Humans: Emotional Beings Capable of Incredible Things

Humans are emotionally driven even in business, despite how much we want to say ‘business is rationale and factual.’ The reason for this is that humans are complex beings of physical, energetic and chemical systems that create our experience of life. Add time (be it human evolution or our personal time on earth) to that and the complexity increases.

Evolution – we as humans evolved over time and continue to evolve. Evolution does not necessarily mean we get better, it means we adapt better to our environment. Our brains have evolved over time as well and as a result our brain has primitive aspects and more advanced aspects. The brain is often described as having 3 parts:

  • Reptilian (as it is found in reptiles too) – this is the primitive part, focused exclusively on survival, it does not think, it reacts, this is where the pre-programmed responses of fight, flight and freeze reside.
  • Limbic system (shared with other mammals) – this is the centre for emotions, memories, feelings and motivations. The amygdala is a small segment of the brain located here. When we are at the mercy of the fight or flight response from the reptilian brain or intense emotions from the limbic system, Daniel Goleman [author of Working with Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Bloomsbury, 1999] refers to this as an “amygdala hijack.” In an amygdala hijack we react on autopilot unless the neocortex intervenes.
  • Neocortex (shared with higher apes) – this is our processor, this is where we process abstract thought, logic, and words. It’s this area of the brain that can override the emotions of the other 2 parts of the brain. This is the place of choice. We choose the meaning we give to a person, things, situation or anything really. At the end of a hike in the forest is a long, dark, slender, cylindrical item a snake, a stick or piece of tube (because the area you’re walking through backs onto a plumber’s residence)?

The neocortex consists of the left hemisphere and right hemisphere. Individuals are not categorically defined as Left or Right brained although they may have a preference for one side or the other.

  • Right hemisphere – freedom, open, broader focus, alertness, intuitive, newness, pictures, learns by body movement, a parallel processor, the present moment, part of a bigger whole
  • Left hemisphere – narrow focus, attention to detail, language, reason, logic, structure, analysis, linear, a serial processor, the past and the future, the voice in your head

[Source: BEabove Leadership 2014]

What have you learned about yourself from reading this?

Next month I’ll share the chemical side of humanity through the lens of neuroscience. The teaser being we can change our brains even into old age!