People care about status despite their best intentions because our brains are inherited from animals who cared about status. This simple explanation of your mammalian operating system empowers you to redirect it and just relax.
- – It explains what triggers serotonin and cortisol in the state of nature.
- – It traces the mammalian urge for social comparison throughout history.
- – It helps you stimulate more serotonin and relieve cortisol the natural way.
Today’s romantic view of animals obscures a century of research on mammalian status conflict and the brain chemistry that prompts it. Here is a simple explanation of your mammalian operating system, so you can redirect it and just relax.
Beneath your verbal brain, you have the brain common to all mammals. It rewards you with serotonin when you see yourself in a position of strength, and it alarms you with cortisol when you see yourself in a position of weakness. Serotonin is not aggression– it’s calm confidence in your ability to meet your survival needs in a world of rivals.
To see how this works, imagine you’re a monkey waking up hungry in the morning. You don’t have a refrigerator or a supermarket, so you look around for something to eat. You see a delicious ripe fruit, but it’s near a bigger individual. Your brain releases cortisol because you were bitten when you reached for a resource near a bigger monkey in the past. So you scan for another fruit, and when you see a chance to be in the one-up position, your brain releases serotonin. Now you feel confident and take action.
This is not what you tell yourself in words because the mammalian limbic system cannot process language.
This is not what you’ve heard about serotonin. Your information has been filtered through the disease model, which suggests that an effortless flow of serotonin is the norm. A close look at nature proves otherwise. The brain built by natural selection makes social comparisons constantly. The chemicals that make us feel good evolved to motivate action, not to flow all the time for no reason. They turn on in short spurts and then turn off, so you always have to do more to get more. This makes life frustrating for everyone.
It may seem like you will be effortlessly happy if you become a bigger monkey, but the serotonin never lasts. When you know how you produce this frustration, you have power over it! You can build new thought loops to enjoy more strong, confident feelings and relieve weak, threatened feelings. You can make peace with your inner mammal and your fellow humans when you know how your brain works. This book shows you how.