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Unravelling the Two Brains

In the complex tapestry of human cognition, author Mark Manson introduces a fascinating dichotomy: the feelings brain and the thinking brain. These two distinct entities shape our perceptions, decisions, and responses to the world around us. Understanding the interplay between these cognitive forces can provide valuable insights into our emotions, behaviours, and the pursuit of a more balanced life.

The Feelings Brain

At the core of Manson’s concept lies the feelings brain, an emotional powerhouse that operates on instinct, intuition, and gut reactions. It is the realm of our emotions, encompassing joy, sorrow, fear, anger, and everything in between. The feelings brain is primal, driven by evolutionary mechanisms that once ensured our survival in the face of danger.

This emotional center is quick to respond, often bypassing rational thought in favour of swift, instinctive reactions. It operates in the present moment, processing stimuli based on past experiences and emotional imprints. The feelings brain is the force behind impulsive decisions, immediate attractions, and the visceral response to external stimuli.

While the feelings brain serves a vital purpose in our lives, it can also lead us astray. It’s susceptible to biases, distorted perceptions, and the influence of external factors. Acknowledging and understanding the feelings brain is the first step towards gaining mastery over its impulses.

The Thinking Brain

In contrast, the thinking brain is the rational, analytical mind that engages in logical reasoning and thoughtful contemplation. It is the epicenter of cognitive processes, allowing us to plan, strategise, and navigate the complexities of life. The thinking brain is future-oriented, seeking to understand, analyse, and derive meaning from our experiences.

Manson posits that the thinking brain is a more recent development in human evolution, providing us with the capacity for abstract thought, problem-solving, and the ability to project into the future. While the feelings brain is reactive, the thinking brain is proactive, constantly assessing situations, considering consequences, and making informed decisions.

However, the thinking brain is not immune to its own set of challenges. Overanalysis, indecision, and the quest for perfection can paralyse its functions. Striking a balance between the feelings brain and the thinking brain becomes crucial for a harmonious and fulfilling life.

The Dance of the Two Minds

Manson suggests that achieving a healthy equilibrium between these two cognitive entities is the key to personal growth and well-being. The interplay between the feelings brain and the thinking brain is a delicate dance, and finding the right rhythm requires self-awareness and intentional effort.

Rather than viewing these two minds as adversaries, Manson encourages us to recognise their complementary roles. The feelings brain provides the emotional colour to our experiences, infusing life with passion and vitality. Meanwhile, the thinking brain offers the guidance needed to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

Practical Strategies for Balance

  1. Mindfulness and Self-Awareness: Cultivating mindfulness allows us to observe the ebb and flow of our thoughts and emotions. By developing self-awareness, we can better discern when the feelings brain is taking the lead and when the thinking brain needs to step in.
  2. Emotional Regulation: Acknowledging and understanding our emotions enables us to regulate their impact on our decision-making. The ability to pause, reflect, and respond rather than react is a hallmark of a well-balanced mind.
  3. Strategic Decision-Making: Recognising the strengths and limitations of both minds allows us to make decisions that honour both emotional authenticity and rational analysis. Striking a balance between intuition and reason leads to more informed and holistic choices.


Mark Manson’s exploration of the feelings brain and the thinking brain provides a valuable framework for understanding the intricacies of human cognition. Embracing the dynamic interplay between these two minds empowers us to navigate life’s challenges with greater wisdom and resilience. As we cultivate a harmonious relationship between our emotional instincts and rational reflections, we unlock the potential for a more authentic and fulfilling existence.