A recently released book entitled “The Emotional Life of Your Brain” has turned conventional thinking about emotions on its head, if you’ll pardon the pun. Emotions were once thought to be inconvenient phenomena that clouded more important functions like thinking, rationality, and judgement. They were considered as something to be ignored or dismissed as lower order ephemera. Also, emotional responses were assumed to be genetic or hardwired, an aspect of your personality that was fixed.
Author Richard Davidson, in his ground breaking research, dedicated himself to scientifically researching emotion through the use of EEG (electroencephalogram) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to map brain activity, and identify where emotions occur and which parts of the brain they interact with.
Two key things that he discovered is that firstly, we all have an emotional style, which he believes to be more valid than personality. Secondly, that our brains are highly plastic, or adaptable, and that our emotional style can be changed at any age. That’s right. Not stuck anymore.
Davidson goes on to demonstrate how specific activities like meditation can enhance aspects of our emotional style, like resilience, outlook, attention and empathy, and how visualisation produces very similar changes in our brain as actual physical practice. Remember, all of this backed by demonstrable evidence of changes in the brain and neural activity.
This research is fascinating, and begins to remove the excuses for unsatisfactory behaviour or unhelpful emotional responses or states. No more room for excuses like, ‘that’s just the way I am’. It’s perhaps more accurate to say, ‘that’s the way I am - now, but I can be different tomorrow’.
And you can.