Don’t Listen to Your Brain

I’m going to read a book about the brain. I’m intrigued by the title, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite.
Here’s what I understand about DiSalvo’s thesis: Your brain likes routine. It likes safe. It likes known people, environments, and responsibilities. The brain is “happy” when it gets what it likes, but when it’s asked to change, try something new, step into the unknown, or learn, it reacts.

That reaction can alter brain chemistry and create fight-or-flight responses that tend to make us either run away from the moment or get angry and emotional, possibly even sabotaging the opportunity so that we can return to “safety.”

In the days of early humans, these brain reactions made some sense. It worked almost like a “spidey-sense” warning of possible danger — I’ve never been here before. This might be where the T.Rex lives! — and preparing the cave-dweller to either run away from the T.Rex or pick up a rock and get ready to aim for a soft spot (and then probably run).

But in a society where basic needs for safety and sustenance are generally met, the need for these brain responses has decreased dramatically. In fact, the brain’s “happiness” can interfere in our digital age with adaptation to technologies and innovation. Other human needs further up the hierarchy require introspection and the formation of new habits and practices — things the brain hates! — in order to form effective societies, develop lasting relationships, earn esteem, and reach peaks of actualization and transcendence.

MaslowsHierarchyOfNeeds.svg
By FireflySixtySeven using Inkscape, based on Maslow’s paper, A Theory of Human Motivation., CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

It sounds like we’d all be better off if we stopped making our brains so happy. So, my first step: I’m going to read the book. My brain won’t like it one bit. I hope to really teach it a lesson.

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