|Diagram of the brain (circa 1300)|
According to an established neuro-scientific model it seems that we are possessed of three brains: an original "reptilian" brain — or autonomic nervous system — which controls our visceral, bodily functions and our primal, automatic instincts (e.g. the "fight or flight" response); an amygdala, or "mammalian", or "feeling" brain, which developed at a later stage and is responsible for memory and emotions; and a more sophisticated prefrontal cortex, or "thinking", rational brain, which was the last to evolve. (I'm simplifying here — things are more complex than this, and brain functions much more interrelated. However, this basic pattern will serve my purpose.)
All these three brains come into play, either together or separately, at different times and in different situations. For instance, in states of extreme trauma, the autonomic nervous system can shut down all the other parts of the brain completely. And, as another example, the "thinking" brain is able, to a greater or lesser extent, to control the "feeling" brain and temper extreme emotions. Conversely, the "feeling" brain can at times (e.g. in the throes of a passionate love affair) override the "thinking" brain. A balanced, fully functioning person may be regarded as having a balance between the "thinking" and the "feeling" brain: too much "thinking" may stultify one's emotional and empathic capacity, and too much "feeling" may compromise one's rational mind to a worrying degree.
The reason I'm mentioning all this neurological background stuff is because I feel a need to write a series of posts about feelings and emotions, particularly negative feelings and emotions: how they arise, how they adversely affect our lives, how we deal with them. I hope you will join me on this emotional journey and perhaps share some of your own personal feelings and experiences along the way . . .