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I told you that fear is a man's best friend, didn't I? Here's another reason why.

A sensible rodent is very afraid of felines. In fact it is part of their immune system. Now here comes that nasty parasite Toxoplasma gondii (from now on Tg). It's favourite habitat is a cat's intestine, don't ask me why. Tg's in the cat leave their oocysts ("eggs") in the faeces of the cat. When rodents eat this faecal matter (where is this going?!) they get infected with the parasite and here it comes: The rodent’s immune system changes and the rodent becomes less fearful of felines, increasing it's chance of predation (being eaten) and Tg's chance of survival within the new cat. Now how clever is that? Parasites manipulate other beings in a damaging way to their own advantage. Sounds familiar?

Psychiatrists call this an important symptom of personality disorders such as narcissism. However, it is also a very common feature called adaptive manipulation, executed by genes (!), prions, bacteria, fungi, insects, plants and...animals. So, next time you feel badly manipulated by anyone, you better realize that it's the thing to do when you're an animal, it's in our genes!


Ours is not to tell you what to do. Ours is to explain cause and effect.

So, whatever ending you preferred (see the last post, "Your phonecall a lovestory?"), the choice is yours. There is, however, this thing called neurology, causing different endings for different beginnings.

What you do most is what the brain learns best. So, the first ending teaches us stress, fear and risk are connected with reward (dopamine release). By the way, thousands of people with stagefright can tell you how it feels, should you be interested. Next step, business. Because you repeat this behaviour as a salesman (or manager, or stockbroker, or whatever), you start to feel good (dopamine release shift) when  stress, fear and risk rule. Constant high arousal, negative emotions and risktaking just for the feel of it will be the stakeholders of your behaviour. And you will need it to feel good. Are you still with me? The second ending is quite different. Here the brain learns to stay calm under different circumstances, flexible, with the ability to switch tactics when needed and use as little energy as possible to get the job done, effective and targeted.

Cause and effect. Basic neurology. Take your pick.


There was this boy, and he admired this girl. But, sadly, he didn't have the nerve to call her (yes, they used a phone for calling in those days). When asked why, he replied; 'What if she doesn't like me'? A story with two endings...

His best friend tried to persuade him to call anyway by painting a picture of possible huge rewards. Strangely enough this didn't bring him closer to calling. The only thing he felt was the bigger the gain, the bigger the risk. Moreover,  the bigger the gain, how could he ever live up to that? He made the call...

His best friend asked him what he thought was valuable in life, what his believes and opinions were. The longer they spoke, the better the boy got to know himself. He knew what he stood for. He knew what the possible consequences of the call would be and he knew that he would still be a valuable person, whatever the outcome. He made the call...

Think about this when you think about how to motivate your salesteam...


And that's what you are! At least, from a neurological point of view. Your brain has only one goal. Survival of the system it serves. So, by the way,  from now on you know that computers have NOTHING to do with brains. Computers process information, brains process survival, quite a different thing.

Brains have two ways of surviving. Survival of the individual (fight/flight) and survival of the species (merging/reproduction). Given the fact that this concerns survival, how strong do you think that these forces are? Do not even start to contemplate the idea of being able the escape these forces. You are a survivor, and nothing else. Further, you are not alone! So whenever you engage another member of the human species, remember, the core of his or her motivation is surviving. This should be in the back of your head when you start negotiations, want to sell something or whatever. When you reorganize two departments into one, are they merging, or are they having each other for lunch? Just realize, there's nothing in between. Bon appetit!


Now it really gets fascinating! We're going deep into the brain, into the upper part of the brainstem (icecream cone, physical survival, remember?). Just take it from me that there is such a thing as a central pattern generator, CPG (or biological oscillator). It reacts to rhythmical internal (e.g. chewing) or external (e.g. footsteps, musical beat) stimuli and starts to produce a pulse. The speed of this pulse is being adjusted untill it synchronizes with the stimulus speed. Of essence here is that the CPG is firing NOT at the same time as the stimulus, but just before that. So the key element is prediction. Brains want to be able to predict to analyze (realize what happens to a team in times of uncertainty). Next the verdict comes; good or bad stimulus? Good means further approach, bad means distancing from the stimulus. Approach, by the way, means survival by making yourself known and vulnerable through contact (artist). Distancing means making yourself unknown and untouchable, thereby being able to overcome your opponent (athlete). Again, realize this is on a physical and emotional level, and than realize what this does to businesses, teams, negotiations, cooperations. Got it? Now you know the core of human motivation and why agreements and rules have nothing to do with actual behavioural. Tell me, are you an artist or an athlete?


So, we have this brain, this survival machine that functions like a Californian Sea Snail, as it were (see Post 1 & 2). Now how could this work properly given the reasonable assumption that the average Snail IQ won't reach 100? How do they do it? The answer is as simple as inevitable. They don't. The brain does not do things, it does NOT-NOT do things. Given the right stimulus our brain is NOT able NOT to react. This is always true in the brainstem and deep layers, and almost always in the neocortex (that's where we outrun the Snail). Our brain is an autonomous pattern generator, next a reflex machine, next an emotional reactor. Only when you've reached the next (neocortical) level of sensible and analytical functioning, and only when you're well-rested, you will find yourself able to satisfactory inhibit all those much stronger forces and NOT do something. Then, and only then, you will do sort of the sensible thing. Every other moment, you're stuck with NOT-NOT. But, hey, so are the others. This means, in negotiations, during meetings, when trying to understand people's motives, remember the ultimate force, is NOT-NOT.


Now what is this thing called a brain, what is the function? Well, survival. Three layers of it (in this short version). Brainstem (ice-cream cone, physical survival system), Basal Ganglia and Lymbic structures (scoop on top, emotional survival system) and Neocortex (whipped cream all over scoop, sensible survival system). Now, remember, you can only die once! So brain function means staying away from death and damage. For this reason pain and fear are essential for living. Now you know why research shows that losing is much more significant than winning. Tell the next guru that promises you life without fear and pain that this is characterized by chronic absence of heartbeat. Of course, it also explains why pain and fear will often overreact, stay too long with us, or sneak around you like a peat-moore fire, ready to hit you when you least expect it. Finally, this explains why in any complex or important situation, decision, meeting, take-over, therapy, negotiation, match, performance, whatever, your analysis should include the factor pain, and fear.


Neuro Analytical Reasoning. I invented it. You can use it. It's sort of a language with variables that can easily be combined to understand complex situations. What I'll do first is speak of some basic principles about the brain that may change your way of understanding people's motives or for example organizational characteristics. For example, as almost every way of learning responsible for our daily behaviour (sensitization, habituation, classical and operant conditioning) is studied using Californian Sea Snales, this does not mean that they're highly intelligent. It means that we're not as smart as we think. It means that most human learning takes place at snail level. They're not like us, we're like them. Remember they were first. These are the systems we find in the deep layers of the brain and the brainstem. The parts that are functional sooooo much stronger than our neocortical structures. So, take it slow, and recognize the snail inside you.