Anxiety and the Brain
Our human brains are amazing organs. The triune model of understanding how our brains work divides the brain into three regions:
- The Neocortex is the thinking brain. It is the part of our brain that enables us to reason and to be self aware. We are able to be creative, to solve problems and to make decisions. White western culture places high value on this part of brain functioning.
- The Mammalian brain is the emotional center of the brain. It takes in stimuli from the many senses and rapidly interprets them in the form of emotions. We often refer to intuition, "gut feelings" or "spidey sense" when describing information coming from this part of the brain. Often, the mammalian brain can influence the neocortex to create a reason to justify a mammalian response. (For more on this, see the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.)
- The Reptilian brain that is focused on self preservation. It makes split-second decisions when it senses danger, and manifests in a fight or flight response, shutting down the higher brain functions. This is called an Amygdala Highjack. (See the video in the sidebar for more.)
As a leader, the important thing to understand is that in order to keep people's neo-cortexes functioning, you want to keep anxiety as low as possible.