Why You Need To Know About The Fast and Slow Brain

The Fast and Slow Brain – How Does It Effect You?


Simply put, the brain is split into two main sections – the fast and slow brain. They both work independently and together (as well as working with other sections off the brain)


The fast brain is great for helping you survive but it also gets you into trouble. This part of your brain is where you make generalisations, distortions and deletions. The fast brain holds your phobias, and answers questions such as 2×2 without you having to work out the sum consciously, the fast brain is where habits are formed and the fast brain allows you to respond without having to think, its works automatically. The fast brain allows you to drive down long roads without thinking, the fast brain will end sentences or song lyrics “Rudolf the red noise….” how many of you sang “reindeer” without thinking? and the fast brain operates with no effort.


The slow brain, is what we would describe as our conscious brain. The slow brain isn’t slow in terms of speed it is rather more of an attentive brain. The slow brain is activated when asked complex sums 34×13? The slow brain will search for an answer to a question “what did you eat for tea 3 days ago?” Rather then automatically responding the slow brain will analyse information and data. When giving a friend a new phone number the slow brain is activated, the slow brain is working when you are learning a new skill or habit. Try walking along a thin white line without losing your balance, this can only be achieved with the slow brain in operation (unless you have taught yourself to do this without thinking, then the fast brain takes over)


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Two Brains Working As One


The two brains work together. Initially in many situations, your fast brain will respond first before your slow brain monitors and controls the actions of the fast brain. If your walking down a dark ally and you hear a disturbance behind you, the fast brain will operate instinctively getting you prepared to Fight or Flight (or freeze) then the sound of a cat can be heard, and the slow brain tells the fast brain that there is no danger, apart from that off a hungry cat.


Read these two words BEER and VOMIT. How do you feel? You have probably experienced your fast brain in action. While reading these words the fast brain found an association between the two words and found an emotional frame of reference, which activated in most people a memory of being sick after a drunken night out.


This happens with phobics. The arachnophobia sees something moving in the corner of the kitchen, the fast brain looks for a frame of reference by searching “kitchen, dark corners, moving” and remembers the scary spider that recently ran under the fridge  and creates the same emotional response. With some phobics, this feeling of anxiety when repeated enough in the same environment can create a new phobia of the kitchen or fridge through association.


The moving thing in the dark corner of the kitchen can be distorted by the fast brain so you see the “thing” as a spider, reinforcing the anxiety to increase the power of your fight or flight response. If a door opens and the draft blows the thing into the middle of the kitchen, your two brains will recognise, in this case that the thing was just some hair or fluff, allowing your anxiety to replaced with another emotion, maybe humour or relief?


The slow brain works when you have to do something that does not come natural to you. If you worked in a room with red chairs, red desk and red walls and then  one day you walk in and without you knowing someone had replaced the red table with a blue table your slow brain will recognise this as being out of the ordinary and will search for a frame of reference. The slow brain can question (but doesn’t always) the actions in your map of the world.


You will have noticed that when you are focusing on a task (this is when the slow brain is in action) such as counting that amount of times a group of teenagers wearing white t-shirts passes a ball between one another (You can try this here by clicking play on the youtube video below) you can become blind to other stimulus

As the video explained while concentrating on one task using your slow brain, you can become blind to other stimuluses’ such as a man dressed as a gorilla waving to you.  The fast brain is constantly on, searching for frames of references to help you respond without having to access the slow brain which takes up your energy. If the fast brain runs into any difficulties the slow brain comes to its aid searching at a more conscious level for data and information to solve the problem, this slow brain demands your energy and attention.


If asked “what is your name?” the answer is on the tip of your tongue without you having to think, if the question is “what was your neighbors name from the first house you lived in?” for many we will have to search using the slow brain for the answer, unless you are still friendly with this past neighbor.


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A Change In Your Map of the World


We all operate from our own map of the world. Our personal maps are created through our personal experiences, beliefs, values and states. When your map is strong, such as the routine drive to work you can operate this map with your fast brain; you don’t really have to think how to get to work you just simply arrive with no conscious awareness.


If however you have to take a diversion or you drive pass a car accident, the slow brain comes into play because your fast brain doesn’t recognise this pattern as part of your everyday map. You become surprised and more conscious aware that something different is happening, your slow brain is checking for details so you have a frame of reference on how you should re-act.


The slow brain is also programmed to with your behavioral monitoring. Have you ever found that when you are angry with one person, you will still, even though emotionally you are in anger mode, act pleasantly to a second person coming into the room. The fast brain may take over at this stage, your initial reaction may be rude to the oblivious stranger, instantly your slow brain reprimands you and creates a feeling of guilt so you feel obliged to apologies.


The Fast Brain Goes On


The fast brain is always in operation making assumptions sometimes correct and other times wrongly. When working well you will go through your day like a well run machine, re-acting to the general stimulus that you are programmed to respond to. When something out the norm happens the slow brain kicks in, analysing the situation until it finds a frame of reference /or answer to the problem to operate from.


When working with clients to help change their phobic reaction to a stimulus or to help increase confidence in certain situations we will use both the slow and fast brain. The slow brain can help challenge the generalisation, patterns and beliefs that the client has incorporated into their map. When a well framed question is asked the slow brain will find an answer or frame of reference that interrupts the pattern that the fast brain has created, and starts the process of a new positive pattern to be formed.


Hypnotherapy encourages the fast brain to create automatic associations to a stimulus such as calmness to a observed spider, or the feeling of confidence when public speaking. These two process together create a strong force that can create fast therapy helping clients achieve their goals and desired outcomes.


Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions and Public Speaking Events


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Chris Delaney NLP Life Coach, Hypnotherapist and Career Advisor is available for booking for One to One Private Sessions, Group Training Sessions and Public Speaking Events

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Hypnotherapy in Didsbury is easily located for people living in and around Stockport, Manchester, Tameside, Chorlton and Didsbury.

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