Reacting from our bird brain

By Dave Henning / December 28, 2017

“If we’re reacting from our bird brain, we cannot have a productive conversation.  It doesn’t matter how smart we are.”- John Ortberg

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”- James 1:19 (NIV)

John Ortberg continues Chapter 12 of I’d Like You More . . . as he thinks about moving from rupture to repair.  He adds that he finds it helpful to visualize four simple symbols.   Today, Pastor Ortberg discusses the first two symbols.

1.  A stop sign.  When you feel your emotions flooding and your pulse racing, John cautions, it’s time to stop and shift your internal gears.  Because, when anger takes over, you shift to your reactive brain.  Sometimes the reactive brain goes by another name – the “bird brain.”  That reference came into use because a bird’s brain consists of a relatively small cortex (thinking part).  In contrast, a bird’s brain has a proportionately larger reactive brain.

Therefore, as you get madder and madder, there’s only one solution.  Stop.  And switch to a safer setting to ride out your adrenaline surge.

2.  A question mark.  Once you’ve stopped long enough to exit your bird brain and return to your cerebral cortex, John suggests asking yourself two questions.  “Why am I angry and “What do I want?”

First, it’s important to understand why you’re angry.  Usually, anger = a secondary emotion with roots in your past experience.  Thus, to deal constructively with anger, begin with stepping back and asking what’s beneath.

Next, realize what happens when your emotions escalate too high.  At that point, your only focus centers on how to win the argument – or worse, inflict pain on the other person.

In conclusion, John notes that anger rooted in frustration rarely goes away on its own.  Such anger needs to be dealt with.

Today’s question: What Bible verses help you when your bird brain takes control?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dis-appointing God — rejecting his divine appointment”

About the author

Dave Henning

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