shrinking my own head

I’ve got a new fascination: neuropsychology.

It all started last year, when I had to work through some conflict in one of my classes. I asked for some advice from one of my girlfriends, who’s a mediator. I learned all about the limbic system, and how our response to conflict is dictated by our body. When our body’s in stress, the brain has this weird way of directing how we process — so when we’re really upset, the blood in our body is directed to go to our extremities (so we can “fight or flight”). In these cases, we aren’t able to think or respond rationally, because it’s physically impossible to do so.

I never realized the physicality that’s involved in our emotions. Whenever I get so upset “that I can’t think straight” — it’s actually because I can’t think straight!  Which makes sense — I love how the most profound truths often are the ones that are so obvious.

Which leads me to the newest book I’m reading: Wired for Joy.  This book is all about Emotional Brain Theory (EBT), a neuropsychology theory that my therapist introduced to me a week ago. EBT is a way of training your brain to scale down the level of stress you’re feeling, to better understand yourself and find contentment. It’s not about ignoring the emotions you’re feeling, but finding a healthier way of processing them.

This method is so attractive to me, for many reasons. First, I’m really excited about the science and research that’s behind it — I’m so wary of some “self-help” books where there isn’t much to back up what’s being advocated (see: The Secret and its ilk).

I’m also excited to learn and practice EBT because it’s a way to acknowledge the powerful role of emotions in a person’s life. I’ve always been known as someone who’s been considered (too) “emotional,” and often I feel my emotions are discounted or disregarded. EBT acknowledges that the only way to reduce stress is to work through your emotions, and then teach your brain how to process them in a healthy way.

I’ve only just started reading the book, but I’ve already learned a lot. I’m looking forward to adding to my understanding of the role of my body and brain, and how these physical systems influence me in how I interact with the world around me.

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