Our brains are fine and wonderful organs; they accumulate experiences and help us to organize them in a way that makes our lives more efficient.
Touch a hot stove when you’re a toddler, and “bingo,” you learn instantly not to do that again. No need for lots of practice. Ditto for that experience in the third grade where you spoke and everyone laughed: don’t speak up in public is the lesson learned.
We learn the markers in our emotional landscape – good and bad; we also learn useful tools that we can ultimately access instantly: tying our shoes, driving a car, fixing a leaky faucet, calculus….
By age 35, we have a collection of these stimulus-response associations that are so well-learned that they are automatic. We are, in fact, on a kind of auto-pilot, where the brain perceives a stimulus and instantly “knows” how we should respond.
Major problem here: the situations which evoked powerfully negative emotions are better learned than those which resulted in pleasant emotions, so we tend to drift towards more pessimism.
If we require “proof” that our reaction is justified, the brain searches our past and comes up with those examples that match the current situation.
The trouble is that it isn’t true; instead, we are experiencing a kind of neural auto-fill, just like your smartphone, which takes in the first 1 or 2 words you are writing, and immediately fills in the rest. The past we are searching for “proof” is filled with rich memories, most of which we overlook when we are on auto-fill and simply looking for justification that our emotion is right.
In the meantime, you are overlooking other ways of looking at the situation in the present, of seeing how it differs from previous encounters, of discovering that we have grown since that early experience and can choose (yes, choose) a different emotion.
Yes, the brain is a wonderful and useful organ, but the organ that deals superbly with emotions is the heart, which oversees 90% of our bodily functions. Its language is emotions. It shapes our view of reality.
We can learn to speak the language of the heart, and by connecting it with the brain, develop our own view of “reality” that allows us to see that we can choose a different response and by doing so, get a different outcome.
To start speaking the language of the heart, sit in a quiet place, focus on your heart, and begin to breathe in and out through your heart. You’re not only quieting your nervous system, you are connecting your brain with your heart.
In the peaceful state that is created, you can ask your heart such things as, “My heart, what is the answer to (fill in the blank)?” or “What is the next best step?”
Your heart can reach deep within its memory for a wise answer.
Learn to work with your heart, to trust your heart. Your brain may feed you erroneous information, but as you may already know, your real feelings are not fake.
Lynette Crane is an internationally acclaimed speaker, trainer, coach, and author of two books: The Confident Introvert and Quiet Brilliance: Solving Corporate America’s Leadership Crisis with Hiding in Plain Sight Talent.
Her programs focus on two topics: Introversion, with all its communication nuances and energy needs, and the heart-brain connection through which we can learn to self-regulate our emotions, and create a new, more joyous inner and outer world.
She has over 40 years of experience in coaching and teaching, two degrees in psychology (Stanford and the University of California), and HeartMath™ certification as a trainer and a coach/mentor.