The science behind your ability to think (EU01)

This topic will be rough and I will start and apologize now if I will be challenging some of your beliefs, even those you have held for decades. As I have suggested in the introduction, stick with the lessons first. I'm very sure that your time is well served because this could be the most important lesson in Embracing Uncertainty.

Upon realizing that my business partner is not intending on helping me replenish or settle the debts (approximately 5,000 USD) I invested, I found myself realizing that my then business partner or all people think very differently in different sets of circumstances. At first they can be very helpful when they have an objective that they needed to achieve which your contribution is vital. Effectively my then business partner just needed my money and after all of it was gone, I have no more use to him. But is it really the case?

I made peace with the situation for a bit due to my strong adherence to stoic philosophy. I then was able to create an understanding that his intentions are outside my sphere control. I can choose to hate him or file a legal lawsuit against him but didn't at the time. I never entertained that idea because of my lack of resources and we shared some great experiences and work together, I wanted the memories to remain that way and push myself into moving forward instead of staying longer in an unproductive problem and took a different route to recover the losses.

The only thing that hangs in my brain after I left the islands months after was how he could have made such decision to deceive me despite putting all my investments in the business and with all the great experiences we shared together?

Enter psychology, the body of science that deals with human behavior and our mind. Understanding the next paragraphs allowed me to create a better foundation for how to critically analyze and create better questions and answers to any situation -even my former business partners deception.

Our brain is composed of billions and billions of neurons and are powered by chemical reactions. Each neuron contains vesicles that house neurotransmitters that then is triggered by an action potential reacting from our five senses, namely:

  • Acetylcholine (ACh) is found throughout the nervous system. It is the only neurotransmitter that sends and receives information between the motor neurons and voluntary muscles (muscles you have conscious control over, such as the biceps).
  • Dopamine (DA) is one of the three most common neurotransmitters found to regulate many different aspects of behaviour, along with norepinephrine and serotonin. DA is used by neurons to make voluntary movements and movements in response to emotion. It also plays a role in the brain’s reward system to help reinforce certain behaviour that result in pleasure/reward.
  • Norepinephrine (NE) is another neurotransmitter found to regulate behaviour. NE contributes to the modulation of mood and arousal, and is commonly referred to as the stress hormone. When you are in a stressful situation it is NE that is spread all over the body to prepare for the situation. A few examples are as followed: NE increases the amount of oxygen to your brain to allow you to think clearer and faster, NE increases your heart rate to allow more blood to rush to your muscles when you need them, and NE also shuts down metabolic processes for the time of the stressful event so blood and energy that would normally go to the digestive organs can focus on other parts of the body. Scientists refer to this event as ‘Fight or Flight’. Fight or flight is when our body uses NE to prepare us to stay and work through the stressful situation (fight) or run from it (flight).
  • Serotonin is the last of the three most common neurotransmitters found to regulate behaviour. Serotonin is found to affect/regulate a number of different functions in the body/brain from digestion to mood. The release of serotonin from neurons appear to play a predominant role in the regulation of sleep, wakefulness, and eating behaviours.
  • GABA and glutamate are the brain’s most plentiful neurotransmitters, with GABA present in approximately 40% of all synapses in the brain and glutamate in over 50%! It may seem odd, but it is very important to have inhibitory PSPs -- it is because of GABA we can stay calm and not overwhelm ourselves.

Our ability to think and feel are generated by each of interactions between neurons through these neurotransmitters. The interaction between nerves become low-energy electric pulses called synapse that is then is processed by the next neurons. The process goes on and on and on to be able to produce thoughts and emotions.

Parts of the brain specialize in one or more groups of activities rely on individual neurons and their messages through neurotransmitters and is divided into these main clusters:

  • Cerebrum is the largest part of the brain and is composed of right and left hemispheres. It performs higher functions like interpreting touch, vision and hearing, as well as speech, reasoning, emotions, learning, and fine control of movement. This part is what separates us from other animals, enabling us to have a sense of self or we commonly call it as consciousness.
  • Cerebellum is located under the cerebrum. Its function is to coordinate muscle movements, maintain posture, and balance. This and the brainstem are so similar on other animals.
  • Brainstem acts as a relay center connecting the cerebrum and cerebellum to the spinal cord. It performs many automatic functions such as breathing, heart rate, body temperature, wake and sleep cycles, digestion, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing. Autonomous responses of our body is tackled here. As you can see, the groups of activities here resembles abilities of other animals like lizards or primates because our cerebrum or cortices is an evolved much later. Most sepecialists call this part the lizard brain.

Obviously there is more to these topics like the hormones produced by the endocrines system or neurological disorders but I'm like making a point here - we have a method called "thinking" that is at large poorly explained in school or conventional media a lot. Understanding that our ability to think has a biological component the brain being built around layers and layers of chemical processes lets us understand that we might be feeding habits that creates bad behaviour that in results affects our body and the way we think. Think of the simple examples below:

  • Failure to exercise leads our body being disregulated and thus having a feeling of continuous stress and anxiety.
  • Eating too much sugar disregulate our insulin levels thus allowing the pancreas to create more insulin that the body does not need. The feedback loop that we create autonomously cause you to consume more carbohydrates-filled-food and later becomes diabetes after years of years being in the process.
  • Using Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms or each time you click of like, dislike or emojis causes a cortisol release from the adrenals that is countered by the dopamine release through our neurons. You then create a feedback loop of building the habit of holding your phone all the time plus drenching your body with too much stress through cortisol build-up.

Habits that we do are closely tied to our body and which then affects our thinking. Each meal, each sitting position, each movie you watch is somewhat affecting the way you decide. This works the same way as addiction works but the bad thing is that most of the time, some of our habits have so little effect that we will encounter the problems when it is too late. This works for some serious conditions like obesity or alcohol addiction. This also works for some resentment you feel develops enough anxiety to disregulate your heart.

Maintaining thoughts are really powerful. This is why I try to filter what comes to my understanding and limit it to what is most useful now and / or for the future then everything else are discarded. Each idea causes us to feel something - if its good emotion, it should be absorbed and be regulated because too much happiness causes mania or impulsive behaviour / decisions. If the idea is so bad, filtering it rigorously is fundamental as understanding the worst in situations make you appreciate the good more.

You have power over your mind - not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. - Marcus Aurelius

Modeling your thinking through the understanding of the science behind your thinking and how it ties to your emotions is fundamental in embracing the uncertainty of any given situation. My then business partner chosed a path that he believed to be beneficial to him and his family but for I see the effects of that in his emotions and neural pathways is detrimental in his ability to think clearly moving forward. He is feeding a synapse of neurons that is unethical and lacks virtue - which is a kind of activity that should be avoided - if one know the science. Some may dispense it as they say its just once or twice but that is being encoded in your habits and brain subconsiously.

Controling your information consumption and habits through favoring what is good for each of your neuron and the brain will enable you to have better biological assets. If you happen to have a poor body and consequently led to a poor emotional structure - try to have a balanced diet, exercise and have enough sleep. You will definitely need your body at its peak if you are fixing or going to tackle hardest challenges of your life.

NEXT SECTION: How to unlock your potential (EU03)