How can I tell if I’m in Reactive Brain (aka “the ego)?

(This is the 2nd in a series on how to tell if you’re in Reactive Brain (aka “your ego”). You can follow along with the states by downloading my Inner Map here.)

We had dinner the other night at a lovely French bistro in Denver. Lovely, that is, until the couple at the table next to us began to escalate in their arguing. It became impossible to ignore, as I could feel the toxicity of their anger blasting over at us. After we moved tables, my partner asked me what I thought they were arguing about. I said, “It doesn’t matter what the subject was–they were both in Reactive Brain, so it could’ve been anything.”

A lot of what might seem to just be regular life is actually indicating that you’re in Reactive Brain. This series of blogs will help you have more information about when you’re in Reactive Brain. Also known as “dumb brain” because the blood flow is directed towards the fight/flight/flee response, it can be really helpful to identify when you’re in its grip.

Here are some quick indicators that your ego/Reactive Brain has taken over:


  • You view the other person as your competitor, enemy, or aggressor
  • You’re comparing yourself: You’re better than, you’re worse than
  • You want to blame (them, you)
  • You see the world through a sense of scarcity
  • You view the other person as weak
  • Your thinking is repetitive, narrow focused, non-creative


  • Your pulse is up
  • Your breathing is fast and shallow
  • Your muscles are tense
  • You’re feeling stressed out

Being in Reactive Brain is a terrible time to:

  • make big decisions,
  • try to think through a problem, or
  • to try to create great connection with someone else.

On the other hand, it’s a really good time to focus on shifting! Here are some things you can try:

  • move your body (dance, jiggle, get up and walk, make funny faces, run around the house);
  • breathe (great belly breaths!)
  • play (a shoot some hoops, have a squirt gun fight, make a paper airplane)
  • appreciate (anything–carpeting, how puppies smell, that you can read this)
  • and wonder (just getting curious shifts our state).
The RIDE (Relationships Ignite Dreams and Empowerment) Program begins 9/28/12. For more information, go here.


1 thought on “How can I tell if I’m in Reactive Brain (aka “the ego)?”

  1. Yeah, that was a moment! Of course, I still wonder what they were arguing about. And I really appreciate the restaurant staff in accommodating our move. They were great, we had a wonderful meal, and hopefully that couple worked it out.
    Kathy (aka, “the partner”)

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