Self-awareness is the bedrock of emotional intelligence, and mindfulness practices improve our self-awareness.
From an evolutionary perspective, the primary role of the human brain is to keep us safe.
Our brain evolved in times where physical or social threats often had life-or-death consequences. When scanning the past or anticipating the future, we developed an 80% negative bias to best avoid harm and support survival, but not necessarily to thrive and become the best version of ourselves.
Despite thousands of years of evolution, our brain still reacts to threats in the same way, even if perceived threats are much less destructive than they were in the past. From tigers and hunger, our modern-day threats now include colleagues ignoring our comments in a meeting, being late to daycare, losing benefits at work, not being able to see family and the like.
Our primitive or mammalian brain, called the limbic system, is highly efficient to protect us from perceived threats. It has learnt to either fight, flight or freeze depending on the context and your conditioned responses.
When we feel threatened, the mammalian brain kicks in, often with inappropriate, self-preservation reactions that we later regret as they alleviate the short term discomfort or generate an immediate reward, but do not necessarily take into consideration what is most important to us in time or align to our deepest values.
Rather, the brain is wired with these learnt behaviours from the past and will often repeat them again and again, just because they feel most natural to us, even if they no longer serve us.