#4 First Come, First Served: Brain Development and Happiness

Brain Development and How It Determines Our Happiness

We are not born happy. If we were, we would lie content and peaceful in our cribs and never draw our mothers’ attention to get fed or comforted. We would rely on the guess work of our mothers for our existence as they would have to guess what we needed and when we needed it and we could, in all probability, die. Instead, we use a negative form of communication to get our mothers’ attention. We cry and scream. This way of seeking attention is not done by thinking. It is done by the information we already have that comes from the part of our brain that is already developed — our primary brain. This part of our mind is the first to come and the first served. It’s objective is more about our survival than our happiness.  It’s our brain development that determines our happiness.

Our Primary Brain

We instinctually know we need to eat to survive. There is a part of our brain that tells us if we don’t have food, we will cease to exist. Feeling hungry alerts us to our need for food. This alert also lets us know there is a threat to our existence if we don’t eat. So, we intuitively cry and scream for attention and as an expression of our fear and anger.

The part of our brain that alerts us to threats is our primary brain.  It’s the first part to exist, beginning to develop less than one month after we are conceived.  This area of the brain regulates heartrate, breathing, digestion, alertness, and wakefulness. It also houses our survival instincts and emotions, which include fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt – feelings that preserve our existence. Since our primary brain came first, it is natural that it is served first, making fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt our natural primary emotions.

Our primary brain is also responsible for our primary knowledge. We instinctually know good, bad, joy, and sad. We know respect, honesty, truth, and accountability are right and just. However, this inherent knowledge isn’t activated until our thinking or logical part of the brain develops and most of that brain development occurs after we are born. This part is referred to as our conscious mind.

Brain Biology

When we are born, we have about 100 billion brain cells (neurons). Brain activity does not come from the neurons themselves. It occurs when neurons connect to each other via electrical impulses (synapses). We have fewer connections before we are born, and at birth we have about 2500 connections per neuron. These initial connections control our vital functions and instincts. As neurons mature, more synapses are formed. By age 3, we have about 15,000 connections per neuron. As we mature so does our brain, making more connections until we are in our mid 20’s and can continue to make new pathways as long as we are able to think and are mentally stimulated.

Many of our neurons have predetermined connections that will be made as long as we get the right kind of stimulation. Good intellectual stimulation (reading, writing, arithmetic, and vocabulary) will form more connections in our thinking brain and make us more consciously aware, gain better problem-solving skills, and develop the ability to reason. Conversely, if we are not intellectually stimulated during our developmental years, our conscious mind’s growth will be stunted.

Our Subconscious Mind

Since our primary brain is located under our conscious mind and was here first, it is like our brain’s foundation. Therefore, we refer to it as the subconscious mind. Unlike the conscious mind, we are not aware of what information the subconscious mind has in it or what information it sends out. The subconscious mind directs our behaviors and attitude without our conscious awareness. For example, when we do things without thinking such as walking, gestures we make while talking, our facial expressions and mannerisms, and verbal expressions we use while speaking we these subconsciously.

If our subconscious mind is overstimulated there is more activity in it and we will overuse our primary emotions. We are overstimulated when we are exposed to situations that make us feel more unsafe than safe, more insecure than secure, constantly threatened, in constant danger, and rejected or abandoned. These situations prompt feelings of fear, anger, contempt, shame, and guilt, which become chronic feelings and develop into disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Since our subconscious mind came first, our primary emotions are naturally the first emotions that come to us during challenging times, and can easily come first even in good times, such as when someone gives us a compliment and we dismiss it because we feel embarrassed or distrusting.

Balance Between Subconscious and Conscious Minds

Unlike the animals, we have a subconscious mind and a sophisticated conscious mind. Our subconscious mind’s focus is for us to survive and our conscious mind’s focus is for us to live well. We need both to be happy. If we have too much activity in one or the other, it throws off the balance that allows us to be both intuitive and logical. Too much subconscious activity makes us overly fearful, overly angry, overly ashamed, and overly guilty. Too much logic makes us overly reasonable (unemotional) and disconnected from others.

Happiness is a Choice

We not born happy, but we can choose to be happy and therefore, must learn to be happy. We must balance our intellect with our emotions and in doing that we must think first. Therefore, our brain development determines our happiness. The better we develop our ability to think first and balance our emotions, the better decisions we make and the happier we are.

God put our thinking brain in front of our heads and our emotions behind. He also reminds us the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Perhaps His way of telling us to think first and let our emotions follow.

Serve the First One Here

We choose to be happy by choosing to be peaceful in difficult situations, to be joyful despite the behaviors of others, to love people who aren’t lovely, and choose to believe the best. We learn to be happy by serving the one who came first – God.