-like "Drama Queen" situations that force polarization, possessing an intense, manic/depressive, trusting/untrustworthy and unpredictably reactive point of view. Along with this come temptations for undue complaints, a lack of commitment, social manipulativeness or outright self-justified dishonesty or criminal behavior.BRAIN PLASTICITY
Fortunately, this growth toward the maturity of being able to calm oneself can happen at any time in life. The plasticity of the brain can always be reshaped by current usage - and forgiveness. Expressing positive values in action is an effective avenue for change. Keep in mind that because we are talking about growing new brain parts, it takes time and the ability to discern and plot one's own signs of improvement.SOME WAYS TO GROW YOUR GABA FIBERS
The practice is exercised by refusing to react & self-reassurance. Many means are possible to put this intent to strengthen GABA fibers into action. This may be practiced in many small ways, in fact, the smaller the better. Some of these ways are:
PERSISTENCE IS GOLDEN
- by calming ones' own emotions;
- by changing any new "inconsequential" habit;
- by learning a new skill, which demands being forgiving of mistakes;
- by calming down fear when it arises;
- by releasing physical tension through exercise, massage or other unifying mind-body practice or discipline;
- by deciding not to say what will offend;
- by daring to say what might offend anyway;
- by deliberately changing your mind before you would normally react to do anything habitual or routine;
- by being aware that your thoughts are untrue fears and deciding to not take them seriously.
- by refusing to think about them, using distraction, substitution
- by thinking about something else or distracting yourself.
- by being sarcastic when mistakes are made that word the derogatory put-down in a positive light, such as, "that was a really smart thing to do" (instead of cursing, attacking or accusing when a mistake is made.)
If these don't work, some people get out concerns that are whirling around in their head by
- using de Bono thinking skills,
- writing down these thoughts in descriptions,
- talking about them to a person who is not involved and will not react,
- making art and allowing symbolic imagery to process them,
- exercising and doing physical things,
- doing mundane but productive activities, using them to re-direct your energy with the intent of leaving past, irrelevant concerns in the past where they belong and going in a positive direction - such as taking a shower or by changing one's external environment.
- originating strategic, practical plans to get yourself
Perhaps if these methods do not work in isolation, they might work together in a certain sequence.
Many wise people have advice what will work in this situation; perhaps someone else or a religion will have different advice that will work for you. It's best if the advice has a simple practice to show the expressed values that are advised. Philosophical advice is not worth much unless there is a practical means to carry out the ideas that cultivate new abilities as a skill.
If you're interested in reading further, Alexander Technique also has a practice that strengthens GABA fibers over time. You can read what more there is to this same article here.