Over a decade ago I decided that I wanted to go into business. Here is how it happened. I scored a pretty nice job out of college working in a cubicle for Progressive Insurance Company. They paid well and I had benefits. Basically, all I had to do was talk with people who had just been in accidents and solve their immediate problems. After a time doing my job properly I received a promotion and I was going to get more money and a bigger cubicle. All in needed to do was accept the promotion. My family was excited; I would be making more than any of them. Something nagged me and the more congratulations I received the more something bothered me. I ended up sitting next to a very successful older man at dinner one night who was a partner in one of the biggest Internet sites at the time. In talking I mentioned about something nagging at me regarding the promotion and he asked me to write down my goals and show them to him. I complied and after about 20 seconds he said, “what about working in that cubicle is going to assist you in reaching any of these goals?” As soon as he asked the question I knew he hit the nail on the head. The answer was NOTHING! I knew then I needed to quit and go to work for myself. Over ten years later, I certainly don’t regret that decision. I didn’t see it at the time but a lot of different fears had trapped me in that cubicle and in order to succeed I needed to be in the fear removal business and that involves having a high level of emotional control.
So today’s topic is emotions and emotional control. Read pop psychology articles, study scholarly scientific journal studies, watch Discovery Channel shows or TED talks, chat with psychiatrists or neuroscientists and the end result will be the same – you will be overwhelmed and totally confused. You will feel lost when it comes to truly understanding emotions and you will hopeless when it comes to learning or refining emotional control.
Fortunately, it doesn’t need to be that complex. It’s actually quite simple. It all starts with your three brains.
Wait one minute; everyone knows they have ten fingers, two legs and one brain! In a sense that is obviously true, but functionally, your brain is actually three connected but distinct brains: the reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the NeoCortex.
Here is how you developed three brains. Around 500 million years ago, the beginnings of the reptilian brain first showed up in fish, then traveled to amphibians and then finally developed fully around 250 million years ago in reptiles. This brain carries on all the basic body functions of living.
Around 150 million years ago, as small mammals evolved, we saw the emergence of the limbic brain. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus and the limbic brain is responsible for what we call emotions as well as much of our memory and judgment.
Finally, around two to three million years ago as lower primates and then ‘man” emerged on the scene, the neocortex grew as the center of thought and higher level reasoning.
If we are discussing emotions and emotional control, obviously we should focus on the limbic brain. In fact, I are going to totally dismiss the other two brains for this discussion. That is important because all too often when it comes to emotions and emotional control the discussion becomes convoluted by involving the Neocortex and thoughts. Emoting is different than higher order thought, and it actually occurs in different brains, so it’s totally appropriate to focus solely on the limbic brain and dismiss the Neocortex.
When it comes to the limbic brain there are two basic primordial emotions: attraction and fear. You actually learned this over and over but it may have been called approach-avoidance in psychology or fight-flight in biology. It’s all the same. Humankind’s original brain software said attract to things productive for survival (i.e. food, a mate) and fear things detrimental to survival (i.e. predatory animals, severe climate). Since it takes millions and millions of years to make minor evolutionary changes, the reality is that simple fact is still our basic limbic brain software. Our modern lives have tricked us into thinking we are very different from our prehistoric ancestors and obviously we are but fundamentally we are not. At the very core of our emotional center, we remain the same. Like it or not, subconsciously we structure our lives on attraction and on fear.
So listen carefully please. You lose emotional control through attraction and fear and you gain it back by eliminating the fear.
Let’s look at a real example of Fred and Wilma. It doesn’t matter if their name is Flintstone and the lived in the Stone Age or their name is Jones and they live down the street from you.
Let’s look at Wilma, first. Wilma has a fairly good sense of herself. She is a young adult, educated who likes to take care of herself and is very fashionable. She enjoys playing with puppies, listening to music and jogging on nature trails. Being attractive, happy and a decent communicator she doesn’t like being alone. Her “self” craves another to make her feel fulfilled; that is totally normal because we are social animals.
One day while listening to her favorite music and jogging, Wilma sees Fred walking his puppy along the nature trail. Fred is about the same age as Wilma, very handsome and he has a puppy! Wilma is attracted and stops to chat. They decide to go on a date, have an amazing time at dinner. After stopping to walk Fred’s puppy at his townhome, she ends up having the best sex of her life. They schedule more dates and on each date Wilma wants to present her best self to keep Fred as attracted to her as she is to him. She overlooks little bothersome things about Fred because she is afraid of letting him know that she thinks he is less than perfect.
After the initial romantic phase, as Fred relaxes and behaves more typically like the real Fred she hasn’t seen (i.e. tapping kegs with his buddies and obsessively watching porn on the computer), Wilma is still attracted to the handsome features, the puppy, the sex and her fantasies of the future so she allows the fear of loss to help her forgot the now irksome things she is seeing in Fred.
After 3 months, which seems like an absolutely eternity in modern technologically accelerated times, Wilma decides to give up her apartment and move in with Fred. After all it’s a sound economic decision. Living with Fred is actually far less exciting than Wilma originally thought but she decides Fred has a lot of assets and he will certainly change for the better as their relationship gets more serious.
After a year, Fred has indeed changed, but not for the better. Wilma is now thinking that she has so much time invested in Fred that things have to work out and subconsciously at times she begins to change to accommodate Fred’s annoying attributes. Then at other times she exerts herself and fights for her identity which causes big arguments and bad feelings.
In fact, what has happened to Wilma is that she has lost emotional control. And it was all due to one simple improper handling of the base emotion of attraction and fear. This basic emotion is at the root of every emotion happiness, sadness, love, hate, etc. and is the key for either losing emotional control or gaining emotional control.
Want a sure fire way to succeed? Get in the fear removal system and act correctly, decisively and consistently while not getting trapped in thoughts about loss.
Published by Sadie