03 Oct Would You Drive If Your Tires Went Bald?
Moss Jackson, PhD
“You Deserve To Live An Extraordinarily Long Life Of Success, Accomplishment and Satisfaction!”
Do you like to drive?
Do you like to be safe?
Do you like to stay on the road?
When your tires get bald, it would be stupid to keep driving on them, don’t you think? You need good tire treads for traction and steering. Without good, thick treads on your tires, you will be in danger of skidding, losing control and crashing.
Your brain is like a tire in some ways. If it goes “bald”, you are in danger of unclear thinking that can lead to misinterpretations of peoples’ motives; you risk endangering yourself and smashing your life apart. Your brain works very hard to keep you on a navigational path of success, confidence and safety. In the brain, over ten billion neurons are firing every second to help you to succeed and get along with people around you. And every second you lose ten million neurons. They just go bald and die! Fortunately, for most of us, our brains generate ten million new ones. These neurons are like the treads in your tires. They keep you going, but they experience wear and tear during use. Imagine driving your car 24/7 year after year without inflating your tires properly or changing them when they start to lose their treads. No treads, no traction! No traction = an accident waiting to take you down.
Obviously, you can’t just take out a worn brain and replace it like an old tire. Perhaps one day in the future, that may be possible, but for the time being, we have to work with the brain we are born with. But the good news is that you can keep retreading it and redesigning your brain by taking care of it on a daily basis. If you can find a way to continually nurture, feed and redesign your brain, it will grow and retread itself to provide safety during the extra miles you will need to live a long and healthy life.
Your brain can thrive, thicken and develop through the processes of neurogenesis and neural plasticity. This is akin to working your body out in the gym and strengthening your muscles and cardio system. Exercise strengths your muscle and enhances your heart and respiratory systems. This is especially important as you get older. Every year we lose muscle mass and become more unstable in our balance and mobility, but exercising can mitigate these aging effects. Just like the tires if they are ignored, your body will wear thin without consistent attention and redesign work.
Your brain is similar to the car tires and your muscle mass. It must be worked out to stay healthy and operational. In my book “I Didn’t Come To Say Goodbye: Navigating The Psychology of Immortality”, I write about three key psychological needs that humans have and how they are wired into our brains. Feed and nurture these basic needs and your brain will thrive. Ignore them and live your life on auto pilot, your brain will probably shrink and not serve you very well. In other words, your brain will go “bald”!
Your brain is actually an interaction of three brains that have evolved over millions of years. The oldest part of your brain is your reptilian or lizard brain. It dates back almost four million years. It has been around a very long time and has no interest in leaving. Its main function is to ensure our survival and safety. If this part of your brain senses danger, it shifts immediately into emergency mode and prepares your body to attack or run away. It is essential for your continued health and well-being that you learn how to calm the reptilian brain when it shifts into emergency mode, especially when the danger it senses is not life-threatening. If your reptilian brain gets too rambunctious, you can lose up to forty percent of your thought clarity and emotional composure.
Another brain area is your emotional or primate brain. This part is almost one million years old. Its function is to help you to experience pleasure, avoid pain and connect with others. Infants and children who experience safe and secure attachments to parental figures early in life appear to thrive better than children who experience anxious or inconsistent attachments to their parental figures. The secure children learn more effectively, develop greater confidence in themselves and grow to trust others. If you want to enhance this emotional brain, it is essential to connect with others in the form of bonding, engage in soothing behaviors, physical comfort and pleasurable dialogue. Even if you did not have the good fortune to be raised in a well-connected, safe and caring household, you can develop your emotional brain later in life and even reverse the effects of negative parenting.
The youngest part of our brain is the thinking brain. This part is around seventy five thousand years old, a relative newcomer to the community of our evolutionary brains. This is our Power brain and it thrives on curiosity, problem solving, envisioning and imagination. When healthy and thriving, your Power brain helps you to stay calm and focused on a problem. It seeks to define where something has broken down and to help you to explore options to manage whatever is going on. Rather than getting overly emotional, taking the problem too personally and crashing, your thinking brain keeps retreading itself to enable you to focus, think clearly, breath into the experience and try out different strategies until you figure out the right one.
All three brains need to work together to keep you on the road of life. Too much danger throws your interactive brain off track and often into a ditch where your emotional reactions interfere with thoughtful understanding of situations. Just like the bald tire can explode and throw your car into danger, your overactive survival brain can create havoc in your life. It can cause you to take things too personally, overreact and trigger your thinking brain to catastrophize and think of worse-case scenarios. Or it can disrupt seemingly good relationships and cause your emotional brain to distrust and blame others and ensnare you in relationship-destroying behaviors.
The good news is that you can literally redesign or retread your brain every day by being curious, open minded and maintaining a problem solving approach to life. Also, practice connecting to others by reaching out, practicing empathy to the concerns of others and giving loved ones strong hugs. And do not ignore your survival brain. Take care of it by doing some deep breathing every once in a while, rubbing your hands together, remembering a time when you felt safe and connected to a loved one and doing some old-fashioned daydreaming.
So, until I post next, I wish you safe and happy traveling. Navigate with clarity and never drive on bald tires!
If you want to learn more about how to retread and redesign your brain, you might want to order my new book, “I Didn’t Come To Say Goodbye: Navigating The Psychology of Immortality“.