The Thinking Brain
"When you are a bear of very little brain, and you think things, you sometimes find that a thing which seemed very thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it."
The Thinking Brain (Illustration)
-Makes good decisions
We are intelligent begins, for the most part. We are creative. We come up with new ideas, make plans, and work towards our goals. Much of the work involved in this task-oriented process comes from our Thinking Brain.
The Thinking Brain is just beginning the process of growth when a child is born. The Thinking Brain will undergo 24 years of construction and reconstruction until it has reached full maturity.
The Thinking Brain is like the Captain of the team. Not necessarily because it is the best, but because it is a leader. The Thinking Brain likes to put goals into action. It likes to make things happen. It uses its intelligence to think, to be rational, and to make well thought out decisions to move the team in a positive direction.
Disney’s on-screen rendition of The Jungle Book (2016) depicts an example of the Thinking Brain in action. Abandoned in the jungle and raised by wolves, Mowgli journeys to a man village. Mowgli requires protection from a Tiger that hunts man out of revenge for a man inflicted wound.
Mowgli disregards the warning of his wise animal escorts. The warning is to refrain from human-like behaviour for his protection. Acting human would draw attention to the man-cub and alert the tiger of his whereabouts.
Mowgli resisted and instead followed his instinct to set goals, to be creative, and to problem solve. His goals were to meet his need for food, shelter, and protection. His behaviour supported his needs, disregarding what others thought was best for him.
We move forward towards attainable goals for our growth and expansion. We meet our goals when our Thinking Brain is well functioning.
In contrast, the Thinking Brain stops working when the Emotional Brain turns on. It’s like in football where you have an offensive team and a defensive team. These two teams do not play on the field at the same time, (well, not if they are on the same team).
When the offense is playing, the defense is on the sidelines waiting for the chance to do what they are trained to do. And, vice versa. When the defense is on the field, the offense is taking a rest.
Emotions are our defense and the Emotional Brain is the defensive team. Strong emotional experiences shut off the Thinking Brain, sending the Thinking Brain to the sidelines. The Emotional Brain steps in to do its job.
In other words, when we feel emotion, our Thinking Brain shuts off and stops working. When this happens, your child can’t think clearly. She can’t problem solve, she can’t verbalize, and she can’t make sense of the situation. She feels out of control.
So, teaching your child how to respond when they are emotional is ineffective. The Thinking Brain loves to learn and to hold new and helpful information. But, this part of the brain is not accessible when your child is emotional. The Thinking Brain is on the sidelines. Your child needs help tending to her emotions before she can apply the calming tools that have been taught to her.
A father said it best when he shared his experience with anger management classes. He acknowledged his appreciation for the tools and techniques presented to help manage his anger. “It would be nice if they actually worked when you're angry!" was his honest evaluation of the process. (Illustrations/comic of the story)
The Thinking Brain is available for learning. It is more than happy to generate learned tools for the sake of problem solving. But this is successful if there is no interference from the Emotional Brain.
You can teach your child skills to regulate emotion. But, your child's ability to control herself will not come from what you teach her. Her ability to manage her behaviour and her emotions will come from the way you interact with her emotions.
Tools and techniques do not work if the Thinking Brain is shut off. So why train a team in a position that they won't ever play? It can help with managing emotion, but not until your child is much older. Your team will not be successful. Your child will not be able to control her emotions if you ask the thinking brain to do the Emotion Brain's job.
The Thinking Brain is there to help your child problem solve and to meet goals. Once the Emotional Brain’s job is done (and you are there to help), the Emotional Brain will leave the playing field and the Thinking Brain can come back on the field and get to work.
If you want to win the game, you must place the most effective players on your team in their proper position. You need to play the defensive team when the team is under threat and play the offense team when it’s time to advance. You must use the Thinking Brain for growth and your Emotional Brain to manage emotions.