How funny were the scenes in which the snobbish and rude hotel owner Basil Fawlty (John Cleese) humiliated and shunned Manuel (the late Andrew Sachs). Basil had little respect for the working class and Manuel had to work under a feeling of constant pressure. “Me from Barcelona, I know nothing, ….” was his famous response. His facial expression at that moment was also worth an Oscar.
Last I had a similar “stressful” experience dealing with a dominant person who did not show any respect at all. At least, that’s how I experienced the situation and I “blocked” the same way Manuel did: my logical reasoning let me down, along with my capacity to stay calm, let alone to look at the situation from a distance, …. However I am not from Barcelona!
Did you have similar experiences?Indeed, the scenarios that took place in cosy Fawlty Towers, are very recognizable to all of us. That must be one of the reasons for this comedy serie to receive the award of best British TV program of the 20th century.But what is really happening? What exactly goes on in our brain that makes us feel like Manuel? in other words, why do we block in stressy situations and are we in the possibility to do something about this?In a simple way we could say that our prefrontal brain, in normal situations fluently connected with our limbic brain, goes offline (see my previous blogs) and the primitive brain, with the amygdala at the wheel, takes over. This typical reaction is very simple to explain if we look at it from an evolutionary point of view: under pressure, e.g. when our life is at risk, it is absolutely out of the question to nuance, to evaluate different options, to look at different perspectives,…. We just don’t have time for these “prefrontal” activities. In other words, those tasks where our prefrontal brain is good at, will be pushed to the background and our “gorilla”, our primitive brain, steps into the driver seat and leads us away from danger (fight, flight, freeze). Therefore, it is normal that we no longer know what the capital of Denmark or who the president of America was before Obama if we find ourself under pressure….This is what we all know. But let us take a deeper look. The stress we experience in the 21st century has nothing to do with life and death. However we experience it as such and we get our body ready to action (fight, flight,…).Following this logic, this also means that we can reverse this cycle the other way around. By deliberately activating our prefrontal brain, we can calm down our primitive brain (quiten our gorilla) and re-activate our prefrontal brain.Example: curiosity is one of these possible tools in our bag to activate our prefrontal brain. By asking open questions to somebody under stress, these questions will provoke curiosity and will calm them down. Possibly this does not happen immediately(if the person is under heavy stress) and his/her gorilla does’nt want to back down. However, if you keep asking questions, keep going for more and more details, his/her gorilla will eventually come to rest and he/she will open up again for a normal, logical conversation.A capacity that Manuel, due to the continuous stress in this crazy hotel, controlled insufficiently. Of course, Basil was not a good role model for him.Mind your Brain coaching is based on this knowledge. Not only does the neurocognitive test reveals beautiful information related to your natural person
ality and your position in a group, but also you will get feedback on your capacity todeal with stress and to silence your gorilla. More info about this approach can be found here. Looking for a nice reminder from Manuel and Basil? Here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6EaoPMANQM . Have fun watching.