Feeling Creatures Who Think

Another powerful concept Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor provided in her TEDx Talk is the concept 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.

brainHere 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?

cause a ripple effect

Why Stay Angry?

What was the last thing that made you angry? The bad driver cutting you off? Your kids not picking up their toys? You were passed over for a promotion?

How long did you stay angry? An hour? A day? A week?

According to Harvard-trained and published neuroanatomist, Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, your anger should only last for ninety seconds.

To feel an emotion we need to think a thought which then stimulates an emotional circuit in our brain which in turn creates a physiological response in our bodies. The time from thought to triggering the brain to a physical response to releasing the response is less than ninety seconds.

If you have anger for more than a minute and a half it is because you are replaying the story in your mind. Every time you replay the story you retrigger the circuit and the response. Every time you choose to think painful thoughts, you create a physical response in your body. By replaying the story, you not only keep your mind in a negative space, but your body experiences the pain created by the anger again and again.

Another awesome point Dr. Jill makes in the video below is that no one can make you angry. No one is able to stimulate our emotional neuro-circuitry without our permission. The brain is stimulated by our thoughts, not someone else’s. No one can make you angry without your permission. No one is able to get into your brain and make you feel anything.

Check out your life.

Where are you holding on to anger?

Where are you blaming others for your anger?

How would your life improve if you changed your thoughts?

Notice when anger stays for longer than ninety seconds. What is the story you are replaying? What do you gain by replaying the story? How would your experience of life change if you let go of the story?

Here is the great video about the teenage brain by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor where she touches on our anger response. Listen in or wait for my next blog post which will explore more of her amazing research.