According to Daniel Goleman the author of, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ we all have two minds. And the two minds make us do very different things. The first mind is based on the emotions and feelings and get us to do that moving thing, which isn’t always very well thought out. The word heart is often used with the first mind. The second mind is based on thinking and analyzing. The word head is often used with the second mind. This is where we take the time to think things out and then move slowly and deliberately.
Our brains have grown from the bottom up with its higher centers developing as elaborations of the lower, more ancient parts. Our second brain, the rational one, may be the top brain, but it is also deeply intertwined with our underneath first brain, the emotional one. Thus, our thinking brain is influenced by our prehistoric emotional brain, and sometimes our emotional brain is also influenced by our thinking brain because they have grown into each other.
Let me explain this a little bit more. You see, the most primitive part of our brain is the brain stem that surrounds the top of our spinal cord. This brain is good for reptile survival. We have survived and evolved beyond this, however. We humans evolved from this reptile period into a more advanced period in which we developed a limbic brain, or emotional centers from what some called the nose brain. During this period our emotions slowly evolved on how to feel about each new smell, and then how to instinctually act in regards to each new smell. After millions of more years of this emotional instinctual behavior we slowly develop the thinking neocortex brain on top of our emotional limbic first brain that is sitting on top of our spinal cord.
The upper neocortex, second brain, gives us humans that three pound brain which is about triple the size of our nearest cousins in evolution, the non-human primates. The neocortex is the seat of thought and has given humans an extraordinary intellectual edge over the rest of the animals. Now, believe it or not, all these years later, thanks to our neocortex, we now can even have feelings about our feelings due to our ability to think.
So, by now you’re probably wondering how all this emotional intelligence or lack of emotional intelligence stuff works, right?
Well, the architecture of the brain gives the amygdala, a center of the limbic brain, the ability to hijack the brain. Sensory signals from the nose, eyes, ears, tongue, or skin, travel first in the brain to the thalamus, and then- across a single synapse- to the amygdala. A second larger signal from the thalamus is rooted to the neocortex- the thinking brain. This duel signal allows the non-thinking amygdala to begin to respond before the thinking neocortex, which mulls over information through several levels of brain circuits before it fully perceives and finally initiates its more finely tailored thoughtful response.
The quick-acting amygdala associates sensory input with other experiences and emotional memories to formulate emotional meaning to the new stimulus. If the association through the emotional memories are powerful enough, the amygdala’s emotions leap to action. This knee-jerk reaction is good for an animal looking to eat rather than being eaten, or for modern day humans during a real emergency. However, this emotionally vital response is not always appropriate in the modern day human who is rarely in the middle of a real emergency. Most of the terrible things that we perceive that are about to happen to us, rarely ever happen, and the ones that do, are rarely real emergencies.
Bottom line: Stop sweating the small stuff!
Dan Blanchard is an award-winning author, speaker, educator, a parent expert and certified life coach. Find out more about Dan at: www.GranddaddysSecrets.com