Our Juvenile Brains

I was at a community parent group meeting recently in which we had a psychologist come and speak.  She said something fascinating that made a lot of sense.  She said that when we are under stress, we think less with our frontal cortex and more with our brain stem.

She suggested that our frontal cortex is more responsible for our maturely developed rational thinking and reason.  Our brain stem is more to do with our instinctual and habitual thinking that is more juvenile, selfish, and bare survival oriented.

So by this assessment, if we let stress get to us, we become less rational and more reactionary and think more of basic survival than creative problem-solving and advancement.  Is that not what happens to us when we let stress get to us and we lose our “courage under fire”.  We often say, ” #&@* growth!  I just want to survive this thing”.

This can be any problem; work, family, business etc.  How many times do we do this in our parenting?  Where we feel overwhelmed by the chaos in our home and we end up just wanting reprieve from the chaos rather than solving the problem and helping ourselves and others grow?

I have contended many times that addictions and dysfunctional patterns act as if they have minds of their own.  And their goal appears to be to drive us to the sidelines of life, rather than in the game.  On the sidelines, we cannot help move the ball up the field.  We are laying there injured and unable to contribute to the progress of our own life.

To keep moving the ball toward the goal, we must remain in the game.  Therefore, our ability to handle stress must improve as we recover and mature so we are not just surviving, but thriving.  We can build success upon success.  This can take us to newer and greater heights in whatever area of our lives we wish. 




About Chaz

Husband, father, brother, son, friend. Sober member of AA. Grateful for the life God gave me and for the happy struggle of recovery.
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4 Responses to Our Juvenile Brains

  1. Punch says:

    Brilliant post. I know that I, for one, must have the brain stem muscularity of a Mr. Olympus champion. 🙂

    Actually, if we look at the relationship between our primal responses and our more thoughtful responses, it can be incredibly enlightening. I find that simply arresting impulses along the primal track can be an effort well rewarded, as I look to take the next step towards better health.

    “To keep moving the ball toward the goal, we must remain in the game”. You’ve summarized my thinking in such a succinct and positive way. Since the meltdown, it is exactly that which I’ve tried to do, to step into the game and stay there.

    Love your work, brother.

    • Chaz says:

      Hey Punch…. glad to hear from you.

      You make an interesting point… whether you meant to or not.

      We do exercise and build stronger the path we choose most frequently. I believe many of us who are prone to reverting to brain-stem thinking are simply better at going there by sheer habit. And thereby, we do likely have very muscular brain stems (and atrophied frontal cortexes).

      The dog who grow the strongest will be the one we feed the most.



  2. Piper Bayard says:

    Great post, Chaz, and so true! Under stress, I just do what it takes to get through the day. I hate it that I wasn’t more organized when my babies were little. So often I would hit that junk food drive through when they were hungry just because I was stressed out and couldn’t deal with shopping and cooking. Just one of the many examples I could give on that.

    Your blog rocks. Are you on Twitter? All the best.

    • Chaz says:

      Hi Piper….

      Glad you realize you were just doing what you could and not beat yourself up for coping while stress was on. Your story not untypical of any of us.

      Sorry, not on Twitter. I know its a great tool, just dont have the scope for it at this stage.



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