Respond Rather Than React

Much research has been done in the past 25 years in the area of brain science. Scientists have shown that there are different systems operating within our brains. The prefrontal cortex is the section of the brain involved in decision making. When an issue arises, we are able to weigh our options and make an educated choice via the pre frontal cortex.
There is another section of the brain entitled the amygdala. It is responsible for a flight or fight response. In situations of extreme danger, these are an appropriate reaction. When confronted by a large dog approaching you on a nature trail, there aren’t many choices. It’s basically run or stand your ground. Sometimes however, the amygdala kicks in and preempts the prefrontal cortex. Scientists define this as amygdala hijack. When this occurs, there is an extremely strong emotional reaction, often far out of proportion to the event which triggered it. It is often charged with anger and fear. We don’t give ourselves the opportunity to examine the possibilities of response. Because the prefrontal cortex has been circumvented, we see the situation in black or white only. This makes our repertoire of response too limited. Part of emotional sobriety is learning how to avoid the pitfall of an amygdala hijack. The prefrontal cortex provides us with many more appropriate possibilities of response.

Personal Reflection: Am I responsive or reactive?

One thought on “Respond Rather Than React

  1. We choose our response, but we react intuitively. The former is from the prefrontal cortex and preferred. Usually in a pinch, the amygdala kicks in sometimes even without our awareness. Best is, in my opinion, to achieve a balance between the two so one gets the benefits of speed and judgement.

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