The Emotional Brain
Written to the song: Ballin Flossin — Chance the Rapper ft. Shawn Mendes
“Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.” — Jim Rohn
Have you ever been caught up in the moment when you are incredibly emotional…and suddenly lose your words? This could happen when you are sharing your love for someone or being honoured at a staff meeting, and you become tongue-twister. It turns out, it isn’t really you — it’s your brain.
The hypothalamus, the amygdala, the hippocampus, and the thalamus are the structures which make up the limbic system, the system dealing with emotions. The hypothalamus regulates the autonomic nervous centre, responsible for the fight or flight response, and feelings of hunger and sleep. The amygdala is involved with emotions such as anger, violence, fear, and anxiety. The thalamus relays sensory information to the brain, regarding pain, as well as regulating consciousness, sleep, and alertness. Finally, the hippocampus is our memory centre, holding key information regarding our short and long-term experiences.
The limbic brain is the centre of the brain which makes gut-feeling decisions, but surprisingly, it has no capacity for language (Sinek, 2009). This means that it is hard to describe your feelings, such as why we made a gut-feeling decision — that just felt right. Therefore since we have a hard time emotionally describing how we feel about a situation, we tend to rationalize our decisions. Rationalizing our gut-feeling decisions make it a lot easier to explain why we made them, but our words become watered-down.
The limbic brain is wise and emotionally powerful, but often we doubt ourselves because we struggle to rationalize our decisions. This is why we often doubt ourselves while taking a multiple-choice test — we can’t rationalize why we feel an answer is correct.
If the part of the brain dealing with emotions has no capacity for language, then we cannot fully express our feelings into words, making it hard to justify our gut-feeling decisions. Therefore it is important to skip the rationalization and just go with your initial feeling if it feels right. Skip the language.
Sinek, Simon. Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. New York, N.Y.: Portfolio, 2009.