Our brains have two main functions that have emerged through millions of years of evolution—to connect us for growth, and to keep us safe. We call these two neural networks the Connected Brain and the Safety Brain. The development of our society has made the Safety Brain our first and main mode of interaction with the world. In keeping the Connected Brain as a secondary mode, we restrict our creativity, productivity, and resiliency.
It's time to learn how to quiet the Safety Brain, and use it to gain greater clarity, so that our Connected Brain becomes our primary mode of interaction.
Our brains metaphorically function like an enormous filing system, collecting experiences over the course of our lives. They file away everything from a scene in a movie to a friend’s laughter, in order to help us make meaning of the world.
Our brains are meaning-making machines, they take in information through our senses and use the filing system to analyze and name what’s in front of us. Does Mary’s behavior in our staff meeting or the vibe at the neighborhood party make you want to connect or protect? The files in your system determine that answer, and you are the one who gets to load the system. Nothing has meaning until you assign it meaning.
The Safety Brain
The Safety Brain has one job, no matter what it takes, to keep us safe. Typically, it is the first lens we use to see and interpret the world. It is constantly comparing and analyzing what’s happening around us to everything we know from the past to determine if even the tiniest experience, such as a teenager rolling their eyes, is a threat to our equilibrium. This sets off the stress response system that increases heart rate and blood pressure, and turns off everything that's not essential to surviving, such as compassion and growth.
It's time to turn the volume down on the Safety Brain so it is not assigning negative bias on auto-pilot. But a level of stress is also a natural part of life, it’s going to happen, so learn to use Safety Brain stressful thinking as a messaging system, rather than a warning system. When we use stress as a flashlight on our filing system, we can begin to rewire the mind to pull Connected Brain files as our primary mode of interaction.