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  • Writer's pictureJason Kiesau

Stress, Negativity, Prejudice and How Our Greatest Resource is Our Greatest Enemy

What is our greatest resource and our greatest enemy?

Our brain.

Our brain has two "operating systems". One works fast and one works slow.

Our fast system:

  • Finds quick and easy solutions

  • Often irrational and wrong

  • Preserves energy for survival

Our slow system:

  • Logical and intentional

  • Effortful and cautious

  • Takes more time and energy

Our fast system is the primitive part of our brain and is designed to keep us safe. Our slow system has evolved differently than other animal brains, giving us the ability to stop, think and choose.

Over 90% of what we experience is run by our fast system; our tendencies, habits, biases and stress responses. We do them with little to no active thinking; it's our wiring. The irony is, though our fast system is designed to preserve energy, make things easier and keep us safe, it likely makes life harder, damages relationships, weakens our immune system and makes us more susceptible to disease.

Our Greatest Enemy

We are wired to be stressed. We are wired to look for threats and be stressed when we perceive a threat. Today most of our threats are psychological and 91% of the threats we worry about never actually happen. And, unlike other animals, when humans experience psychological stress, we don't turn it off. We feel it, talk about it, obsess about it and it's killing us.

We are wired to focus on the negative over the positive. We all have a negativity bias. Why? Positive things don't tend to be a threat to our safety and survival and from that survival perspective, it's in our best interest to focus on what may go wrong and assume the worst. If we tend to live in the negative; not only will it impact the development of healthy relationships, but (again) the stress is killing us.

We are wired to be prejudice. We are wired to be uncomfortable with people who are different than us; from how they look to their beliefs to their behaviors. When we experience something that is different, our brain sends signals that tell us " there's a threat, be careful, something is wrong". We are also wired to have more security with people who are like us. Mix all this in with our need to belong and enter racism, political tribalism, street gangs, middle and high school cliques etc. We are wired for "us vs. them".

(As noted in my post last week, "the government, politicians, media organizations, social media companies and advertisers all know the game." They are experts in our 90%. Keeping people stressed, negative and divided is good business for them.

Our Greatest Resource

We don't have to let our 90% run the show. We don't have to let our fast system drive all of our experiences. We can "rewire" our wiring.

How do we do this? We use our brains.

We make an effort to engage our slow system to stop, think and choose with more objectivity and reason.

We can make an effort to learn more about our needs, preferences, stressors and stress responses. We can't manage what we don't know.

We can make conscious decisions to learn about and have empathy for others rather than letting the primitive parts of our brains find faults and create enemies with people who are different from us.

As I say all this; I am not suggesting that anyone overlooks or tolerates bad, disrespectful or hateful behavior. I am saying let's make sure our 90% isn't leading us to unhealthy stress and bad, disrespectful or hateful behavior because we are uncomfortable; refusing to make try to use our brains as the great resource it is.

Awareness and effort go along way in disrupting our 90% so we can stop, think and choose better. Doing so should make our lives easier and relationships healthier.

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