I believe how we think, feel, and act is actually driven by how our two million year old hunter-gatherer brains work. So much of what controls and limits us today is governed by how our modern day brains have adapted or failed to adapt to modern day circumstances. In the simplest of terms, the hunter-gatherers didn’t deal with much nuance. The hunter-gatherer wasn’t trying to climb up an elaborate Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Their existence was singularly focused on survival and the proper identification of what was or wasn’t a threat – and then whether to fight or flee.
Our brain is very good at this threat response and it would have to be otherwise our species would not have survived over millions of years. The problem with that is two-fold. First, modern history with more organized civil society and such things as the written language is at best 5000 – 6000 years old. That simply is not enough time for our bodies or our brains to have evolved and adapted much at all to “modern” circumstances. Second, if our brains are great at locking into a few basic survival lessons BUT not much else, then we’re in trouble because today, most of our lives are filled with almost endless details (threats) that are dominated by exquisite nuance. Unfortunately, our brains aren’t equipped to handle either of those very well.
When one of these nuanced threatening situations happens today, our brain wants to instantly identify it and immediately give orders to our body as to how to respond (fight or flee.) There was no time for indecision when the tiger was chasing us in our hunter-gather history. The result is that our brain misidentifies lots of things and then misinforms us, sending the wrong signal to our bodies, which can’t ignore the message. Our body then gives us the wrong directions on how to respond. Often times fighting or fleeing is not the best response to modern day ‘threats’ such as a boss or spouse criticizing you. This misidentification and faulty response is at the root of much of what makes life so much more difficult for most people.
Much of my work with clients is based on the premise that if you understand how your brain really works, you might be able to change a lot of things in your life. Figuring out why you think and do what you do could be the start to finding a path that would actually be better for you; A methodology to break patterns in behavior that are unproductive and get a better understanding of why other people think and do what they do. The theory is a bit intellectual but often results in very practical and pragmatic concepts and strategies that help you:
- Understand yourself better so that you can choose actions that are truly aligned with achieving your actual goals
- Be better able to manage and influence people around you