In order to get a deeper understanding of our human behavior and why we invariably make the choices that do in certain circumstances, its essential to examine the human brain. As a chiropractor, one of the first edicts that I learned and have accepted for over 30 years is that the body is self healing and self regulating and that the brain and nervous system are the master system of the body. it is, in fact, the first system to form in embryonic development. By the time an infant child is born, it already has developed adequate brain function to survive.

For simplicity purposes, lets divide the brain into 3 layers. The first and deepest layer we will refer to as the amygdallan (reptilian) brain. This primitive layer has evolved over centuries and is present in all animals and primitive life forms. The second layer is the midbrain which is associated with emotions and memories and is common amongst birds and mammals. The surface layer, which we refer to as our gray matter is a higher evolved brain that is unique to humans. It consists primarily of the neocortex (or prefrontal cortex) is associated with higher functioning of decision making, task solving, creativity and analysis and logical reasoning.

The primitive brain which has evolved over many millennia and innately present before birth is for basic survival. From the moment an infant is born, it cries in order to have its basic life needs met. Food shelter and warmth are a common necessity to all creatures. So is fear. For creatures to survive and evolve, sensory receptors that the primitive brain communicates with, must be present . This enables us to detect threats. Our primary survival instinct is for protection and self preservation. It is an immediate automatic response. Animals without genetically adequate amygdala function would perish over time to their predators , and creatures with the most evolved primitive brains would live on and pass their DNA to the next generation. Therefore, our human brains have become highly sensitized to detecting threats to ourselves and our children.It is this basic need for self protection and self preservation that is the most common source of stress in our culture today. We no longer are faced with daily life threatening circumstances as are ancestors were. We are no longer hunted by animals or at constant primitive battle with each other. And yet, because of our sensitized primitive brains, we respond to our perceived daily threats as if we were. Traffic, deadlines, finances and social pressures have evoked the same responses as if we were being chased by a tiger in the jungle. The reason why this is so dangerous now is because the body was designed to have this fear response only for a very brief moment out of a day. The rest of the time it is supposed to relax. The exaggerated and continuous response we have to stress is now proven to be more toxic than the perceived stress itself.

When a sudden noise is heard, the hypothalamus which is a tiny region at the base of the brain, sets off an alarm that stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which stimulates the adrenal gland to secrete adrenalin and glucocorticoids. This sets up the classic fight , flight or freeze response. The heart rate surges, blood pressure elevates ,eyes and bronchioles dilate and glucose is made available for energy to run or attack. >After the threat passes(usually within a few minutes) , the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and restores the body back to its former relaxed state. However, research has shown because we live in highly perceived stressful times, the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated most of the day. This exaggerated fear response is pervasive in much of our behavior. If we our emotionally hurt, we will act in a manner to self protect and we will avoid intimate relationships. If we don’t understand something , the fear response will serve to protect our egos and evade embarrassment. If we fear a perceived outcome, we will avoid doing the necessary task. The elements of procrastination and avoidance are all based in this fear response and are a direct obstacle and hindrance to achievement. So how do we move beyond this exaggerated, counter productive response? I will discuss this in the next blog.

Which situation best demonstrates how a perceived fear response interferes in your life? Resolving conflicts with relationships between a spouse, children, family or friend? Ability to complete a task at work? Avoidance from trying a new hobby ,project or health interest? Tending to important stressful financial matters? Please share.