Most of us perceive the brain as serving “thinking” or intellectual functions. A person often thinks of his or her personality as what is going on “from the neck up.” In fact, several parts of the brain — not just the thinking cortex — contribute to who a person is and how their personality is formed.
The Cortex Of Survival
The cortex is what we refer to as the smart brain. Most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually, yet they are emotionally dysfunctional almost in the extreme. We often presume erroneously that the thinking brain should be “smart” enough to exercise dominion over emotions.
However, the missing piece of information here is that emotions actually are a survival-adaptation mechanism that each of us develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning. Some of us learn to be assertive or aggressive in our environments. Others may learn to become passive or try to become invisible to stay safe and secure.
Nothing is more powerful in a human being than the drive to survive. Hence, emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling. It is helpful to understand that emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first five years of development.
Our familial input taught us, as Ivan Pavlov taught his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers. This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process; the thought process for humans is the newest component to the primordial brain. The survival adaptive portion of the brain is where the personality forms and where people become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.
Relationships And Conditioning
Frustrating interpersonal issues may come from the drive to survive and the interpretation of the stimulation and environment that conditioned us, rather than from being difficult or having bad intent. Understanding that can allow a person to begin to be “kinder and gentler” toward himself and others.
In summary, emotions enable us to live and survive in our world. We cannot think them into changing. However, we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives. We can also explore techniques that allow us to have greater control over our emotions.
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