New brain vs old brain

Sometimes, it is hard not to get caught up with rumination and over thinking, especially with the current global situation. It might help to understand why this happens to us and how our brains work.

The oldest part of our brain does not “think” too much but rather, operates from a “better safe than sorry” perspective. This part of our brain was designed to protect us, rather than be logical or calm. It was designed to make mistakes and overestimate danger. It can get activated very easily and can be difficult to soothe. It may also mean that if we do not learn to manage distress, we can become very anxious, angry and/or defensive quickly.

The “old brain” is responsible for motives (food, sex, relationship seeking, status), emotions (anger, anxiety, sadness), and behaviours (fight, flight, freeze).

On the other hand, our “new brain” is responsible for imagination, planning, over-thinking, rumination, mentalisation, theory of mind, self-monitoring. The new brain is amazing that we can invent something, self-reflect, get in touch with our creativity.

When we are young, the old and new brain fuse and begin to communicate. Here, we can develop “tricky brains”.

For example, we might get anxious (old brain) about tomorrow’s exam where we might imagine (new brain) being late, failing, making a mistake etc. With imagination (new brain) and without awareness, our brains can’t tell the difference between what is happening in front of us and what we are perceiving in our minds. Therefore, our imagination can give off the same physical reaction as if there is an external threat which creates further anxiety (back to old brain). We then might ruminate/over-think (back to new brain) and the cycle (or loops) continue.

The next time you might find yourself caught up in these loops, remember; it is not your fault. You did not choose your brain to function like this. Your brain doesn’t care too much about your happiness. It was designed MILLIONS of years ago to keep you alive and safe. Your brain was designed FOR you, not BY you.

The good news is that we can learn to notice these loops and work with it, and not against it….which will be the next post 😊

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