Brain Freeze

Growing up, I had an aversion to ice cream.

Photo Credit: Faris Mansor (flickr)









Don’t get me wrong, I loved it — perhaps too much. I loved it so much that I ate too much, too fast. And the result was always brain freeze. You know what I’m talking about. That intense pain right behind your eyes that won’t go away until it’s good and ready.

Perhaps my tendency toward brain freeze is somewhat attributable to physical conditions — the structure of my soft palate or my sinuses. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to believe that most of the problem is a result of overload. I unwisely try to load up with too much ice cream at one time.

Overload is often the culprit when it comes to making good decisions. While the human brain is one of our most amazing and resilient organs, it is also one of the most delicate. The brain consumes a large amount of our total energy, has a relatively short, high-intensity work span, and is prone to distraction.

Periods of decision-making severely test our stamina. Add in a little emotion — or a lot of emotion — and you have the makings of a virtual brain freeze. (For some people, that even includes pain similar to ice-cream-induced agony.)

Conflict complicates decision making. As we deal with emotion, heightened physical responses, and constantly emerging options, the brain struggles. Decisions become increasingly difficult.

Conflict resolution professionals  work hard to create a safe and productive environment in which solutions can be created and tested. Yet, until recently, considerations about critical thinking and the way brains function were largely ignored.

The human brain works best when it is given time and space to function at its highest level. In the coming weeks, I will be sharing more about the way the brain works and how you can best harness its incredible power — and how to help others do the same.

I look forward to hearing your questions and comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply to Joey Cope Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

9 thoughts on “Brain Freeze

  1. Hi Dr. Cope!

    Brain freeze? What are you talking about? I do not get it…
    I can devour, literary, 1 kilogram of vanilla ice with pecans within 15 minutes and if I am not dead by the time I finish eating it I look for more. Brain freeze! Nope! Just give me some ice cream, please 🙂

    Anyway, very interesting theme. I think that we can condition our brain to work better in a stressful situations. But can we condition our brain to work, more-less normal in a conflict situation? My experience so far has been only negative.
    Therefore, I am looking forward to reading what you have prepared for us considering our brain and the way it functions.

    • Damir, never had brain freeze?! You are a lucky individual.

      I think this is an interesting topic. Actually, most all of us have brains that work normally in conflict. This series will look at what our brains naturally do and what we should do to enhance those activities. The series will be slow in coming since I decided to write it while I’m actually in the middle of studying the subject.

      Thanks for commenting!

  2. You are a thought provoker, yes I’ve experienced brain freeze from ice cream and very cold drinks. With conflict
    tho at times my whole thought processes freezes up – thankfully that’s not too often. Most often I guess it’s when my emotions get into the situation.

    • Larry, we’re going to take a look at those emotions, so stay tuned. One of the prominent neuroscientists at the University of Texas says that bad (or no) decisions are often made when emotions are too high or too low. We need to learn to head for the middle. Just as in everything else, it seems that moderation in emotion is a good thing. Thanks for commenting!

  3. This has nothing to do with ice cream but a lot with brain freezes. At lunch today, Kay, my wife and mother of my daughter, and I were talking about our daughter. She has as one of her goals in life to play college level basketball. She has attended the best camps that are available. She works under a private trainer. She is a junior in high school with a full academic load and still gets up at 5:00am in the morning and goes to the athletic club to practice. All of this and for some reason it fails to translate into game. She gets into a game and its ice cream overload. Our conversation at lunch was “WHY?” For so many players who are far younger and less skilled it seems to fall into place, yet for her its tears on the court with yet another brain freeze. Are there clues to the “Why?” in the ice cream?

    • Gary, I’ll take a closer look at this in my research. However, one possible cause could be a tendency by your daughter to bring too much of her ball-playing to a decision-making level that overloads her circuits. In physical activities, including sports, driving a vehicle, etc., the brain is able to recognize and react to the majority of input through lower-levels of brain activity. If your daughter is overly anxious about how well she will perform, she could be drawing some of the automated reactions into the pre-frontal cortex. That special, decision-making portion of the brain has limited capacity and, thus, brain overload or brain freeze could result. Encourage her to relax and enjoy the game.

  4. I have never read “the Inner Game of Tennis”, however, I am wondering if it addresses these very issues. Very interesting concept, that, under stress, the brain operates from a different area which isnt as capable as handling the demands at the given moment. For example, when your daughter is practicing basketball she is using one part of her brain, however, instead of using that very same area of the brain during a game (under stress), she switches to another. All of the practice cannot be recalled. Just a thought.

    • Laurie, I think that this is indeed part of the difficulty. I am currently reading a book by Dr. Sian Beilock called “Choke” that addresses a number of factors that come into play when a person is under stress. Thanks for your comment.