New research: If you know what pushes your buttons, you don’t have to be a victim of your amygdala.

by Miro Cansky on 25 May, 2016

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Most people would agree that those who cultivate awareness have a better ability to regulate their emotions. But how does this actually work? How does awareness regulate emotions?

A research paper just came out, demonstrating that greater awareness of negative stimuli makes it easier for the amygdala-prefrontal cortex circuitry to be engaged, which means that the emotional reaction to the stimuli is less intense.

In other words, if I feel anxious or angry without knowing what the trigger is, the fight/flight response of the brain will be stronger and will last longer. If, on the other hand, I know what thought, image or sound causes my upset, my cortex will communicate with the amygdala better and will calm it down.

I will use an example from my life, if you don’t mind. There are certain people or situations that tend to bring up irritation for me. In these moments I can notice tension in my body and thoughts or images linked to anger. As soon as this is noticed, I engage my thinking brain (the cortical area), and recognise the anger as a reaction to somebody, I recognise that this is a pattern arising out of my own discomfort, and as such does not need to be acted on. This stepping back, realising where the emotion is coming from, and the sense of conscious decision not to act on my emotion, is in itself calming because it gives me a sense of control and agency. And all those steps (knowing where it’s coming from, stepping back and taking the reins back into one’s hands) requires awareness.

Not a rocket science, but perhaps useful to understand how awareness interacts with the brain structures.

The link to the research paper is here.

Feel free to comment below.

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