(This has been copied and slightly modified, for your convenience, from my article ”Top leaders must be tested”)
Already, over 50 years ago, the great psychologist, Abraham Maslow saw the BEB pattern and called such people self-actualized, representing the highest level of human development. In the last few decades, the self-actualized behavior pattern has been corroborated by brain research in cooperation with developmental psychologists, using PET-scanning, Magneto-encephalography and other methods to investigate the brain.
This research has confirmed that the brain has two major styles of working.
1. Survival oriented behavior (SOB). It is activated by a sense of threat and elicits the stress response, which immediately switches on primitive survival centers in the midbrain. An important discovery is that this causes a suppression of higher brain centers, where the intellectual and creative resources are seated. Emotionally insecurity (weak basic trust) predisposes for this behavior. This insecurity is often not apparent other than under stressful conditions. For details, see footnote.
2. Balanced empathic behavior (BEB). It is activated when the person feels secure. It is orchestrated by the forebrain which integrates the function of the whole brain cortex and optimizes its functioning so that the person can make full use of his intellectual and creative resources. This ensures clear thinking and an good judgment. Self-confidence and emotional security is a basic precondition for this pattern to predominate.
Experts in human development estimate that at most a few percent of the population have achieved a significant degree of BEB but possible less than one percent.
Yet, it is evident that the leaders of countries, corporations and major banks and financial institutes should be of BEB type, as they have qualities that make them greatly superior to SOB people and, also because SOB predisposes for outright dangerous, irresponsible, impulsive behavior, and bad judgment, especially in stressful situations. For more about SOB, click here.
Signs of Balanced Empathic Behavior (BEB):
A BEB person is the opposite to SOB in every respect (to find out the SOB pattern, just replace the trait with the opposite one in every place, for example instability in stead of stability, unfriendliness in stead of friendliness etc):
- Mentally stable, calm, “cool” even under pressure,
- Friendly – does not use aggression as a means of solving issues.
- Positive attitude, happy
- Responsible, considerate.
- Altruistic (un-egoistic).
- High moral standards, trustworthy, avoids lies for achieving his goals.
- Strong integrity, holds on to his convictions even under pressure.
- Strong empathy. “Good heart” – cares for the suffering and difficulties of unfortunate people.
- Excellent judgment and clarity of mind, with a superior ability to realistically perceive all relevant aspects of a problem.
- Creative, curious and open to new ideas and solutions.
- Inner security – can handle the unexpected. BEB persons are fundamentally secure and take unpredictable and unexpected situations as stimulating challenges without any impairment of mental performance because there will be no interference from the survival centres.
- Tolerance. Positively accepts people of other races and cultures, however unfamiliar and “unpredictable” they are, and finds it interesting and stimulating to interact with them.
Imagine what the world would look like if all influential decision-makers would be like this. The good thing is that this would be perfectly possible carry through as there exists objective tests for detecting BEB.
It is unreasonable that people below this level of human development are allowed to be in powerful positions however formally competent they are. The present world situation, created by the aggressiveness, shortsightendess, narrowmindedness, irresponsbility, ruthlesness and greed of world leaders is a very concrete proof of this. For concrete examples, see my blogs “Why companies decline” and “Economic crisis – impaired brain function..“.
SOB, the mental counterpart of Stress
Stress is defined as a primitive alarm response, elicited by signals indicating danger. Its physical expressions have mostly been observed, but recently brain research has confirmed the existence of a survival-oriented response pattern associated with stress. The suppression of higher brain centers that is brings about, ensures the abililty to react instinctively and immediately without reflection – flee or fight. So, from a brain physiological viewpoint cerebral function is primitivized, being controlled by parts of the brain that we share with reptilians that have no cerebral cortex.
When a person is insecure, he constantly has a more or less subconscious feeling of being threatened or in danger, and this upholds a chronic stress response including the SOB behavioral pattern. The cause of insecurity is traumatic memories, often from early childhood, but for example severe war experiences can bring about the same SOB pattern, that when it is severe, is called Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder, PTSD.
I think there are reasons to believe that many ex-soldiers who dont have pronounced PTSD, have less pronounced degrees of chronic SOB. Such disturbances are not always obvious neither to the sufferer nor to the psychologist, as discovered by the research using Defence Mechanism Test by the Swedish Air Force, see Defense Mechanism Test.
The experience from using this test confirms Maslow’s opinion that a very low proportion of people in modern society have the level of inner security characteristic of BEB. This is not surprising, because there are many insecurity-evoking factors in modern life which may prevent the development of the stable harmony characteristic of BEB.