From egotism to working together
– a common understanding

Blog: From egotism to working together. Change

I’ve always searched for an understanding of what steers our actions and our behaviour, and what forms us as humans. In times like these I am even more grateful that I can understand how and why people are reacting and the egotism we see during great crisis. Previously I would have had more of a reaction, and I probably would have made irritated comments about idiotic behaviour. Definitely more egotistical, and not thoughts of working together as a fellowship. 

Understanding is important for our development and for our cooperation for a stronger and better fellowship. Understanding helps us to have patience, respect and accept for others. Understanding also helps us to communicate with others on an entirely different level, and lift each other to get through challenging situations, instead of being judgmental and self-righteous.

What is it that makes us do as we do?

That my brain was steering me was far from my level of knowledge or understanding while I was growing up. Today we know quite a lot more about the brain and what it in fact does.

The brain contains billions of nerve cells that, through complex interaction, steer our thoughts, emotions, behaviour and movements, and process all impulses received. 

Everything that we learn from a young age becomes automatic responses and are stored in networks in the brain. As adults we no longer think about what we’ve learned – we just run on what we call an autopilot.

Today we know that the brain is always developing, and that it does not stop developing, as we believed earlier. That was apparent for me when my mother had a stroke. She lost her ability to speak and the ability to move one side of her body. Since the brain can create new neural pathways by training, she was able to fully restitute.

The brain has a network

In order to understand our actions and our behaviour, and what our autopilot is based upon, we need to examine how the brain handles information. See for yourself that each neural pathway has a memory linked to it. An emotion is stored with each memory. An emotion becomes thoughts that we think, words we say and actions we take, and form the basis for our decisions.

When we learn something new and have good experiences and emotions relating to that learning, it will create an autopilot where we just do it. On the other hand, if the experience and emotion are negative, we will avoid doing it while on autopilot. In other words, we avoid something that is uncomfortable.

Fear of elevator

I have avoided many things in my life, without consciously thinking that I have been afraid or uncomfortable. I just «played safe». For example, I never wanted to use an elevator, I always took the stairs. When I occasionally had to take an elevator, I became cranky and arrogant, and it was very unpleasant to be in that elevator with me.

In short terms, it was an uncomfortable memory while learning as a young child, that resulted in my behaviour as an adult. When I gained an understanding of the brain’s way of storing memories, and an opportunity to make changes to them, I was able to use elevators and behave well while doing so.

This applies to everything we learn, and this is what makes it interesting to learn about how the brain handles information it receives. What I think, say and do, consciously and subconsciously (autopilot).

This also applies for all of us – our brains have the same mechanisms. Knowing this will contribute to creating greater understanding for why we react differently in various situations. Although our brains have the same mechanisms, we have had different experiences and have learned and repeatedly rehearsed differently.

Tips for what we can do:

  • We can remain aware that when others believe or behave differently than ourselves, we need to remember how we all function. This awareness is important in order for us to avoid, as much as possible, falling automatically into unhelpful emotional reactions. Reactions that drain our energy and disturb the cool-headedness that is needed to handle challenging situations.
  • Time-out: Should we nonetheless become irritated or angry and our «alarm system» turns on, we need to turn it off again. This is not a good state of mind to be in, and no one wins. Stress turns on and our immune system is weakened. Take a deep breath and walk away from the situation. Think about something you like to do or a good experience. Hold onto those thoughts until the alarm is turned off.
  • Relaxation exercise. To reset and calm down, listening to the relaxation exercise can be of great help. This exercise gives good restitution for the body and resets the mind to a natural, calm state. It helps us to reduce stress and calms down our thoughts. Download for free here.

I use these tips daily myself. I have practiced this so much that it has become an automatic response for me.  I must admit that it is much more comfortable to have this kind of autopilot than the one I had earlier. It feels good to remain calm in situations that otherwise would have been very challenging.

Future solutions

We need to learn to increase self-regulation to a greater degree. Greater balance between emotions and logic is very important for how we handle large and small challenges and tasks in daily life.

Businesses must give priority to strengthening their employees, and give them tools and the training, so that they can handle new and demanding challenges. Today there is more research about the brain and new methods to make use of. We must be willing to accept new knowledge and go within to create new understanding.

All of us have inherent resilience that we can bring forth and use to get through difficult challenges. This has helped me get through my last three years, where I have been able to get through things I had not thought possible. We are witnessing it in society now – we have an «extra gear» that kicks in.

Let us all work together. Not just on an outer level, but also through our attitudes and understanding. Many don’t know that it is in their power to change. By strengthening self-insight and feelings of self-worth, our ability to contribute to community and the future is also strengthened.

You and I can change society.
We can do it now.

Deborah Borgen