Saturday, 2 January 2016

WHAT HOLDS ME BACK? part 1 of 4

By: Mark Frentz

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What Does Hold Me Back?

A couple of months ago I was asked to speak at a weekend long real estate investing seminar by a friend of mine. This friend and I often talk about the psychology of investing and what holds people back from taking steps they really do want to take for their future and he wanted me to provide a presentation to explain the details further to those he was teaching. I am beginning a 4 post mini series on this topic. The first two posts will explain more about what holds us back and the last two will explain more about how to move past these hurdles to realize more of what you want in life. In case you are wondering... I have an advanced degree in psychology and work in the field, so the basis of what I am talking about comes from research that is current. I will try to explain enough to help people understand what I'm talking about, but won't provide as much as I want simply to keep things brief enough for a blog post.

Our Limbic System

Humans, and all mammals (and even 'lower life forms' on the evolutionary brain development scale), have a part of our brains that is called our limbic system. This is made up of a group of neurons that react very quickly to things that happen around us and one of the great purposes of the limbic system is to protect us. Some psychologists call this part of our brain "our reptilian brain" because reptiles also have this type of brain structure, but it is a very primitive brain structure. Reptiles can react quickly to things that threaten them, but aren't able to use higher level thinking. Humans do the same when we feel threatened. We can react quickly, but the part of our brain that is logical actually doesn't work very well because our brain restricts blood flow to those parts. The blood is used to fuel the limbic system so we can react. This is often called our flight, fight, freeze response. This partially explains why when you are arguing with someone you can say things you don't really mean and then later on (when your logical brain starts getting more blood again) you feel guilty about what you said.

This part of our brain reacts to fear. Fear is the strongest motivator for humans... at least for a short period of time (while blood is restricted to our logical brain). It often prevents us from things that are good for us and even things that we want because we are reacting in certain ways rather than thinking about and responding to decisions in front of us. The reason you typically react to fear with one of the three: fighting, escaping, or freezing is that your limbic system learned in childhood which response worked to keep you safe on some level. An example:

When you were a kid you learned to back down from parents or older siblings when there was tension in the house because you weren't hurt (emotionally or physically) as often when you backed down. If this was your response from a young age, you will most likely back down from situations when you feel tension as an adult even if it does not pose a real threat at all.

Our limbic system remembers our responses to tension or fear and tends to react in the same ways over and over again whether it helps or not. Again, this is a primitive brain structure that protects us in some ways, but isn't thinking logically about situations. The purpose of the limbic system is FAST REACTION. And it does this well. If you typically lash out at others, this is a pattern for you based on fear. If you freeze and don't say or do anything, this is a pattern for you based on fear.

Your Logical Brain Shuts Down!

Does it now make sense that if you fear almost anything in a situation or decision you may react by not doing anything? This is why fear holds us back. We fear others, ourselves, success, and failure. So again I will ask you: WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK? It is worthwhile to take enough time to become more aware of what holds you back from big and small decisions that will affect you. Begin to understand when you feel threatened by others or yourself. Once you become very aware of what you fear and how you react to fear you can begin to counteract that reaction (but I'm getting ahead of myself here).


Emotions have great power to motivate us to react to situations in certain patterns that we learn early on in life. Most of our emotional responses are based in fear. Even those people you know who are always really angry... fear is usually behind this response and anger is actually the reaction, not the cause. The great thing about this is that humans can react quickly to dangers in our environments. The difficulty is that we don't live in the wild any longer. We live in cities. In cities the same dangers don't exist and we are actually often held back by our fear response rather than helped as we used to be. The better you understand your own reactions to fear and what you typically fear the better you will be able to get past both your fears and your reactions to those fears. We need to know what we are dealing with before we can deal fully with it.

This post was focused on what holds us back emotionally. In my next post I will get into what holds us back in another major part of our brain. The two posts after that I will focus on how to begin to overcome these hurdles. While this isn't a quick fix, it will help you on your journey toward success and much more satisfaction in life.

Here's to your future of risk-averse investing!

If you would like to learn more about investing in real estate please contact me at the email address listed at the beginning of this article or go to my website at:

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