Well said, Elizabeth. I am fascinated with understanding our brain mechanics from the perspective of how our brains actually biologically work. The more I learn about our actual brain, the less I rely on fanciful psychological and spiritual theories to inform my understanding of myself and others.
Unfortunately, modern neurology and biology still rely upon outdated psychological theories written well before to explain their own research findings. Therefore, we have all been taught to believe weird inaccuracies about our human brain.
With a sound understanding of brain mechanics, I believe we could easily apply your very reasonable sentiments.
The way I have interpreted brain research is this. Prediction violations put our brains into fight or flight in the same way sensation violations cause us pain. Pain is actually a form of a prediction violation. The predictions our brains constantly make each and ever moment, all day long, is our biological GPS.
Our predictions are how we scan our environment for danger, our pantry for food, our street for oncoming traffic. The practice of yoga and modern ideas about meditation speak about our brain’s constant prediction making as ‘monkey mind.’ They have put a negative spin on the very dynamic that is essential not only to our survival, but for every single thing we are able to do in a day. We cannot put one foot in front of the other without first making the prediction to do so.
We do not operate our muscles, joints, bones, ligaments, and tendons with a crank shaft. We operate them with a prediction our brain to engage in a movement. A prediction from our brain to sit down sets in motion the appropriate neruonal signals to the appropriate parts of our body and we seemingly like magic just sit down. The thing is, it is not magic, but our human brain is so fast and good at what it does, that most of our theories neglect to account for what it actually has to do.
Psychological and spiritual theories talk about our brain’s fight or flight response in terms of how it is a hold over from primitive times. And oddly, we are taught to constantly do battle with our fight or flight response in order to quiet it down and keep it less reactive. I believe this is one of those weird inaccuracies our outdated theories are perpetuating and here’s why.
I believe our fight or flight response is the single most important biological signaling system our brain cues for. I believe the fight or flight response is the biological cueing system our brain engages whenever it perceivers a prediction violation. Prediction violations are serious because they have the potential to mean we are in danger. Pain sensations are serious and also indicate there is the potential we are in danger.
People born without pain sensors suffer gruesome injuries their whole lives because they cannot orient safely in space. Pain sensations are actually a form of prediction violation. Without a way for our brain to continuously scan our environment for potential dangers of all kinds, we would all suffer gruesome injuries and death very quickly.
Fight or flight and pain sensation are two sides of the same coin. They are extremely vital to our survival and they act as our everyday GPS. Because they are so vital, they are hair trigger. And because they are so vital, once they are engaged, they mean business.
As humans, we accept and deal with our pain sensations quite matter of factly. But we are all conflicted about our fight or flight response because somewhere along the line people became squeamish about strong emotional responses to events. The strong emotional responses that accompany the fight or flight responses were deemed out of control and unseemly.
If we change could change our Victorian attitudes about strong emotional responses like we have changed our attitudes about homosexuality, discussing pregnancy and menstruation, discussing reproduction, etc., we could likely deal with one another much more easily on a day to day basis.
We should be accepting our fight or flight as matter of factly as our pain response. Fight or flight is simply brain pain. We could simply accept that all of us become a bit unglued with ‘brain pain’ when someone says something that violates our predictions about a topic.
If we accept the hair trigger fight or flight brain pain we all experience after prediction violations, then we could all have a lot more patience with our selves and others.
Instead of meditating ourselves into passive robots due to fear of fight or flight consequences (brain pain), we could just handle our brain pain the way we do our physical pain. Problem solve for it to make it stop, possibly nurse it a bit, then forget about it.
We don’t get upset when someone else is in physical pain, we usually do whatever we can to ease their pain.
Elizabeth, I believe I mostly just reiterated what you just said but with different words. If someone is writing with angry or mean words, if we see them as having brain pain, it is a lot easier to sympathize with them instead of being offended or upset by them. This idea has made it enormously easier for me to diffuse verbal situations less stridently. It has also made it easier for me to make a strong stand at times because I am not so anxious about offending other people. I realize people won’t break if I violate their predictions and I won’t break if they violate mine. I don’t treat myself or others with such kit gloves any more, and I don’t expect others to be so sensitive and ginger with my sensibilities. The most amazing thing is, I think I am much more respectful than I used to be during conflict. These ideas about brain mechanics have given me the information I need to optimally understand and use my brain.