A Private Discussion

Lesson 14

Can we talk privately? Up until this point I have attempted to explain the function of your brain which has become increasingly difficult as brain function became more subtle. The question of identity, our sense of self, the nature of the mind and our behavior in society at large are difficult concepts to grasp and yet can be discussed in a rational way.

When it comes to our emotions the intellect is often at a loss. Our feelings or inner sense of well-being may derive from the status of our autonomic nervous system and hypothalamus. In very simple terms if we are close to the optimal state of homeostasis we "feel good." If our homeostasis is out of balance, or challenged by the environment and we must struggle to regain our ideal state, we "feel bad" until homeostasis is obtained.

Just as simple mental constructs mature as we develop, so do primitive emotional states. The emotional state of "feeling good" becomes associated with situations in which you receive praise by your elders, recognition by your peers and acceptance by your community.

You cannot underestimate the power this emotional state of well-being can have on your behavior. The withdrawal of affection can be more detrimental to your health than actual physical harm. You need to be careful that you do not succumb to peer pressure to perform activities that you know can threaten your physical well-being to obtain the satisfaction of peer group recognition and acceptance. Many social situations represent "approach/avoid" problems and you must balance the social benefits of peer group acceptance with a potential emotional, mental or physical risk.

Your internal environment maintains an "image" of the ideal mental state just as your body maintains an ideal homeostatic setting. When your perception of the external environment deviates from this ideal, emotions may arise that tell you something is at odds with the ideal. Simple emotions such as sadness or anger arise when the discord between the ideal and our experience is obvious. Complex emotions such as guilt or regret may arise when on reflection your behavior was less than ideal.

This is a good time for self examination to determine what you may have done differently to approach your ideal. Take this as an opportunity for learning and improvement for the next time. Most of these situations are new to you and you can't be expected to get everything right the first time.

Another thing we need to discuss, which although awkward is of paramount importance. It has to do with the changes your body, brain and mind are going through as you pass through puberty. When our committee met to discuss why well-behaved, informed and bright children begin to act irrationally and erratically as teenagers we were at a loss. When we pooled all of our scientific, educational and academic resources together the best answer we could come up with was that teenage brains were invaded by aliens! You may have noticed that your own smooth sailing vessel is being rocked by waves and wind from all directions. Maybe you have an older brother or sister who as a teenager seems to be somebody different than they were.
As I thought about this more I realized it was true!

Your brain was doing just fine before puberty, it was nicely wired, it had plenty of experience with the world and a well-developed sense of logic and meaning. At puberty, your brain is invaded by your endocrine system and new hormones flood your bloodstream. 

It is an alien invasion! These hormones are essential to prepare you for your reproductive capacity. But they play havoc with your brain's homeostasis. In a real sense, they act as neurotransmitters that your brain has not handled before. New levels of testosterone, estrogen,progesterone, prolactin and growth hormone are coursing through your veins. It will take your brain some time to adjust to these new chemical influences, but it will occur. In the meantime, try to stay focused and remember some of your earlier lessons.