To react or not react that is the question.
Language; its what makes the world spin.
Through our novel interactions and trials of survival as a human cohort over time, we have utilized the neural architecture of our ancestors, that helped bring you and I here today. The social part of our brain is closely linked with decision-making and our social functioning. So, simply put: what works, works.
We know what works: Healthy Communication.
But what does that even mean?
If we look at the opposite of this we’re left with a deficit in communication.
We all know the ramifications of poor communication instances based on our past experience.
As you may have read elsewhere on the site and likely know; humans’ function on an input-output basis.
Stimuli or the stuff our senses pick up, such as sound or language, is the near beginning of this notion.
Right now, you are likely experiencing numerous stimuli concurrently, light emitting from your device, kinesthetic pressure in your limbs, the hum of an electric appliance, perhaps you notice textures or smells. All of your senses are on right now, and while they’re on doing they’re thing, a record is being taken on your brain and on our phylogenetic history (family/ancestral/species genetic rooting). This record doesn’t exist now, because the future didn’t happen yet and it might not (if no opportunity arises, death, brain injury, DNA damage etc.) This record is the legacy of our species. The field of epigenetics explains how our decisions, actions, and experiences, switch genetic markers on and/or off. These genes code for aspects of us today and in-the-now. They change quickly and do so to help our genes propagate. Our genes are our Master. They control us in everything we do: Hungry? Thirsty? Frisky? Tired? Happy? etc., is all rooted in our programming, much like a computer with zeroes and ones.
Let’s recap and continue.
Language made us, and continues to make us excel and differentiate as the apex life-form of our planet.
We’re a big deal and we know it.
Clearly, as we’re always stressed.
Think about the last decision you made.
How long did you ponder over it, what strategies did you use to make sure you make the right choice? Most of us don’t remember this unfortunately, as this process of decision-making happens so frequently that we don’t even notice. Decisions can be made both consciously and unconsciously. Unconscious decisions occur much like the rolling of water down a tree from the leaves to the roots. Each unconscious decision we make is based on the occurrences of the last time when presented with the same or similar stimuli. For example, you know a red apple is sweet, and your body may even prepare you by adjusting digestive hormones levels when presented with the stimulus of the apple. So you eat the apple. This then reinforces everything you, or more correctly – your genes – know about apples; this information is passed on to your offspring in the same way as your eye colour or perhaps your sense of humour.
Lights, Camera, Action?
Following is the sequence in which we lead to our argument.
- Stimuli (Apple)
- Transfer of energy between stimuli producing operant (the colour red) and individual (action potentials within the occipital lobe)
- Complete temporal mind-map (present moment tracing of the stimulation the apple left behind on the individuals neural networking)
- Unconscious Reaction (UP) (immediate) OR conscious planning (CP)
From this, we know that the apple leads us to the divide where some believe free-will may be found: Unconscious Reaction (UP) or Conscious Planning (CP).
- CP: Reduced stress/cortisol, Better outcomes, Peace of mind – Behaviour
- UP 1): Increased stress/cortisol, Poor outcomes, Chaos – Behaviour
- UP 2): Negligible change in stress/cortisol and outcomes – Action
Which category do you often find yourself?
Haven’t thought about it? With the never-ending bombardment of information and stimuli we receive it can be hard to take a thought-break. Though, the practice of metacognition (thinking about thinking) can allow us to help our genes propagate the species.
Happy genes = Happy you
Looking to CP a good decision was planned and made through the actionable behaviours it produces.
UP1 is one of those decisions that would be better left forgotten. Amazingly enough, stress and cortisol impede learning and memory (degrade and damage brain cells). It makes sense that genes want to forget the bad decisions we make and remember our good one’s (a mother and her baby’s oxytocin bonding hormones). Survival of the fittest at work here, as CP and UP effect the epigenetic map we leave with offspring.
UP2 refers to actions such your leg moving (reacting) when your doctor checks your reflexes by tapping your knee. As such, since our focus is on things we can change and affect we’ll exclude this category.
Some of us may call ourselves dumb or incapable when we choose UP 2) without knowing why we did over UP 1). However, with each choice is the corresponding reason for it, whatever that may be in that moment (other influences).
There’s a first time for everything.
So, why get mad at yourself or beat yourself up for choosing UP 2) for the first time. As an example, you show up to a costume party without a costume. The host invited you but failed to mention the costumes. The options are to be upset or not. It would be illogical to live in a society where you follow laws made to neatly govern your behaviour based on moral underpinnings (which are also rooted in our survival and sociality), yet discredit this moral ideal with how you treat yourself – in a way, almost fighting your very nature. Though that is an option. Get upset, boost your stress, forget it happened. Or, accept and acknowledge; that without knowing something ahead of time how can a proper decision be made? No (long withstanding) mental map exists yet anyway, remembering the decision alters genes and passes these changes throughout our lineage.
Instead choose option 1) by first being cognizant of your internal dialogue and thoughts. There’s a philosophical argument that states our understanding and thought is limited by language. In a way language controls our intelligences and growth. If you only knew the word apple what could you do with an orange? Perhaps it’s a poisonous fruit. Well thankfully, our ancestors did a large portion of our grunt work and we have extensive linguistic understanding of our being. Our mind may still be limited but only to the extent that humans have learned and shared with others before us and when we override past brain maps (genetic decisions of our ancestors).
Never beat yourself up for something beyond your control, as this shortens your life-span and reduces quality of life (refer to telomeres for more information).
Matějů, J., Kratochvíl, L., Pavelková, Z., Pavelková Řičánková, V., Vohralík, V., & Němec, P. (2016). Absolute, not relative brain size correlates with sociality in ground squirrels. Proceedings. Biological sciences, 283(1827), 20152725. https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2015.2725
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