by Jennifer Hama, LPC, CPCS

The brain’s way to keep you alive is to make quick
and dirty decisions.

How the Brain Works

The brain has developed quick bypasses in an attempt to keep you alive so that we can spread our genetic code. This often works to our advantage. Think about the times you have accidentally touched the stove and pulled back quickly only to realize it wasn’t on. Or that time
you jumped back from the long, slinky hose as if it were about to bite you. The brain errs on the side of speed, making quick decisions before you even realize you made a decision to move.

The Brain Isn’t as Smart as we Are

The quick and dirty method keeps us alive long enough to realize the inaccuracy of our threat assessment. A cold stove can’t hurt us but moving our hand quickly allows us to avoid possible threat of burns. The hose can’t bite, but had it been a snake, we could have prevented
a heavy dose of pain. We want the brain to err on the side of speed but it doesn’t think like we do. We have the ability to then tell ourselves it was only a hose and to take some deep breaths to reverse the effects of the sympathetic nervous system that had been quickly activated. We can tell our brain that the threat is no longer there.

So What do we Do?

  • First we need to recognize that our brain’s ability to make quick and dirty decisions is a wonderfully protective mechanism.
  • Second, we need to recognize that this ability can be inaccurate.
  • Third, we need to examine the quick conclusions we jump to in situations.

they arrive quickly, it is easy to assume the threat was real or accurate. We need to challenge quick assumptions and thoroughly think about the accuracy of the situation.

For example: Say you quickly feel disrespected in a situation with a loved one, the brain may err on the side of speed and defer to anger (the fight response) quickly. It is easy to say because you quickly got angry that in fact your loved one is a threat. This may or may not be accurate. Once safely out of the situation, it is important to thoroughly review or process the situation. Were you actually unsafe? Was your loved one intentionally trying to disrespect you? Is there a pattern of this for your loved one? A pattern of this for you? After you have challenged your assumptions, then decide if the threat response was accurate or inaccurate.


Jennifer Hama, LPC, CPCS I have a core belief that a sense of humor is essential to living a fulfilling life. And I like to recognize mine. Regularly. I hate laundry and psychobabble, but I love uncensored real talk. It’s necessary for you to know this. Also, I have a white board that I go everywhere with. While it’s entertaining to watch me roll it around the office while trying not to trip, it’s also a powerful therapy tool, helping you visualize your struggles and brainstorm solutions. I don’t do “therapy speak, ” I shoot straight, and believe in giving you practical tools to help you change your life.oes here

Learn more about Jennifer and CBT, Here

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