Watching “Avengers: Endgame” can be good fun. But—spoiler alert—it’s just make-believe.
For real superhero action, consider that magnificent expanse of gray matter sitting behind your forehead. That unparalleled crusader for pro-social behavior: Your Pre-Frontal Cortex!
From soft folds of densely packed neurons, your PFC unleashes remarkable superpowers: impulse control—gratification postponement—emotional regulation—long term planning—executive decision making. Your PFC enables you to do the harder thing, when it’s the right thing to do.*
At your PFC’s direction:
You listen patiently to your elderly neighbor, Bob, who’s upset because his mailbox was smashed…even when he yells…even when he accuses you…and even when you know he’s wrong…because listening will help him feel heard, and calm down.
You don’t call Bob a “crazy old bird”…even when it might feel really good…because you know he’s just scared…and because if you engage in judgment and name-calling, Bob will never hear you.
You triumph! Because Bob calms. He hears you. He might even apologize. And, he’ll still watch your cat when you go to Vegas.
Magnificent, am I right!?! But beware. Your PFC has its kryptonite: stress overload.
So, the morning your golden retriever vomits in your loafers, and your bus is late to work, and your boss gives the big client to the new guy—be mindful. Your PFC may be tied to the proverbial railroad tracks, powers compromised, unable to prevent certain calamity.
That’s when YOU leap in to action: breathe—take a break—address the stress. And free your PFC to think like a superhero again!
Your golden, your boss, and—most importantly—you, will be glad you did.
*The fantastic read is Robert Sapolsky’s “Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst” (2017).