Coffee Conversations Ep. 17: Are They Out of Their Mind?

August 04, 2022
  • David VanderMolen
  • David VanderMolen
    Learning Sensei

A household thermostat can easily explain the concept of homeostasis.

Homeostasis – in regard to a thermostat – is a comfortable and balanced temperature. Not too cold and not too hot. Homeostasis, as it pertains to a person’s emotional and mental wellbeing, is a comfortable and healthy blend of emotion and logic.

When people experience homeostasis, they have a comfortable equilibrium between their thoughts and their emotions. In the simplest of terms, homeostasis represents a person’s “Happy Place.”

People leave their sense of comfort, they exit homeostasis, the moment a problem enters their world.

In this moment people move from being “at ease” within themselves and with the world around them to experience “dis-ease” within themselves and with the world around them.

If the problem is sizable or significant enough, people will tend to lose their cognitive and emotional equilibrium rendering them thrown off balance. When this occurs the person tends to behave in ways that appear to others and even themselves as if they are “out of their mind.”

In a very real sense, this “out of their mind” characterization is true. It’s not that people become “crazy” because they experience a problem; it’s that people tend to experience emotional overload from the problem such that the frontal cortex (the more rational part of their brain) constricts allowing the amygdala (the more primitive portion of the brain) to take over. With that hostile takeover the body becomes saturated with emotion.

When in the throes of a problem rational thinking tends to take a back seat. It’s not even something people can prevent. It’s just the nature of problems and how people tend to experience them.

Preventing people from experiencing problems, preventing the emotional upheaval that accompanies their problems, and preventing the sense of being internally out of balance is incredibly hard to do. But there is a prescription available that can help people get back to their “Happy Place” and regain their state of equilibrium of emotions and logic.

The prescription is to reflectively listen

Listening, in problematic circumstances, is just what the doctor would prescribe because it turns out listening to people enables them to vent out their emotions, work out loud their problem and find their own way back to homeostasis. Their own way back to being at ease and having no problem.

Brew on This...

▪ When someone is out of their mind, it does not help to disagree or reason with them until they are back in their happy place.

▪ Most of the time, the best thing we can do to help someone get back in the right mind is to simply listen.

Reflect on this...

1. Who, more than anyone else I know, needs me to listen to them when they are having a problem?

2. What will likely result from me listening to them to help them back to their Happy Place?

3. How will this choice I’m making to listen to them when they are having a problem improve our relationship?

4. What one action, choice, or task do I need to immediately take so I will be sure to respond to him/her with listening when they have a problem?


David VanderMolen is a former professor in Barry-Wehmiller University and a communication thought leader.


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