But where do they originate from? And why do we have them?
We are all equipped with brains with superb capabilities in detecting and responding to danger at lightning speed. Our very survival depends upon it. In a tough world it can be a matter of eat, or be eaten!
To limit failure and give us the best advantage we have survival instincts: ready made and packaged answers to life’s most common problems. Just like a McDonald’s hamburger, they are always the same! They cover three basic options – we either run away and hide, put up a fight, or play dead!
Clearly when we are relying on survival instincts we are very limited in our choices. But these simple, fast, instinctive responses are essential in crises, as our conscious thought processes are just too slow. Luckily for you, when a courageous bystander plunges into violently swirling ocean currents without a second thought and saves you from certain death, he is acting on his instincts to put up a fight.
Instincts don’t require conscious thought, they are just reactions generated by the amygdala, a small area in the midbrain the size of an almond. And here is the rub: we can never fully control our instincts. This why our fears, our fantasies of revenge and our doubts can come back to plague us at any time. When we are in the grip of a panic attack and think we are literally dying, when we want to shrink into the ground from embarrassment, or explode in blind rage our instincts are in overdrive.
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