Balancing Your Emotions


Last week we talked about the “power of emotions over happiness,” and posed the question, "How can you interrupt the tendency for the "emotional hi-jacking phenomenon" to play out in your world?”

Here are some insights from Joseph LeDoux, Professor of Science in the Center for Neural Sciences at New York University. “…we are evolution in progress… As things now stand, the amygdala (which governs your fight or flight response to perceived or imagined fear has a greater influence on the cortex (reasoning centers of the brain) than the cortex has on the amygdala, allowing emotional arousal (fight or flight) to dominate and control thinking. Throughout the mammals, pathways from the amygdala to the cortex overshadow the pathways from the cortex to the amygdala. Although thoughts can easily trigger emotions (by activating the amygdala), we are not very effective at willfully turning off emotions (by deactivating the amygdala). Telling yourself that you should not be anxious or depressed does not help much.”

LeDoux goes on to say that, “The increased connectivity between the amygdala and the cortex involves fibers going from the cortex to the amygdala as well as from the amygdala to the cortex. If these nerve pathways strike a balance, it is possible that the struggle between thought and emotion may ultimately be resolved, not by the dominance of emotional centers by cortical cognitions, but by a more harmonious integration of reason and passion. With increased connectivity between the cortex and amygdala, cognition and emotion might begin to work together rather than separately.”—Joseph LeDoux, The Emotional Brain, pp.303)

And so how do we participate in creating such a “balance?” Andrew Newberg, Professor of Psychiatry and Director for the Center for Integrated Study of Spirituality and the Neurosciences at The University of Pennsylvania says, “…the anterior cingulate, which processes social awareness, intuition, and empathy, contains a unique neuron that only humans and a few primates have. These neurons have only been around for about fifteen million years whereas the amygdala has been happily generating neurons for 450 million years. Spiritual practices strengthen the anterior cingulate, and when this happens, activity in the amygdala slows down….When you intensely and consistently focus on your spiritual values and goals, you increase the blood flow to your frontal lobes and anterior cingulate, which causes the activity in emotional centers of the brain to decrease. Conscious attention is the key…”—Andrew Newberg, M.D. How God Changes the Brain, pp.17 and 20.

DRole of Amygdala

Let's make a concerted effort this week to slow down what can be an overpowering effect of the emotions and the fight or flight mechanism of the brain.

How can we do that? Take a few moments each day to simply quiet your thoughts. Clear your head and breathe. Remind yourself that you are worth the time and attention it will take for you to refresh/reset your brain to support you in better coping with your busy world. Stay tuned for next week's post with practices and techniques.

Believing in you!




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