I have a new fascination with the BRAIN and how this amazing machinery directs our thinking and feeling. The fascination started with a quick read of Jill Bolte Taylor’s Stroke of Insight telling the story of her experience of having a massive stroke in which she lost her left brain functioning. Her  descriptions of how the brain works and her journey to repair her left brain are amazing.

We all know how fast and continuously our brain is working, as we mindlessly maneuver the traffic, surf the web, and talk on endless conference calls. But, I was struck by the complex path through our brain that ends up with ideas and decisions. Here is a slice of what I’m learning about a very complex topic:

  • Our five senses bring in data and send that data along the appropriate neural pathways to the brain. Once sorted into preliminary  perceptions, the different sense data is gathered to integrate what we saw, heard, etc.
  • Our left brain sifts and sorts as the analyst, applies language to the data,  and weaves the story. Our right brain looks at the data for the whole picture, creating intuition and memories of exact moments.
  • When our whole brain processes  what we are “seeing,” it checks that data with our memory and places any related emotion to the picture. This data bundle is then translated into thoughts and feelings.
  • If our amygdala, the structure of the brain that alerts us to danger or excitement, is stimulated; we experience a spike in our emotion and a call to action.

With all of this work taking place in a nanosecond (remember this is the same process we use to notice that the next step on the stairs is a big one), we are prone to believe we are “right” in our thinking. My favorite quote from Jill’s account was in observing how her recovering left brain “storyteller  would draw conclusions based upon minimal information…and full-heartedly expected the rest of my brain to believe the stories it was making up!”

So what does this have to do with our conversation on Funny People? First, it unveils the machinery that is constructed to help us make very fast decisions and believe we are right. Second, when it comes to people, we can’t possibly have the data and experience to make good, balanced decisions. And third, if our data on the person does not match our own behaviors and experience, we may be more likely to stimulate our amygdala which then sends out an  alert.

There is no secret or cure to the foibles of our brain’s working. Rather, there may be ways we can check and work with our rushed, over-stimulated brain to be more aware and  intentional in our data collection and processing. Of course, that takes slowing down, making observations, and becoming active in our partnership between brain and mind.

How does that strike your brain?

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