It makes sense for us to have an innate drive to survive because if we didn't, we would be fearless and continually putting our lives in jeopardy. This drive is triggered by fear and happens without the need for us to get consciously involved, which is for a useful purpose as it allows us to respond to danger as rapidly as possible.
For example, if you had to consciously think about how you'd respond to a lorry driver sounding their horn as you were about to step off the kerb in front of them, you probably wouldn't survive because you'd likely carry on walking as you wondered why there was a horn sound.
What would happen is that you'd freeze and not step off the kerb, in fact you may even automatically take a step/jump back while looking for why someone was sounding their horn. You'd then probably think to yourself "phew thank goodness that lorry driver warned me".
To understand how your innate drive to survive can mess with your life and your fertility we need to take a little journey back in time, to Cave Person times and see how their brain kept them safe.
It is the same part of the brain that keeps us safe today, and for ease of explanation, I call this the Feeling Brain. You will notice when I go on to discuss the evolved conscious analytical part of our brain that I call this the Thinking Brain.
Please note that these are deliberately simple labels and explanations for my purpose of clarifying the part our emotions play in subconsciously running our lives, and how we can consciously make sure that this is always happening in our best interests.
Life was simple for the Feeling Brain in Cave Person times.
Think basic level of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs when the only important thing was survival, i.e. did they have water, food, fire and a cave to keep them safe from both the elements and predators? They also needed connection and to be part of a community for the safety in numbers and to find sexual partners for humans to survive in general.
The ONLY thing the Feeling Brain had to care about back then was whether they (the Cave Person) was SAFE or in DANGER. If they didn't have any of the things listed above, their survival was in jeopardy, and they would feel fearful.
The Feeling Brain would use that information to stimulate them into 'appropriate’ action alongside setting up their body to be able to function as it was needed too. In Cave Person times, it was simple for the Feeling Brain to interpret what was needed.
There were clear boundaries around what was safe and what was dangerous. When the Cave Person had food, shelter, and was protected from wild animals, they were safe. When they were running low on food, didn't have shelter, saw a dangerous wild animal, etc. they were in danger.
It was therefore very clear to the Feeling Brain when the Cave Person should be in the Emergency State and when it was appropriate to return to the Neutral State.
Survival isn’t just about the Fight, Flight, Freeze response
Coming face to face with a dangerous wild animal is often used to describe this fear response, with the Feeling Brain driving us towards Fight, Flight or Freeze (from a pure survival perspective this meant to keep still and pretend to be dead until the danger passes), and yet this doesn’t explain how the Cave Person dealt with all other aspects of fear.
They didn’t need to fight their way out of fear of hunger or run away from the fear of not having shelter, did they? It certainly wouldn’t have served them to pretend to be dead until the danger of not having a safe haven had passed.
What I believe this shows us is that with an immediate threat like a dangerous animal coming towards them, the fear response would be extreme, telling the Feeling Brain that it had to respond NOW. It would trigger the Fight, Flight or Freeze response to do this.
However, when the danger wasn't immediate, there would be a growing fear that caused the Cave Person to take the necessary action to prepare. I am not talking about far off strategic planning; the cave person didn't have a Thinking Brain to deal with that. Instead, they would tune in on a Sixth Sense intuitive level to shifts in their environment.
Things like the gradual changes of the seasons would generate a fear response, after all, if they didn't prepare appropriately for any changes in the weather affecting their food supply they would struggle to survive. The fear would, therefore, direct them to take appropriate action.
Those actions would likely be gradual and spread over a short period, and once they had made all the preparation, they needed to be safe, the fear would dissipate.
I believe what we learn from Cave People is that our emotions aren't just meant to respond to what is happening in our NOW. They are also there to guide us towards the next best action to take, whether that is dealing with something that warrants our immediate attention or to make sure we prepare for something in our future.
Is it safe?
All the Cave Person’s Feeling Brain needed to care about in any situation was whether the Cave Person was safe, and it knew that by whether the Cave Person was feeling afraid or calm.
To ensure the Feeling Brain could always respond as efficiently and appropriately as possible, it stored everything it learnt both through the Cave Person's actual experience and through the learning they gained via their elders.
The Feeling Brain did this through imagery and emotion using all the senses, so over time it would build up a rich inventory of what was safe and what was dangerous, and these learnings became the Cave Person’s guidelines for living. I call these guidelines for living Route Maps. To save time in the learning process the Feeling Brain also made assumptions.
Things like if one big cat was dangerous, then likely so were all the others. Cave People did not have a Thinking Brain, their Feeling Brain handled everything. As I shared previously, it did this by taking appropriate actions based on emotions. If they were safe, the Cave Person would just be getting on with their day to day activities, in what you now know as the Neutral State.
If they were feeling fearful the Feeling Brain would move them into the Emergency State and determine what the next best action was to take, be that a short-term gradual process of change or an immediate reaction using the Fight, Flight or Freeze response.
The influence of the Cave Person’s Feeling Brain on you
The Feeling Brain did its job well and allowed us to survive long enough for the Thinking Brain to develop and for us to evolve, which is, of course, wonderful for us.
However, there is a big problem that rarely gets discussed, which is that the Feeling Brain has not evolved beyond Cave Person times and it is still only concerned with whether we are safe or in danger. For our Feeling Brain, that means it is trying to function in our complex modern world with the emotional capabilities of a Cave Person and still trying to categorise our feelings into whether we are safe or in danger.
From an emotional perspective the way we learn is similar to the Cave Person, which is through our experiences as we are growing up and from our ‘elders’ (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.). Our Feeling Brain also makes generalisations (assumptions like the big cat scenario) and these things combined create our Route Maps for living.
In our modern complex world though these Route Maps are no longer just about our physical survival and whether we are safe or in danger with the simple communication mechanism of either feeling safe or afraid.
We now have a vast amount of complex emotions that our Feeling Brain is just not equipped to handle and which leads to the creation of incorrect Route Maps, not least of which because we are learning from our ‘elders’ who have their own unhelpful Route Maps.
Some Route Maps may also become outdated when a learning is no longer needed, but we haven't learnt how to let them go. The problem is our Feeling Brain believes that these Route Maps are keeping us safe and so we may know things are not working for us consciously, but the learning gathered by the Feeling Brain will always win out because of this belief. In other words, the Feeling Brain ‘unchecked’ has the most control over our decisions and actions we take because just like the Feeling Brain of the Cave Person it only cares about whether we are safe.
Our Thinking Brain is the conscious, rational, analytical and logical part of our brain. It gives us the ability to plan ahead and helps us to manage our impulses and provides us with a social conscience. Sounds impressive, although maybe a tad boring too (perhaps that's just me?). On the surface, you could be mistaken for believing that this part of your brain has all the control and is top dog when it comes to deciding what is best for you.
However, as I have just explained if the Feeling Brain believes that you are in danger, it will take command by activating your innate drive to survive and in turn side-track this conscious analytical side of your brain. We know, though that our Feeling Brain can misunderstand our feelings believing that we are in danger when we are not.
Conscious Emotional Processing™
You might be thinking this is just about some people being able to control their emotions better than others, and you'd be right… but for the wrong reason. You see, the problem is there is a massive difference between controlling emotions and feeling emotionally in control. If it's the former, this won't stop the Feeling Brain from continuing to believe there is danger.
Often people are very good at squashing down their feelings, distracting from their feelings using coping mechanisms and ignoring their feelings by flipping to a positive too quickly. These people look like they are handling things well; they may even feel like they are but often from the Feeling Brain’s perspective it may still believe they are in danger.
It is my belief that this is why we see so much unexplained (in)Fertility and assisted treatments not being successful.
People who are good at controlling emotions may find that they focus too much on the facts of a situation. They can rely too heavily on statistical data which often contradicts itself, and they can go into analysis overdrive to try and find answers which are only truly to be found at an intuitive level. This behaviour in itself can increase the belief at a Feeling Brain level that they are in danger due to the stress this can create.
There is a way to avoid these things from happening though, and it is by using the Thinking Brain to help the Feeling Brain fulfil its promise to keep us safe. I call this Conscious Emotional ProcessingTM. In my opinion Conscious Emotional ProcessingTM is necessary as we tend to find ourselves living in the Emergency State not because of what is happening to us, but because of the poor level of education we have around emotions. This unsatisfactory education leads to our Feeling Brain misunderstanding the reason for our feelings and subconsciously directing our actions, reactions and physical responses in a way that is often not in our best interests. However, our Feeling Brain believes them to be.
In my book launching soon, ‘I just want to have a baby: a guide for your emotional well-being on your journey from Fertility Despair to Fertility Freedom’, I will share with you how to use Conscious Emotional ProcessingTM so that you can ‘Live in the Wait’ with Feel Right Emotional EmpowermentTM.
Feel Right Emotional EmpowermentTM takes emotional education to a whole new level and some specific benefits to be gained from that are:
The added bonus to learning how to ‘Live in the Wait’ with Feel Right Emotional EmpowermentTM is that you will also significantly enhance your chances of Fertility Success.
I look forward to sharing more about my book launch with you soon.