Neuroscience of Emotion

Neuroscience of Emotion

Posted on: January 21st, 2010 by Kim Hilary


Neural Hijacking

In the past it was believed that information from your senses was analyzed by the thinking brain (cortex) first. Now with new scientific findings we know your perceptions, go directly to the emotional brain (amygdala) without passing through the thinking, decision-making brain first.

Daniel Goleman in his research and book on emotional intelligence sheds great light on this subject. He describes chronic stress and the subsequent feelings of loss of control and hopelessness as a neural hijacking in which the emotional brain triggers emotional reactions before the thinking brain has any chance to pick up a signal or evaluate it.

For example, imagine you have been working overtime for three weeks in a row. You just received a call from your sons school to come in for an urgent parent teacher conference to discuss his failing grades. In that moment, your emotional brain is causing a cascade of reactions and adaptations on hormonal, chemical, cellular and energetic levels impacting physical and psychological well-being. This occurs before you ever have a chance to logically evaluate the situation.

Emotions Have More Neural Power

Not only does the emotional brain respond first to your perceptions but research also demonstrates there are more neural pathways connecting the emotional brain to the thinking brain than the thinking brain has to the emotional brain.

Thus, it is not as effective to use your thoughts to quell your emotions. Maybe by telling yourself to ‘relax and wait and see what happens’ you will be able to suppress them for a while at best. Given the degree of chronic perceived stress in our society, it is as if the emotional brain is stuck on survival mode flooding your thinking brain with fears, worries, and pressures. It is no surprise that anxiety disorders equate over half of mental health issues and 70% of doctor visits.

Coaching and Counseling

Kim Ward Ph.D. and Hilary Stokes Ph.D., founders of Authenticity Associates Coaching and Counseling, have worked as a team for over 15 years. Their mission is to empower people to achieve their authentic potential. They specialize in bringing the synergistic power of mind, body and spirit to individuals and couples. They are passionate about combining the best of holistic and traditional approaches to realize whole body wellness. If you are looking for a holistic approach to improving your life please contact Hilary Stokes Ph.D. & Kimberly Ward Ph.D. at Authenticity Associates.

Written by Hilary Stokes Ph.D. & Kimberly Ward Ph.D.

2 Responses

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