Understanding your Brain

November 20, 2013 Emotional Intelligence

facial expressions

In the Time Magazine article “Mysteries of the Teenage Brain”.   We learn that a teen’s brain will continue to develop well into their mid-twenties.  

One of the later areas of the brain to develop is the area that evaluates non-verbal communication.  In adults facial expressions are evaluated in the frontal cortex.  In teenagers the same pictures are interpreted largely in the amygdala, a primitive structure more directly related to emotion.  Kids under 14 were found to be much less accurate in their correctly assessing non-verbal communications.  Does this give you any flashbacks to things like “so and so thinks she is so _______”?

We make decisions about others and ourselves that are always in part the result of incomplete, inaccurate, misinterpreted and distorted information.  Once we are convinced of the accuracy of this information, we search for validation and can most often find it.  We don’t see reality, we interpret what we see and call it reality.  To the extent that our initial assessment is inaccurate the entire reality we build from it is merely an illusion.  

Dental ShoeBrain imaging studies demonstrate that dental patients given placebos instead of receiving actual pain relieving medications, would experience 50% of the same benefits they would if they received the actual medicine, but only if the dentist also believed the medicine was real.  If the dentist knew he was part of the illusion the placebo had little or no effect.  Not only do we believe the stories we are told but we interpret and incorporate the non-verbal messages as well.

It seems to me the only people entirely free of these illusions are young children.  Is it possible that what we pass off as naïve innocence is actually the result of a mind unencumbered by the need to live up to the expectations of others or self.  In his book The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz calls these people un-domesticated. 

  • Who do you know that is more alive, more passionate, more uninhibited than a child? 

  • When were you the best you, you have been? 

  • When did you learn faster, grow more, and love without reservation?  

True, maybe you haven’t thrown a tantrum in the grocery store lately, but now most of us can feed and change ourselves and have need for those more dramatic forms of communication.

Is it possible that in our quest to make the world understandable we have given up what is real for the predictability of pretend?  You may say preposterous!  There is only one truth and it is mine, or even ours.  And as we look around the world we can find many who believe in their truths just as vehemently.  The recent government shutdown comes to mind.  

Guy Finley has a help-full aphorism ; “There is never a need to suffer, even though you know you must”.  

I am working to rid myself of the belief that there is value in feeling bad, which is very difficult.  I can easily remember how bad feelings pushed me toward making a positive change.  But is that like racing forward with the brake on?  And what percentage of time do these feelings generate positive change as opposed to self-flagellation?  The truth is I generate these feelings because of what I think I know and the fact is I know nothing.  And what I believe I know I simply made up.  

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