Why it is time to distance ourselves from our emotional brain
If we were all to group together on Zoom later today to design a human brain from scratch, we wouldn’t go with the current model.
The current model, we all walk around with, wasn’t designed in one go. In fact, it is more like a cut and shunt car rather than a sleek, precision-engineered version. It has evolved over millions of years, with additions and modifications kludged together along the way.
For ease, we can think of the brain as having two key areas: the emotional brain and the thinking brain. The emotional brain plays a huge part in keeping us safe and inclines us towards the negative, seeing risk everywhere if not checked. When it does this, it is doing its job. The thinking brain is rational and clear-sighted; however, it is easily hijacked by the emotional brain and in the case of overwhelming events, can even be temporarily shut down. It is during these moments that we temporarily ‘lose our minds’.
If we lack self-awareness, we miss the opportunity to distance ourselves from our emotional brains, and we allow negative, judgemental and catastrophising thoughts to consume us and drive unhelpful behaviour.
With the onset of COVID-19, lockdown and isolation, it is understandable that it feels like everything is lost, without hope and everything is going wrong. However, with a raising of self-awareness, we can become aware of our own negative mutterings and the damaging self-beliefs of the emotional brain; through training, we can learn to distance ourselves from its unfiltered and unchallenged machinations (sometimes identified as an inner critic).
Tips and Techniques
- Bring your attention to your emotional brain/ inner critic and note down in a notebook what it is saying – do not sanitise the words. This is for you and you alone. This will allow awareness of what is happening inside the mind, and make a conscious, thinking brain decision as to whether you will act on these thoughts
- Reduce your exposure to news, ideally, ration yourself to once a day. This turns off or drastically reduces the hose of negativity from pouring unhelpful ‘stories’ into your mind
- Reduce your social media activity, particularly exposure to ‘keyboard experts’. Use your mute buttons at will. Follow those who uplift you and experts in their respective fields. As point 2 above, to calm the emotional brain it is important not to flood it with negative ‘stories’
Consider taking up mindfulness training and activities, to make this approach a way of life