by: Eric Kussin

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08 February 2018

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Can We Work On Emotions Not Hijacking Our Thoughts

I found this pic in a 1-min google search. It’s about as over-simplified a pic of areas of the brain as is out there. What’s hilarious is, when searching, I came across a study claiming the emotional brain is “exactly 5x stronger” than the thinking brain. If someone can explain how that’s measured/verified, I’m all ears.

 

We can measure the strength of our right bicep vs our left – testing how many lbs each can lift. But how do we measure the strength of a thought or feeling? IQ, I get as we are comparing the # of questions right vs wrong from a standard list, but who can actually say: wow my desire to scream at my friend is exactly 5x stronger than my desire to read a book at the moment? Blood flow/brain activity measurement, fine, but the strength of a feeling vs a thought??

 

That said, I do believe in the general consensus that when charged, our “emotional brain” w structures like the amygdala can override our “thinking brain” w structures like the prefrontal cortex. I believe it bc in highly-charged situations I’m def guilty of having acted w/o thinking 😉!

 

How does that understanding help us? Just a theory, but that’s why I referenced the 5x stat above, ha…not sure there is a be-all/end-all answer. So, it’s worth a hypothesis based on what we actually feel. So often, hearing these #SameHere🤙 stories, when they’re not reflective of a life/death scenario, but a general ”loss,” emotion takes over. Plenty of examples: breakups, rejections, terminations, not reaching goals, etc. What happens? Our emotions get the best of us & hijack our thoughts. In the past I watched friends go thru breakups, distraught. I’d try to comfort them, but I’d also see them focus on what they missed as opposed to what was actually wrong/might now be better w someone new.

 

Breakups are great examples. Bc emotion can trounce logic, here are things we think about: a) I’ll never find someone as great, b) I hate dating, c) I have to start all over (thoughts based on down emotions/loss of ideals). What if we were able to reframe those thoughts & think thru our emotions: a) I may find someone new/be even happier, b) it’s been a while since someone’s taken me out (or I’ve greatly enjoyed taking someone else out), c) a fresh start means the chance of a new honeymoon phase!

 

Outthinking thoughts arising from intense emotions is hard. It goes against our instincts of what we’ve traditionally focused on when we’ve gone through a down situation. But if we can take a step out of our normal thought patterns for a second, take a more global view (even if it means us forcing ourselves to play devil’s advocate), we can practice & hone that skill. Think of how we can turn what we’ve always seen as painful events into great opportunities! The pain related to the experience won’t go away right away…but the path towards recovery and enjoyment will be right in front of us to take!

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