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Why did I do that?
A quick look at one of my favorite books
You're in the middle of a professional basketball game, adrenaline pumping, crowd roaring, and you're on the verge of making that game-changing play. But suddenly, BAM! You get smacked on the head by your opponent's arm. Instinct takes over, and you push back while throwing some not-so-nice words their way.
So why did you do what you did?
What happened a few seconds ago?
Well, you got whacked. But a lot’s happening in the brain. Especially in the amygdala. The Amygdala is the emotional processing center of our brain and clearly, it got triggered.
What happened a few minutes ago?
Even before the foul, the game's vibe could've played a role. Maybe the crowd was booing, cranking up the pressure. Or perhaps you'd been missing shot after shot, building up a pressure cooker of frustration inside you.
What happened a week ago?
Hormones. If your team has been in a slump and you're stressed out about it, those stress hormones are in play. More stress equals a hyperactive amygdala, which makes you more prone to intense emotional reactions.
What happened a few months ago?
Turns out the brain can change and adapt throughout a person's life. It involves the brain's ability to reorganize its structure, functions, and connections in response to learning, experience, and environmental influences. If you've been dealing with stress for the past few months, your amygdala might've actually physically enlarged due to all that chronic activation. This can crank up the intensity of your emotional responses, making it tough to keep your cool.
What happened years ago?
The frontal cortex of our brain does not mature until mid-20s. So, the choices and experiences we have in our lives play a big role in how we handle our emotions now. Even chemical modifications to our genes due to our mom's experiences in pregnancy can influence our behavior later in life.
What happened centuries ago?
Our ancestors' lifestyles, like whether they were nomadic or settled, can leave their mark on our behavior in certain situations.
What happened millions of years ago? The grand finale is evolution. Over millions of years, our genes have been shaped by the environment, which influences our behaviors today.
Just knowing this left me with a greater appreciation for the question “Why did I do that?”. A lot of factors are at play.
I came across all this in the incredible book “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky. Cannot recommend it enough!