Why Does Change Make Us Lose Our Minds?

How can we embrace change, rethink the way we think and evolve?

Posted Feb 26, 2017

In my previous blog, I talked about a set of beliefs and assumptions that seem to underlie the increase in divisiveness in our country. Remember, it is our beliefs and assumptions that determine our perception of and response to everything we experience. The rise in antisemitism and other forms of racism, for example, could be a response to a belief in “us versus them”, and an assumption that “the other diminishes me or takes away from me.” The response to this belief and assumption seems to be that in order for me to be okay, for me to have what I need, we have to hate, intimidate and marginalize others.

We are at a critical stage in human evolution. Globalization and advances in technology have changed just about every aspect of our lives and for some of us, it is stressful. I believe that the fact that we are going through such profound change is contributing to and strengthening these polarizing beliefs. There is a reason why change is so difficult. We are creatures of habit. We become used to doing things a certain way. We have expectations about the way things are and the way things ought to be. These expectations and ways of seeing the world become hardwired in our neural network. What is wired together fires together and as a result, it all feels familiar and comfortable. But when things change, it can be disorienting.

For many of us, we are confronting a world that is drastically different from our expectations and our comfort zones. When this happens and there is a perceived difference between our expectations and our reality, there is a strong protective mechanism in our brains called the orbital frontal cortex that starts firing: "error, error, danger, danger! " The orbital frontal cortex is located near the amygdala, which triggers our fight, flight or freeze response. Together, our error detection mechanism and our fear response center can often take energy away from the prefrontal cortex that controls analysis and rational thought. When this happens, we tend to lash out in fear and anger. It these situations, it is often difficult to be objective: to embrace change and adopt new ways of interpreting and responding to the challenges of our time. This could explain what is happening in town hall meetings across this country.

The question is: how do we move forward? To overcome the fear, hate, and divisiveness in our world, we must learn to own and control our cognitive processes. By this I mean, we must leverage the power of the mind to move beyond our programming and hard-wiring. We are not victims of our minds: our fears, biases, and thoughts. Instead of simply reacting out of fear to the changing dynamics in our world we can actually use the power of our minds to change our individual lives and our world.

We can start by looking at our own beliefs and assumptions and deciding if there is another way of looking at things. We have to be objective enough to say to ourselves, that just as my perspective is valuable, so are others’ perspectives.  Listening to and valuing other peoples’ points of view is critical for us to move forward. We must redefine who we are as people, who we want to be and what kind of world we want to create.

Excerpts from:  The Objective Leader: How To Leverage the Power of Seeing Things As They Are.