Inspiring dentists globally


– By Dr Nav Ropra. 


Have you ever been in a situation when you are so angry with someone that you overreact?When this happens and you are stressed, reflexes kick in and it is very difficult, or near impossible to manage what you are saying.  Your emotions can be so overwhelming that you may not be able to consciously control what you are saying or doing.  Afterwards, you then go to ponder endlessly about what you had said and just wished that if you had learnt to keep your mouth shut, the situation would not have got worse.

You can start to feel guilty about what happened and have a fear about doing it again. Very often, the same thing may happen again and you end up in the same position without the tools to learn how to grow.

Go easy on yourself.  There is a reason for why you are acting this way and it is called the Reptilian Brain.

Nature does not throw away anything, and just builds upon things fewer in number and greater in consciousness.  We can see this over the millennia as species become extinct, then newer more evolved species start to dominate the planet and utilise what evolution has already given.  Within our brains, evolution has also occurred.

The lower states of consciousness in our evolution are represented by the parts of the brain called the reptilian brain which is historically about 300 million years old.  It’s responsibility is to control the body’s vital functions such as breathing, balance, body temperature and heart rate.  The thinking required at this level is rudimentary and things are seen particularly as all or nothing, black or white rigid responses.  When you are responding from this level of thinking it is very primitive and primarily a protective response or a coping mechanism with similar standards of behaviour as those found in reptiles.  When stimulated, the reptilian brain overrides the emotional (limbic system) and rational brain (neocortex) components and just acts.  I call this the lower management.

The next level of evolution which emerged in the first mammals was the limbic brain which is generally responsible for emotions, motivation and memories.  It is largely attuned to the ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response.  We can get really emotional when this part of the brain is stimulated.  For example if your staff or partner has said something about you which caused you upset, the chances are that you are responding more from your limbic part of the brain.  I call this middle management.

Finally, there comes the neocortex which would have evolved firstly in primates.  This is involved in higher functions such as generating motor commands, conscious thought, sensory perception, spatial reasoning and language.  It is very flexible and has tremendous learning abilities.  I call this higher management.

So the next time you find yourself reacting to situations outside of you with flight/fight, all or nothing, black or white responses, (unless you are going to be harmed in any way) take time out and step away to see what is triggering your reflexes.  Look at the situation, person or event without your one sided labels or projections.  This will help you to adapt and reduce the stress around the situation.  A key word I sometimes use is the word ALSO.

This person is not just mean, they are nice – ALSO

They are not just cruel, they are kind – ALSO

They are not bad, they are good – ALSO

People will challenge you when their values are challenged, or support you when their values are supported.  The word ALSO is a very powerful word as it forces you to look at the middle path inbetween these contradictory positions.

Seeing people and situations with a balanced perspective will help you become more integrated in yourself and allow you a greater degree of self management of your thoughts (sensory) and actions (motor).  The parts of your brain will become more integrated and you will then be able to respond in unison.  What you think and what you say will become one – ALSO.

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