Your Unique Brain and Emotions
Your Unique Brain and Emotions
The brain, the way we think and our emotions have always fascinated me. Your unique brain and emotions would fascinate me! So much so that I have a 20+ year career grounded in exploring and teaching people how to ‘think’ and ‘feel’ in ways that support, nurture and build rather than depress, defeat and deflate.
In the neuroscience courses I completed it has been incredible to learn that the more we understand the brain the greater the mystery of how we process, experience and manage emotions and our emotional thinking. You might argue that by looking at the anatomy and physiology of the brain I was not looking in the right place to uncover the mysteries of emotion. Turns out you would be right.
Brain chem same same – result completely different.
I remember getting to the end of one course and realising that I could be more certain than ever that current neuroscientific knowledge did not have much of a clue when it came to explaining why two people would process their thoughts and the subsequent emotional experiences associated with those thoughts in two completely different ways even if the resultant brain chemistry was the same.
I want to explain this is a little more detail. In very general terms emotions have a chemical expression within the brain. When you are happy you get a ‘happy’ mix of hormones such as Seratonin, Oxytosin, Endorphine and Dopamine within the brain.
Yes, this does raise the chicken and the egg question of which comes first – the emotion or the chemical expression. I won’t go into that in this blog as it is yet another huge area of discussion.
Does ‘happy’ always equal happy?
You might expect that in the presence of this happy neurochemical cocktail and the fact that they are labelled ‘happy’ hormones we would all experience the same degree of happiness under the same circumstances correct? For example, we would all laugh just as hard and just as long at the same joke, or feel our spirits rise to the same degree when seeing something uplifting. Actually we know this is not the case and this is where things start to get tricky. At about this point the mystery and beauty of your unique brain (anatomical structure – the pulpy mass between your ears), mind (conscious awareness) and learning (unconscious and subconscious awareness) comes into play.
We can see via some incredible technology called ‘Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging’ (fMRI) the areas of the brain that become activated whilst being exposed to images or experiences. This has allowed us some vague understanding of which part/s of the brain process emotions and experiences. We also have a general idea about the chemical composition of the hormones present when these experiences occur through blood tests done before and after. But neuroscience cannot provide answers as to why we will all experience emotion differently even when exposed to the same stimulus.
The truth is, as yet we still do NOT understand why the same chemical mix might create a different experience for each person receiving it.
We can certainly take some educated guesses.
This brings me to the area of my coaching that helps my clients have the biggest breakthroughs and gives me the greatest thrill. I write about it all the time.
My book ‘Stress Made Easy – Peeling Women off the Ceiling’ focuses on this above all else.
Many of my blogs touch on this as a central theme.
This concept all on its’ own is crucial to our understanding of the differences between us when it comes to our emotions and our reactions.
So, enough dramatic build up. The thing that makes all the difference in how we determine, experience and process emotion is the meaning we give the circumstances or experience we are having.
The meaning we give it.
And where and how do we decide what meaning we will give an experience and therefore what emotion we will feel? What is the primary influencer?
Life and all it’s beautiful, hurtful, glorious, painful, damaging, building and instructive lessons.
Our life experiences and what we decided or are told they mean colour every subsequent experience that holds the same level of emotion or merges into the same area of our lives, right from day dot (and many say earlier). This is why two people may respond differently to the same experience, because they have different learnings informing them of the appropriate response to the experience. Our past experiences dictate how differently and also how similarly we respond to present events.
Our previous learnings also influence the degree of our responsiveness to the neurochemical mix released during any given experience. This means the malleability of our mood may depend more on our past than on any chemical mix in our brain in that moment.
In many instances meaning will override chemical influence. This is a whole blog in itself around the placebo and nocebo effects which are gaining greater attention for their potential therapeutic value and the evidence they provide for ‘mind’ over ‘matter’.
In the meantime, the most important question to ask is:
Who controls the meaning of any given experience in our lives?
The answer shouldn’t surprise us; we do.
That means we get to change responses, reactions, feelings and emotions that do not serve us. We are not held hostage by some mystery process of our brain that we cannot influence to a lesser or greater degree. That’s exciting! Do you feel empowered? You are free to change the meaning and therefore control to a certain degree your unique brain and emotions.
Go forth and make some magnificent meanings!
Dr Linda Wilson is a Mindflow Mentor, Author and Presenter. From neuroscience to energy psychology, habits change to emotional management – let’s have a chat about you, your team or your business. Are you looking to find your way through, around or over something? Are you in need of a course correction and need support?
Find out more about me at www.drlindawilson.com
Purchase my book here
Purchase my online Stress Made Easy Bootcamp here
Book in with me here