Two Brains

The UpSpiral Brain and the DownSpiral Brain

It really is like having two different brains. The neuropathways of the UpSpiral are different than those of the DownSpiral. You know when you are moving in an UpSpiral of flow and positive emotion that opens you to the world around you: YOU FEEL GOOD. This is the CALM AND CONNECT brain. It is very different than the FIGHT/FLIGHT brain.

The neuropathways of thriving and flourishing are different than those of illness and resistance. The major neuropathways and functioning of the brain in fight/flight are different from those of the calm/connect brain. You may have given up a good deal of your choice between the two, but it can be restored by learning and practice.

Recognizing that you have the choice and restoring that choice is the positive education that is good coaching. Good coaching is much more than just reaching a few material or performance goals.

You also know when you are in a DownSpiral. It is a very, very different way of thinking and reasoning that is like using a different brain. In a certain sense, you are.

There is more to life than the fight/flight response. Intuitively, you know in your heart of hearts that you are headed in the wrong direction when you are DownSpiraling.

We have SOOOO over used the fight/flight response that we are sick and ill, and we eat such awful food to give ourselves at least some reward. Such a trap!


Believe it or not, we sometimes CHOOSE to use the DownSpiral brain. Have you heard the country western music where the guy has lost his job, lost his wife, lost his kids, lost his house, and is whining in those pitiful long drawling notes sung into the bottom of his empty beer glass, identified with his self-pity or the poor woman who has lost her man and is determined never to be fooled by love again?

There are times when we may want to identify with the “blues” for a while, enjoy the richness of the artistry that captures a particular experience of human life, have a good cry, and then get on with our lives, looking for the good that is really always ours.

Honestly, there is a time for nursing our wounds and feeling our sadness that is not grounded in a sense of despair and giving up. That is not the DownSpiral brain; that is the human brain healing and knowing there is hope. There is also the decision that becomes the belief that life is not worth living. That is the very different DownSpiral brain. We can suffer and be grounded in hope that knows that we keep growing in life OR we can give in, give up, and feel like we are the victims of an accumulation of events that are just too much. Do you hear the two different brains at work here?

One brain is grounded in possibility and getting the larger picture; we call that the right hemisphere brain. The other brain is replaying the same old sad story, stuck in resentment, anger and hurt, and that is the left hemisphere brain. This kind of a localization and hemispheric specialization is a bit of a stretch, but gets at this truth that the brain of health operates on very different neuropathways than the brain of descending illness. We think differently in an UpSpiral than we think in a DownSpiral. Each day, which do you choose?

In a DownSpiral, we do not have access to our options. We have narrowed and believe there are few alternatives. We feel stuck and with no hope.

Think about it. Two ways of operating your brain: a choice between knowing intuitively, in believing, and in a faith that can be very real, that while you might be sad, there is more and that you can have it.

We cross the line between the UpSpiral and the DownSpiral when we stop believing that can have what we want, and that we can help those we love realize their better and best in life.

“Two brains” with two major systems of neuropathways, and we have the knowledge that there is an UpSpiral and a DownSpiral. And  we can make a choice for which one we will travel.

Usually that choice gets expressed in small choices first. What we talk about and how we talk about things –do you whine or do you talk about possibilities and hope to yourself and to others? What do you choose to eat?

Down? Down and angry at the hope I claim is real and surely inside of you? Go take a walk, walk for a mile. MOVE. Keep walking until you see something beautiful that you can appreciate. Small choices and a little appreciation are at the start of the UpSpiral.

Pulse gratitude. If you can’t feel it, think it.

If you don’t know how to pulse positive emotion join our next NeuroPositive class and we’ll introduce you to our Emotional Gym where you learn to feel and pulse the positive emotions that have become numbed by the hurts and traumas of life.

About the author

Dr. William K. Larkin

Copyright © 2015 The Applied Neuroscience Institute