The Survival Brain and Saboteur-Based Emotions

In my last post I referred to the Parable of the Chinese Farmer and used it to highlight the Sage Perspective, which is, “Anything can be converted into a gift or opportunity”. In this post, I would like to play the skeptic and raise some of the questions that may have come up as you considered the Chinese farmer and his reaction (or lack thereof) to the circumstances of his life. I know that after reading that parable for the first time my initial impression was how “unfeeling” the farmer seemed to be. I thought, “I can understand that maybe he wasn’t so upset when his stallion was stolen, but how could he not care when his son was injured?” As a parent, the thought of any one of my kids getting hurt in any capacity can be overwhelming. The farmer just seemed like a kooky guy at the best or a cold-hearted jerk at the worst. However, after my self-righteous mental criticism of the farmer came to an end, I asked myself the following? Does the fact that the farmer didn’t lose his cool and fall into a vortex of worry regarding his son’s injury mean he didn’t care? How would his son have been better off if the farmer had been pulled into worry and despair? The answers to these questions were pretty clear. Here I want to take the opportunity to say that Positive Intelligence and Mental Fitness are NOT about trying to make yourself an “unfeeling” being. On the contrary, they are about developing your ability to “see” and be aware of your feelings. And then, determining if the feelings/emotions that you are experiencing arise from a place of love or from a place of fear.

All emotions that come from fear are saboteur-based. They are generated by your survival brain. The only function of the survival brain is to keep you “safe”. Anything that it perceives as a threat to that safety (whether physical, emotional, or imaginary) is deemed as “bad” and creates fear in you so that you avoid putting yourself at risk. In contrast, the emotions generated by the sage area of the brain arise from love- love of yourself and others, love of exploring and learning, love of the truth, love of innovation, and love of clear focused action. In this same parable, had the farmer given in to to the emotions that likely were generated by his survival brain as a response to the circumstances he faced: fear of losing his farm due to the financial strain of losing the stallion that he needed to do his farm work, or fear that his son would not heal properly and would never be able to support himself and have a good life, etc…; he would have found himself in the endless cycle of self-criticism and worsening anxiety. As we often tend to do, he likely would have somehow found a way to blame himself for the loss of the stallion thinking, “Had I more securely locked the stallion’s pen, he would not have been stolen;” or, “If I had told my son to not ride the new horse, he would not have broken his leg.” He would have repeated these scenarios in his mind a million times, each time feeling worse about himself. Furthermore, he would have been convinced by his saboteurs that the future looked bleak. Think about it- isn’t this what you do to yourself all the time?

Instead of falling into that trap, however, the farmer chose to simply accept what was without labeling it. We can do the same. We have the ability to choose if we repeatedly relive our worst moments and punish ourselves for something that could have been different, or if we instead take the power, knowledge, and inspiration that it can generate for us to move forward. To conclude, the Sage perspective that ANYTHING can be turned into a gift or opportunity is often met with skepticism. Skeptics will question this as they offer a scenario with some sort of horrible tragedy and ask how that could possibly be turned into a gift or opportunity. First of all, we all know of situations when people have faced the most challenging of tragedies, and, yet, have found it possible to move forward and be incredible. Let’s take Christopher Reeve who, after becoming a quadriplegic, dedicated his life to advancing innovative research and improving the quality of life for individuals and families impacted by paralysis. Or, Candy Lightner, who after losing her daughter to an accident caused by a drunk driver, founded MADD. The point is that even after something that tragic, people can choose to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life. However, if that does not convince you, then perhaps at a minimum you can agree that for the more mundane challenges that we all face in life, it is possible to find a gift or opportunity if we use our Sage discernment and don’t allow our survival brain to run the show.

428600cookie-checkThe Survival Brain and Saboteur-Based Emotions