Why do we react so much to unfair situations? Elite athletes can control many of the elements in their lives. They know that if they train well, eat properly and surround themselves with supportive people like a good coach, they increase their chances to reach their goals.
But then comes the uncontrollable element. You know you had the perfect serve but the line judge calls it out. You saw it and it was IN! What happens in your brain at this very specific moment?
All the hard work that you have put in during the last months can seem like it’s reduced to nothing in no time. You need to know the chemistry behind this reaction, otherwise you can take it personally: “I AM TREATED UNFAIRLY!” How can you recover as quickly as possible and come back to your internal balance?
Fairness has deep roots in our brain. As almost everything in us, it has a meaning from an evolutionary point of view. We come from a world where there were no bank accounts and no fridges. In good times, when our family/group was luckier than others, we would share our surpluses with other families/groups. When we were unlucky, in bad times we would hope that they would return the favor. It was a question of life and death. We very quickly learned to identify unfair situations and unfair people that don’t reciprocate.
Life has changed but the brain has not changed that much. The brain still reacts deeply to unfair situations.
The connections existing between the prefrontal cortex (the executive center of the brain, the decision maker) and the amygdala (the fear and anxiety center of the brain) have to be numerous to go through any unfair situation in life. Any athlete who wants to recover from an unfair call will need to be mindful and also need to know why they are reacting that way. NEVER TAKE UNFAIRNESS PERSONALLY; IT IS CHEMICAL!
Mindfulness meditation will increase the connectivity existing between the Prefrontal Cortex and the Amygdala. In other words mindfulness meditation gives us control over irrational anger, which will help us recover faster after a bad call and refocus on the task at hand.
MIND SESSION — The Impact of Fairness on our Performances
Wednesdays: 10:30 am & 3:00 pm
Free Of Charge until January
Featured image by Heather Williams on Flickr
About the Author
Pierre Gagnon practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.
Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them. Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.