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Change and the Brain

The New Year is often a time of reflection and change. What immediately comes to mind when you hear the word “change?” Excitement, worry, anticipation, fear or maybe a combination of many thoughts and feelings? We all experience change daily. From small changes that we may not even think much about like waking up to weather changes that can impact us in profound ways. It’s important to understand what is happening in our brains when we experience change. Understanding our brain function is key to self-awareness and emotional health.

The brain sees change as either a threat or a reward. It treats it with the same intensity as it would a physical threat which helps us understand why changes in our lives often invoke a strong emotional or even physical response. In 2008 David Rock published a theory called the SCARF behavior model. SCARF is an acronym to remember how your brain deals with change.

STATUS: Status is your relative importance or seniority. Think of it as the “pecking order” in society. The perception of a potential or real reduction in status can generate a strong threat response.