Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Emotional Brain

Great 20-minute interview with science writer Jonah Lehrer about the role of emotions in decision-making.

Current neuro research suggests that different parts of our brain/nervous system have different responses to the same situations, and they all argue their position before the integrating intelligence in the front of the brain. For example, faced with the decision to buy dessert: one part of the brain campaigns for the pleasure, another worries about excessive calories, another fears the expenditure of money, another will wax poetic about all previous desserts, etc. A decision emerges from the summation of all these parts, perhaps with a hint of free will thrown in...

Some of these parts don't express themselves in language, but rather through emotion. (One intriguing interpretation of emotions is as an information-processing system that precedes the evolution of language and big, fancy nervous systems.) Lehrer suggests that our "emotional brain" offers valuable information that we do well not to ignore. He discusses a study of individuals with brain injuries that prevent them from feeling emotion. Rather than becoming Spock-like intellectual heros, they end up having a terrible time making even simple decisions, such as whether to use a red or blue pen. The Western worship of rational thinking may be misguided. Just look at Captain Kirk.

All of this makes a lot of sense to me, given what I've experienced in giving and receiving Phoenix Rising yoga therapy sessions. The process of turning attention towards sensation, towards emotion, towards shadowy parts, uncovers a wealth of inner information that transforms sterile thought into potent, embodied insight. For this reason, Phoenix Rising is a great tool for making difficult decisions or life transitions.

No comments:

Post a Comment