Why Does Your Brain Always Find Problems?

Your brain has more neurons than there are stars in the galaxy. However, it has one particular flaw. It always finds problems where there are none. Why is this? What's the point of this feature?
Why Does Your Brain Always Find Problems?
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 02 December, 2021

You try, but you can’t. You attempt to convince your mind that everything’s fine and not to dwell on things that aren’t important. Yet there you are, unable to sleep and fueling the fire of worry. Hence, you may find yourself asking why it is that your brain always finds problems?

You’re probably used to being told that worrying isn’t good. Some insist that the reason for excessive worry is the result of latent anxiety. However, neuroscience claims that the human mind needs to analyze many of the things surrounding it. In this way, you’re able to anticipate risks and be able to act accordingly.

As humans, we spend our lives ruminating and focusing our attention on a myriad of different things. We’re almost like the classic Auguste Rodin figure, The Thinker. We put our chin on one hand and start to worry. As a matter of fact, our brain, the most complex structure in the universe, is designed to think 24 hours a day. This can be exhausting.

Fortunately, we can all exercise better control over it to prevent those cycles of excessive and unhealthy rumination.

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”

-Miche del Montaigne-

Man thinking why the brain always encounters problems

Why does your brain always find problems?

One of the endless tasks that your brain performs is turning on the worry mechanism. Indeed, while your lungs breathe and your heart beats, thus boosting blood circulation, your brain analyzes possible future events to guarantee its own survival.

The main power of the modern human brain is to imagine possible scenarios to better navigate the world. Scenarios like, what if you write that report quicker so you’ll look good with your boss and not get fired? Or, what if, instead of making the trip by car you do it by plane, which is safer? In fact, you create potentialities almost constantly in order to prevent risks and to react to them.

In this way, if your brain always encounters problems, it’s because it’s forced to anticipate what may come. However, is it normal to always have an eye on the future anticipating the worst? Obviously not. As a matter of fact, you should only exercise concern when it’s correct and necessary to do so. Because excessive rumination leads to stress and anxiety.

Let’s find out more about why your brain drifts into these states.

Worry as an attempt to control the future

Your brain doesn’t like loose ends, uncertainty, or the unknown. It wants to have everything under control. Therefore, one of the things that bothers you the most is thinking about the future and not knowing what might happen. This is what Dr. Thomas D. Borkovec et al explained in an investigation in the 1980s on the exploration of worry.

Your brain always finds problems due to its attempt to anticipate and make an uncertain future a little clearer and safer. While this might seem logical, there’s a small flaw. It’s the fact that your illusion of control is false. However, you tend to think that if you worry more, things will turn out better.

This makes you think that if you relax or divert your attention away from tomorrow, something catastrophic will happen.

If you’re responsible, you tend to worry. This means you live thinking about tomorrow, about problems that don’t really exist, and imagining disasters that’ll never happen.

The feedback loop between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex

Your brain works in a particular way when it comes to processing many of the things that surround you. In fact, worry and rumination derive from what’s known as a feedback loop. This works as follows:

  • The amygdala is the region that’s responsible for detecting alarm signals, whether external (threats or physical risks) or internal (concerns, anguish, etc).
  • Next, it passes those signals on to the prefrontal cortex for it to analyze and process. What’s expected is that this should rationalize the alarm signal, calm the amygdala and the worries should fade from your mind. However, this isn’t always the case.
  • The prefrontal cortex sometimes imagines more things that could go wrong based on those stimuli. Thus, the feedback loop is activated.
Eye with a mirrored brain to represent why the brain always encounters problems

Your brain doesn’t see things in perspective

When your mind feeds the motor of worry, a very striking phenomenon occurs. You place your attention on the minutiae. It’s like you can’t see further than your own nose and you think that there’s a storm coming. You believe it because you’re unable to see you’re actually standing under a shady tree. However, around the corner, the sun’s shining brightly.

Why does your brain always find problems? It’s because you don’t always look at the world in a balanced way. Factors such as stress and anxiety make you obsess over details, with isolated and specific aspects that aren’t always connected.

It’s hard to widen your focus and distance yourself because it’s only when your mind’s relaxed that you’re able to see things in perspective and not with tunnel vision.

You need to realize that 97 percent of everything that worries you will never happen. It’s only the product of an anxious mind that punishes you with its distortions and misperceptions.

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