The brain is a funny thing. It’s the center of everything we hold dear: consciousness, creativity, spirituality, love, and all the greatest accomplishments of humanity. It also organizes every bodily process and keeps us alive. Yet, in some ways, the brain can be our worst enemy. Although there are many more, here are four ways your brain hates you.
It Makes Us Negative
The brain has what experts call a “negativity bias.” This means that the brain is more likely to focus on the bad, the dangerous, and the negative rather than what is going well. This is for a practical reason: it keeps us alive. Being aware of the unpleasant allows us to avoid danger.
However, this also means that negative information is much more easily remembered by the brain and much more impactful. So, the five hundred times a girl’s boyfriend calls her beautiful might not make up for the one time a guy called her ugly in fourth grade. Likewise, we might look outside every morning and see trouble and destruction when reality could be closer to puppies and flowers.
It Distorts Our World
The brain has to make sense of a lot of stimuli and can’t always be learning everything anew. This is good. Burn your hand on the stove and your brain doesn’t need you to touch the stove fifty times in the future. One time and you’ll be more careful around the damn stove. This is a good thing. Most of the time.
But, especially in our social lives, our brain holds onto truths that might not be so true. It creates thought patterns that actively sabotage our efforts to be successful and happy in life. These are called cognitive distortions. They might help the brain function according to patterns and even keep us safe. But, they also can make us very unhappy. Most cognitive distortions make us see people and circumstances in, you guessed it, a negative light.
We’ve talked about cognitive distortions and given examples previously.
The Brain Is Great At Adapting (Except When It Isn’t)
The brain is pretty flexible most of the time. It can rewire and adapt to all sorts of circumstances. For example, people can put a drug into their bodies and the brain can adapt its chemical structure to deal with the presence of the drug. You might flood your brain with caffeine or alcohol and the brain generally says, “no problem.”
Of course, getting off some of these substances? Sure, the brain can adapt. But it often comes with awful side effects designed to get you right back where you started (withdrawal). So, the brain is cool with the introduction of the substance but fights like hell to keep you on it.
So, whether it’s coffee, cigarettes, or certain legal and illegal substances, the brain will adapt to make sure you’re not dead when you use them. On the other hand, when you try to get off the substances? It’ll make you wish you were dead.
The Brain Makes Love Insane
The brain has one primary purpose: passing on your genes. And, human brains know the best evolutionary strategy for doing that is for pairing up at least medium term (whether monogamy or polygamy). So, the brain wants us to feel great when we’re in love. It does this by bathing us in happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin, especially early in the process of falling in love.
We feel so great that it does all sorts of things to us including what’s called the “halo effect.” This is where we overlook the bad qualities in a partner simply because the good feels oh so good. The bad? Who cares? Even if the bad is cleaning out your bank account and banging your brother as we speak.
The brain loves love. But know what it hates? The end of love. When love ends or goes south, those chemicals suddenly go away. And they do so with a vengeance. It’s why breaking up is associated with depression, anxiety, and intense emotional pain.
Since physical and emotional pain share the same neural pathways, losing someone you love is comparable to being punched in the gut, with one exception. That pain goes away quickly. The brain wants us to pair up so badly, that it could make us feel awful for days, weeks, or even months after a break up. Isn’t that great?
So, next time you solve a complex equation or have a great creative moment, enjoy it. Your brain is cutting you a break. It will help you survive, for sure. But, it also hates you.