How Can One Head Have Two Brains?
In this case it has nothing to do with the male sex drive. It’s a way of describing the two resources our maker has endowed us with to respond to the situations we face. It’s not like a new anatomy course or something. When we are faced with a threat and that threat to our life is something that we have little or no training to overcome, the default mode is to pull on the emotional side of our brain. This is where screaming comes into play.
Research suggest that 10-20% of you reading this are “Natural Survivors”. For the rest of us, relevant, realistic and recent training becomes our best option – if you have done that. If not, we probably will default to the emotional mode. So let’s understand where the 80-90% of us are and how this works.
What I’m sharing is derived from a trainer named John Hearne. John is a Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) Instructor as wall as a fire arms instructor for the FBI. Yes, he teaches the FBI agents. Yes, he knows some things. He was a contributor to Massad Ayoob’s excellent book “Straight Talk on Armed Defense” available at Amazon. Good stuff.
Emotionally Controlled When Facing Threats
That’s where most of us live when in danger, the emotional response mode. You know the movies, monster appears and woman screams in fear and either faints or cowers with no fight back, or very little and unskilled resistance. Men don’t tend to scream but scare them enough and inside they melt. I’ve worked Haunted Houses at Halloween, it’s ALWAYS women screaming, never ever the men. Might get an “oh jeez” but that’s it.
Most of us are not gifted to be “natural survivors”, meaning automatically to respond in a calm, rational way in a crisis. Instead most jump immediately into the freeze, fight or flight emotion that takes control. This automatic response is not all bad and freezing may help on occasion to become more invisible. Fighting, even if unskilled, brings a lot of adrenaline to the show that can help. Flight might be so bad either, if that option is open to you. What if it’s not?
Think of it this way. As a woman you are walking a park path and some guy in a mask suddenly comes out of the bushes and charges towards you with a knife. Think of your probable reaction. Now change it to a 6 year old jumping out of the bushes and starts to threaten you with bodily harm. You are probably thinking, “heck, I got this”. You can rationally respond because you know your skills can certainly face down a 6 year old kid. You might chuckle at his efforts to attack you. Probably thinking about how not to hurt him to bad.
What’s the difference? You evaluated the level of your skills against the level of the threat and instantly you kinda know if you’ve “got this” or not. Right? What if… what if you have a level of skill equal to the challenge from the first guy? Might your reaction be at the same level of quite confidence? Wouldn’t it be better to think, “this guy’s in a world of hurt in a minute but doesn’t even know it”? What gets you to this level of response? Training.
Our second brain is best labeled the “rational brain”. It can do amazing things but not automatically unless you are a 10-20% person. It allows you to design buildings and fly planes. It’s the seat of our problem solving skills and speech. We use it for communication and planning.
That same side of your brain can be trained/programmed to face precarious situations. If you have done a good job of training your brain this way you can be prepared for may things and come out a winner. How well that mental map matches an unfolding reality can be a real deal breaker between continuing to trust the rational brain or defaulting into the fetal position of the emotional mind.
As Hearne says, “Essentially, the subconscious is answering the question – how bad? The more the answer is ‘really, really bad!!!” the more likely it is that the emotional brain will take over.” This would look like a bad guy or gal suddenly pulling out a firearm at very close range, something that gets a lot of police officers killed.
If things are not so bad that the subconscious defaults to the emotional immediately, the subconscious will ask the question, “are we in control?”. Control doesn’t mean you are in control of the events around you unfolding but instead do your perceived abilities match or exceed the level of difficulty you are faced with. To get a “yes” to this it’s normally because you have faced and won in similar situations, have seen the problem before and have stored away plans and training for this type of thing already. You have a mental map that matches the unfolding circumstances.
That mental map is most important and describes a very complicated series of thought that happen extremely fast. It’s like shorthand for your mind creating a model of the surrounding environment and then creates expectations out of it about how the world works. Then your subconscious is evaluating whether to trust the situation to your rational mind or go to “oh crap” and get your emotional response. How closely your mental map matching the unfolding reality will be the deal breaker between whether you continue to trust the rational mind or default to the emotional mind.
If your mental map told you that just racking your shotgun will send the attacker to flight, and you now rack it only to discover he must be deaf, then you cycled your map and your subconscious will not trust it anymore and default to instant emotion. On the flip side, if your mental map includes the fact that pumping 6 rounds into the guys chest might not stop him, then the subconscious is more likely to trust your rational mind when it tells you that maybe now a head shot is in order, then it will allow you to more calmly take that shot very steadily.
As you can see mental maps, thought through advanced planning, mental scenarios you’ve included in your planning and training are what mentally keep you in the game and in control of your emotions. You are less likely to transition to your emotional freeze, fight, flight.
Hearne explains it this way:
“For instance, suppose you are standing in a room with only one door and you are along the wall furthest away from that door. Suddenly, a polar bear appears between you and the door – you are suddenly trapped with an amazing natural predator that sees you as nothing but a slow moving sack of protein. There are three possible reactions to these circumstances. If your reaction is, “Oh my God! I’m going to die!” you’re probably right. You’ll most likely freeze in place and watch helplessly as you learn your place in the food chain.
A second option is this: upon seeing the polar bear materialize, you think, “Damn! He’s going to look good as a rug in front of my fire place.” If this is your reaction, and you have the tools and the necessary skills to use them, the polar bear is the one with the serious problem. The history of human conflict tells us that you will in all likelihood emerge as the victor.
Between these extremes is a middle ground, a middle ground that is obtainable through hard work and prior preparation. If the sudden appearance of the polar bear makes you think, “Damn! I have a problem but I can solve it,” then the odds are you’ll be able to use whatever firearm you’re carrying (you are carrying a firearm aren’t you?) and emerge as an adrenalized victor.
Ultimately, people who perform well under stress tend to have a lifelong commitment to teaching the subconscious to ignore the cries of the emotional brain and to trust their well-trained rational brain. They use a variety of mechanisms to develop this trust, including training, hunting, high-risk sports, competition, visualization, etc. Regardless of the particular mechanism(s) used, the results are undeniable.”
In Part II of this I’ll get into our brain mechanisms and wiring. I know, it sounds like mechanical engineers but don’t worry, it’s easier than that.