Behavior: What Makes Us Do The Things We Do?
Belinda @ Kids Matter
“We considered behaving, but it's against our nature.” O.R. Melling, The Book of Dreams
I think most people would like to understand why they do the things they do. Sometimes, we do something that we just didn’t see coming. We get angry over things of which we have no control. We bite someone’s head off for a simple hello. We snap at the drop of a hat, for absolutely no reason. But, what if there actually is a reason behind the madness? Today, we examine the brain, how it affects our daily behavior, and why it makes us do the things we do.
The field of social neuroscience is the study of how relationships affect every cell in our body and how the brains system causes us to act or react. If we were to look into our brain we would find the amygdala which is the source of our responses. It is the cause of our need to protect and defend ourselves. It is the response center for instant, passionate action. For example… you see a child sitting on the edge of a counter, your immediate response is to protect the child and remove him from danger.
Actions and reactions are also caused through mirror neurons. This process is the mimicking of behavior of the people around you. You can equate this to walking into a crowd of people looking upward. Automatically, your first response is to look upward. You are now mimicking the behavior of those around you. The same can be said on the opposite end of the spectrum, you walk into a funeral, where people are sad and grieving. Suddenly, no matter how you felt before, your behavior mimics the grieving of those around you.
How do we regain control of our emotions and actions? We do this through utilizing the orbitofrontal cortex of our brain. This section of the brain provides the necessary tools to step back, access the situation, and regain perspective. While the amygdala is basically an impulse, the orbitofrontal cortex is the source allowing for the thought process required to react calmly and rationally.
There are times in life when we must react on impulse and there are times we need to step back and think about how to react before taking action. How do we know when to use which? The impulse to save a life doesn’t take thought. Overreacting in the heat of the moment does take thought. Ask yourself questions. Why do I feel this way? What can I do to diffuse the situation? What emotions am I picking up from others around me? Chances are if you take just a moment to ask yourself questions then, you are giving your brain the time it needs to rationalize over impulse. I would venture to say that most decisions, reactions, and actions do not require a response within 10 seconds. Do you remember being told, in order to calm down from a situation, to stop and count to 10? That is just what we need to allow our brain to switch from impulse to rationalization.