The brain is a wonderful thing. It keeps up alive without us noticing. It gives us the ability to walk and talk and fall in love and learn multiple languages. However hard we study to understand our brain, there are things that it makes us do that simply don’t make sense! Why we walk into a room and forget why we are there. Why we only recall that one less than positive piece of feedback within a room full of standing ovations. And motion sickness. What is the point of that!?
In “The Idiot Brain”, Neuroscientist Dean Burnett, explains all the eccentricities of the human brain. He celebrates the imperfections and the quirks that make us such a contradiction; from the current understanding using theories and modern day scanning techniques. Like Ruby Wax’s “Frazzled” it combines neuroscience with comedic writing, so even if this is your first exposure to this area, it is very accessible. So, if you want to find out why we do what we do, then this is the book for you!
The topics cover areas of life that often aren’t included in other personal development or psychology books: travel sickness, why criticism stings as much as it does, anger and addiction are all covered in the same place. A unique combination!
A caveat with all things scientific; all the explanations are from the current understanding. If this book was written 50 years ago, or in 50 years’ time, then the explanations given may change. We become very meta when we decide to use our brain to study our inner workings; yet we are limited to our current understanding and interpretations!
This is one of the few books where I ran out of paper when making notes! It is very thought provoking and challenges a lot of the expectation we put on ourselves, both individually and group, and has sparked more than just this blog! (So watch this space)
This book was read in a month where my group was also considering one of my coaching themes, namely Confidence, so my review is wearing that lens. However, the joy of this book is that if I was reading considering returning to work, career or business, the lessons learnt could be applied to those areas too!
Bearing this in mind, these are the key things I would recommend you take away from the facts of an Idiot Brain:
1. It is good to be in control …
Or at the very least, to feel like you are in control. Those that believe they are in control of their life (where their “locus of control sits) have reported lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their system. It is also normal to feel frustrated if you think that control has been taken away from you or someone or something is standing in your way. Ironically, getting angry about something actually lowers the cortisol in your system; so angry behaviour has a biological purpose!
2. Being fearful doesn’t make you an insecure person …
It just makes you human! From the discomfort of speaking in public to full blow social anxieties or phobias, these emotions and behaviours are the brains reaction to the perceived harm caused by embarrassment. We are simply VERY evolved pack animals, and social acceptance is just as important to us now as it was when rejection meant being left alone to starve! We are programmed to want to liked and loved.
3. Motivation doesn’t work the way you think…
Why people are motivated to take action, or avoid things, is MASSIVE in the coaching world. However, many people metaphorically beat themselves up as they don’t achieve what they set out to do. One thing The Idiot Brain highlights is that we have numerous versions of “self”; an “ideal” and an “ought”. The “ought” to is the channel to our ideal self. Often it is the battle between the two that impacts our ability to achieve; like an angel and devil on our shoulder. So maybe don’t change your goal, change your route to get there!
So there you have it. The next time your brain behaves in a way that leads to self-criticism, ask yourself, it is it you causing this or your Idiot Brain?
Come over to The Balance Collective with Clara Wilcox and let us know how your idiot brain is standing in the way of the work-life balance that works for you!