Evolutionary speaking, the oldest part of the brain responsible for our jerk-like emotional system (the Jerk), based in the limbic (emotional) region, where the amygdala reigns supreme.
This jerk-like emotional system was crucial for our survival thousands of years ago where we have no time to think logically while being attacked by a vicious hungry tiger, we just simply jump into action.
When this happens, the amygdala sounded the alarm in our brain.
The reaction results in filling our body with adrenaline and stress hormones which sparked an immediate reflex.
This reflex then commands our action, to fight or to flight?
Fortunately, in the current modern world, the dangers of the wilderness were no longer a big issue.
Life’s problems usually were more complicated and most of the time responding to the Jerk system do more harm than good, especially in decision making.
Throughout history, due to harm caused by the Jerk, over evolution we have also developed a rational system in the brain (the Thinker).
The system resides mostly in the prefrontal cortex.
How the Thinker works is simple; think, then react.
Most challenges we’re facing today require us to be the Thinker but when things were getting out of control, the Jerk tends to take over.
This event happens unconsciously and it is BIOLOGICAL.
Cortisol is the toxic chemical associated with stress. When we’re under pressure, it will start to build.
When cortisol has reached the critical point, even the smallest conflict can trigger the amygdala response, then the process (as demonstrated in The Jerk) occur.
The Jerk overpowers the Thinker‘s defenses, respond with ‘fight or flight’ instead of ‘think, then react’.
Scientists have termed the situation as ’emotional hijacking’.
Dueling for Supremacy
Psychologist cum neuroscientist, Richard Davidson had conducted a study to find out why some people were resilient while others were easily debilitated in stressful conditions.
Davidson place both groups in situations like solving difficult math problems in a short amount of time and simultaneously tracked their brain function using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).
Referring to the fMRI, it is shown that the rational and reflexive part dueling for supremacy.
Comparing the patterns, the prefrontal cortex won over the limbic system in resilient individuals and vice-versa.
This means that a person with resilient character is more of the Thinker rather than the Jerk.