Rewire your brain to avoid the trap of comparison and status-seeking to achieve more contentment and satisfaction from life
People care about status despite their best intentions because our brains are inherited from animals who cared about status. The survival value of status in the state of nature helps us understand our intense emotions about status today. Beneath your verbal brain, you have the brain common to all mammals. It rewards you with pleasure hormones when you see yourself in a position of strength, and it alarms you with stress hormones when you see yourself in a position of weakness.
But constant striving for status can be anxiety-provoking and joy-stealing. Nothing feels like enough to our mammal brain. It releases those stress chemicals when you think others are ahead of you.
Here, Loretta Breuning shines a light on the brain processes that encourage us to seek higher status. She teaches us how to rewire those connections for more contentment and less stress. No more worrying about keeping up with the Joneses. Your new way of thinking will blaze new trails to your happy hormones and you will RELAX.
Loretta G. Breuning, PhD, is founder of the Inner Mammal Institute and professor emerita of management at California State University, East Bay. She is the author of many personal development books, including Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost Your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin and Endorphin Levels and Tame Your Anxiety: Rewiring Your Brain for Happiness. Dr. Breuning's work has been translated into ten languages and is cited in major media. Before teaching, she worked for the United Nations in Africa. The Inner Mammal Institute offers videos, podcasts, books, blogs, multimedia, a training program, and a free five-day happy-chemical jumpstart. Details are available at InnerMammalInstitute.org. She lives in Oakland, CA.
Preface: How I Stopped Selling
Introduction: Why We Care About Status
Part 1: Why Status Games Are Relentless
1. Status Games in Animals
2. Social Rivalry Among Early Humans
3. Status Games Around the World
Part 2: How Our Brain Creates Status Games
4. Serotonin and the Pleasure of Social Dominance
5. Cortisol and Status Stress
6. Why It’s Always High School in Your Brain
Part 3: Healthy Alternatives to Status Games
7. A Healthy Serotonin Mindset
8. Practical Steps Toward Serotonin
9. Help Others Escape Status Games
About the Author
Our mammalian brains are hard-wired to seek status, according to Breuning, founder of the Inner Mammal Institute. Animals have pecking orders for obtaining food and seeking reproductive partners. Similarly, we are rewarded with a dose of serotonin when we buy a better car, display stronger ethics, build a better body, or snag a cuter partner. Social media feeds into the competitive quest for status. But Breuning proposes a better way to be rewarded by lifting yourself up without dragging anyone else down. Her unique inquiry in neurological and social aspects of status games includes fascinating looks into the role status-seeking played in the lives of various luminaries, including Charles Darwin, Jane Austen, Booker T. Washington, and Alexander Hamilton. The solution to the conflicts raised by comparison and competition that Breuning offers in this thought-provoking study is to choose a middle path between the fast and slow lanes of life, understand our mammalian urges, and learn techniques for rewiring out brains to build new inner pathways that shift our focus away from the stress of rivalry to the rewards of personal growth.
In this engrossing, matter-of-fact examination of the human being as a social animal, Breuning details the biological origins of the innate need for status. “We all fret over social comparison because we’ve all inherited a limbic brain that does that,” suggests Breuning. “Fortunately, we have power over these emotions when we know how we create them.” She explores how hormones (particularly oxytocin, serotonin, and cortisol) create instinctive human responses—even addictions—to approval from others and how one can change these responses. Her advice: accept one’s mammalian urge for social importance, make a plan consisting of small steps that amount to a goal one can be proud of and takes into account the approval of others as a motivator, then repeat the new steps so a new pathway (or habit) builds toward healthy attachments to achievement. One of the most intriguing facts explains why people commonly feel they “see the world through a lens built in high school,” where social status and popularity play an outsized role: neuroplasticity peaks in adolescence, so the pathways we build in those years get quite large. Breuning’s winning combination of simple advice for small changes and accessible science-based assessments make this a standout. Anyone who wonders about the age-old question of nature vs. nurture will devour this slim volume that weighs both sides evenly.
Dr. Breuning offers a captivating perspective on the biological origins of status seeking, offering us practical tools to manage this natural impulse instead of treating it as a taboo. A must read for anyone seeking greater emotional peace.
Status Games strikes a great balance between providing the reader with an understanding of how serotonin works and offering approaches for how to adjust your brain processes for less stress! Thank you, Dr. Breuning, for sharing a ‘how-to’ guide to be able to experience one of the happiness brain chemicals without the negative aspects of playing status games!
How fantastic is the feeling when you know that by understanding our mammal brain, we can create new neuro pathways in six weeks that work for us and do not put anybody down? A must read for all those active in the game of life. Play!
11/17/21, Healthline: Loretta Graziano Breuning was interviewed for an article on how to safely organize holiday gatherings during the pandemic.