Last week I shared Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor’s TEDx Talk with you and the idea that choosing to stay angry affects both your body and your mind. This week I’d like to share another powerful concept that Dr. Jill makes: that we are feeling creatures who think. We are not thinking people who feel, yet this is what our society believes and values – which is at the heart of many of our issues.
Here is the science and biology behind it. Our limbic system is constantly asking, “Am I safe?” If things feel familiar to our limbic system, then we feel calm and safe. The system then sends the message “I am safe” to our nervous system including our higher cortex, our thinking brain. When things are not familiar, then our limbic system panics and jumps into self-preservation. As this happens, the hypocampus shuts down our thinking brain. An example of this is test anxiety, where the situation is unfamiliar so the limbic system panics and shuts down our ability to think clearly.
What does this mean for you?
Although our biology works unconsciously, we can consciously choose to turn on our higher mind and think past the limbic’s fear. Using mindfulness to calm our minds and knowing that emotions wash over us in 90 seconds, we can stop, breathe, and then choose to think different – ensuring we don’t make poor, muddle choices in our haze of emotions.
Knowing how our brain and emotions work also helps us see our society in a different way. Our society, based on thinking and doing, discounts individuals, their feelings, and their worth. By shifting our focus to our feeling and intrinsic value, we can create a society based on human value. We can learn to:
- Care about humanity as a whole, not our personal gain.
- Focus on people instead of profits.
- Increase equality, not reinforce stifling authority and us versus them.
- Use our similarities to find understanding, versus attacking others for differences.
- Become compassionate instead of competitive.
- Forgive, not judge and attack.
The third lesson of this science is the stress relief it provides. When we stop striving, competing, doing, and longing after money, we can then focus more on what brings us joy – connection with others, creating a community, respecting the equal rights of all, finding understanding through acceptance, being compassionate, and using forgiveness to release our self-created prisons of hate. Moving our focus from our left “doing” brain to our left “feeling” brain, we become more peaceful, joyful, and stress free.
Are you ready to embrace being a feeling creature who thinks? How will it change how you approach your day?