Somewhere I heard that you want to keep your prefrontal cortex.
Like if you’re going to lose a part of your brain, that’s a part you don’t to lose. Especially your left prefrontal lobe (oh that would be horrible –). Like if you got shot in the head – turn your head and don’t get shot in your prefrontal lobe at the last second. Because this part of your brain is your neural thermostat.
I’m sorry, is that not politically correct? Okay, let’s say you fell and tripped on your head. Or a shark bit you?
The prefrontal lobe is your executive function that makes decisions and regulates unpleasant emotions. Some people appear not to have one of these. You’ve met these people. They’re usually politicians.
Why do we have emotions?
Well, besides the fact that emotions make us human, emotions get us to take action. We wouldn’t do anything if we weren’t emotional! Great things and terrible things are all done because of emotions. (Remember that book “The Odyssey”? This guy, Paris, stole another person’s girlfriend. And an entire war was created.)
Even the word emotion. E-motion. E motere in latin means movement. Emotions get you to act!
And sometimes for the worse: advertisers play on our sensibilities, don’t they?
Sensibility – Noun. The ability to appreciate and respond to complex emotional or aesthetic influences; sensitivity. -Oxford Dictionary
Let’s zoom into me 20 years ago when I was in my early twenties.
Do you remember who you were back then?
You were totally controlled by your animal brain.
Please excuse me as I jump into my time machine here, in the corner of my room.
(MACHINE MAKES LOUD ZAPPING SOUNDS.)
Okay. Wow. I look really young and healthy. I didn’t know I was this skinny.
Cool. I am now 25 years old. Let’s go explore!
Wow there’s no Covid. No one is wearing masks.
So here I am, 25 years old, and I’m at the coffee shop. And I see a cinnamon muffin.
I’m not supposed to eat these because they have too much sugar. It’s a carb fest. But my limbic system disagrees with me.
The limbic system is my “animal brain”. Lower brain stem. This is what snakes and animals have. This is what we all have. And we’re all in denial.
Then the female behind the counter comes up to me. Oh! I remember her from years ago! It’s “Amy”. I think we dated!
She says “Oh look who’s here? I haven’t seen you for a long time!”
“Yo,” I say, kind of thrown off.
Do you remember “Back to the Future”? That’s what this is.
“What have you been up to?” she asks.
“Give me one of those muffins,” I say, diverting the conversation. What flavor? “The kind with the stuff in the middle.”
But then I get to thinking.
They design the coffee shop this way don’t they? They put extremely pretty people behind the counters! That’s not nice. And they know if they flirt with us we will tip them! Have you ever been to one of those coffee kiosks? Why don’t they put guys in there?
And the stupid 25 year old brain can’t compete with this and so he finds himself mind-numbingly coming back to get his “muffin” every day!
Geez that was smart of the owner.
We are pawns in their game! And if we’re not careful we’ll become a widget in their propaganda machine.
If we’re not careful we’ll become a widget in their propaganda machine.
But luckily we have our prefrontal cortex – our judgement centers.
This dampens the signal from our amydgalas! And it’s our only defense. With this said, you have about 3 seconds before you’re overloaded by the cute person behind the counter and the muffin coming at you.
You don’t want to be eating muffins, says the prefrontal cortex. They’re fattening!
So you shouldn’t go into that coffee shop at all, says the prefrontal cortex again. But if you do – just know you’ll trance out and the emotional you, which is half of you, will literally take over. And next thing you know the muffin is gone and you have no money and you’re under some drainage pipe in Atlantic city.
You don’t want to be that guy who failed the marshmallow test.
Learn how to distract yourself.
Distract – /dəˈstrakt/ verb – prevent (someone) from giving full attention to something.
divert one’s attention from something worrying or unpleasant by doing something different or more pleasurable.
So – next time, when you get the urge to go the coffee shop you’ll want to distract yourself. Try to distract yourself before you go there! Maybe write a list of things to distract yourself!
Maybe you’ll want to make an algorithm!
An algorithm is just a recipe. A nice reminder you can hang up on – you got it – a POST IT NOTE.
Algorithm to not go and eat muffins:
Work out at the gym. Because we won’t want to go against all this training by putting on weight.
Bring apples to work. And eat one and trust that in 10 minutes I won’t be hungry for a muffin.
Call a friend. Sometimes it helps to channel that energy and tell your friend “hey I strangely want to eat junk food.” And if they’re a good friend they’ll say “But don’t you have apple slices?”
Notice your thoughts.
I have a cool necklace. It’s called a Shift. Whenever I’m doing something I don’t want to do, I breath into the little reed on the end of it.
Here’s a video of it:
So let’s get back to the muffins.
If you even think about it you’re relapsing, just so you know. If it crosses your mind, you’re relapsing. So that’s why you should go for a long walk. Call a friend.
Eat an apple. To reiterate – I actually carry apple slices in my pocket and I eat them if I get a sugar craving.
But my 25 year old self didn’t do this! Excuse me …
(I get back into the time machine and come back to the present moment.)
So – emotions hold memories and those memories guide us with our tastes and distastes, likes and dislikes, and they give us purpose!
Thus we have 2 brains – one is rational, and one is emotional. And you need both. Because when these parts of our brains interact, intellectual ability arises! Great art is created! Great decisions are made!
80 percent is emotional intelligence.
So we’ve heard this next part before but it’s worth saying: IQ contributes only 20 percent to a person’s success. The other 80 percent comes from other forces. Those other forces are emotional intelligence! Why aren’t we teaching this in schools?
Another word for emotional intelligence is CHARACTER! It makes perfect sense if you think about it. Of course emotions are your character.
Emotions are your character.
So how do you manage your emotions?
You gotta work at it. By reading cool books like this one. And in these books, you’ll study the art of distracting yourself.
Check out “Emotional Intelligence” by Daniel Goleman.
Here at Sunflower Counseling we like to read. If you have any books you’d like to see us review, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org