Limiting the voices of my Monkey brain

For a while I've been training in Tae Kwon Do.1 Most of the training has been the physical side of martial arts and self defense. I had the opportunity recently to participate in a different kind of self defense course called 'Violence Dynamics'. The concept of the course is that in the training for self defense you need to understand the events leading up to moment you need to actually use your training. And if you're smart about understanding the concepts around violence, you can minimize the need to engage in a physical encounter.

Part of the training is on a topic called Conflict Communication (Con Com), written by Rory Miller. A core idea in the book is that your brain is broken down into 3 parts:4

  • Lizard: the part of the brain that controls our survival instincts (fight or flight)
  • Monkey: the part of the brain that handles our emotional and social needs
  • Human: the part of the brain that solves complex problems

We normally live in the realm of our Monkey brain. We do things to make sure we conform to social norms (we say hi when we walk into the office) and we react when someone else violates our norms (honk at someone who cuts us off). The problem with the Monkey brain is that it's not as intuitive as the Lizard brain and it's not as logical as our Human brain. The Monkey brain wants things to be stable and will guide us to make decisions that want to keep things stable, even if they aren't in our personal best interest. The book goes into some background on the concepts that humans are social creatures, and as such, will take steps to keep group healthy at the expense of the individual.

Parallel to attending this self defense course is that my job has absolutely exploded in the past couple of months. I've been looking for ways to keep my focus 2 and work through some bigger projects at work. As I was reading last night it struck me about all the things I was doing to trigger my Monkey brain and distract me from using my Human brain to get work done.

Number one on this list was Twitter.

I started realizing all the rabbit holes I was going down with Twitter. I would spend time randomly scrolling through my timeline looking at stuff that had nothing to do with what I was supposed to be focusing on at the moment. The other part has been the people I've been interacting with on Twitter. I've met some amazing people randomly on Twitter. I've also run into some absolutely batshit crazy people too. In the partisan political era we're now, it seems batshit crazy is the new normal. People I've been following for years are starting to retweet stuff I know they would never say out loud in real life.3

These thoughts happened to coincide to a recent New Yorker article I stumbled upon on how Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system, is going to take a sabbatical to 'take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately.' While I don't think I'm as much of an asshole as Linus Torvalds, the idea of taking a step back and spending more time to work on how my focus and attention can be improved did resonate with me.

tldr... I'm off Twitter for a while, not sure when I'll be back.

The only downside I see to being off Twitter is the news and information feeds I'll be losing. But I guess that will be minor to the literal hours a week I believe I'll reclaim.

  1. I'm not sure when a few years turns into several years, so we'll just go with a while

  2. Which is ironic as I write this over my lunch break. 

  3. Because I know them IRL. 

  4. Most these concepts are based on the triune brain model