Have you ever wondered how your emotions are really impacting you?
Take a look at the image that’s attached to this post. Researchers from Aalto University, Finland found that different emotional states have different effects on bodily sensations. They revealed maps of bodily sensations associated with different emotions using a unique topographical self-report method.
For the first time, they presented the evidence that emotions are associated with a series of physiological changes in our body, which, in fact, are the same in all people, regardless of their gender, race or cultural origin.
Our emotions also control our thinking, behaviour, and actions. Feelings affect our physical bodies as much as our body affects our feelings and thinking.
Understanding and managing our emotions is key to helping us find balance, improve our wellbeing, and be at our best every day.
I recently finished The Chimp Paradox by Dr. Steve Peters. As the title suggests, this book talks a lot about chimps, it also talks a lot about bananas and planets but it’s mostly about Mind Management and how we can better manage our mind and our emotional selves to be at our best.
I’m particularly interested in how fear impacts us and how we can manage this better. Below I share some of the ideas and learnings I took from the book, as well as my own experience as an NLP Practitioner, that can help better us better understand and manage fear and our emotions.
3 Ideas – Getting to know your brain
The book simplifies* our psychological mind into three separate brains: Human, Chimp, and Computer.
You are the Human brain. This is your rational thinking self – the one that works logically in your best interest.
Your Chimp is your emotional self. As Dr. Peters says ‘If offers emotional thoughts that can be very constructive or very destructive; it’s not good or bad, it is a Chimp’. However, it is the one that can hijack you and cause you to do and say stuff that you may regret. It’s also the one that stops us from taking action in many instances, so it’s a good thing to learn to manage it!
Your Computer is your information storage area. This is your auto-pilot. It stores information that the chimp and human have put into it, so in effect, these two are your computer programmers (worth noting). It uses the information that’s been input to act in an automatic way or it can serve as a reference point. It’s where thoughts and behaviours are stored and importantly, learned beliefs and values.
2 Learnings – Speed matters
It’s the Chimp in us that senses fear and drives the Fight (attack), Flight (run away), or Freeze (don’t move) response. Your chimp is 5 times stronger than your Human self, so it’s key to learn to manage your Chimp rather than try and overthrow it as you won’t win, it’s too strong!
The good news is that your Computer is stronger than your Chimp. It’s about 20 times faster than your Human brain (so four times more powerful than your Chimp).
This is really valuable to know, as your Human brain just isn’t fast enough to react effectively on its own to manage your Chimp. However, if your computer is running well, it can execute commands at an amazing speed with complete accuracy before the chimp or Human has a chance to finish thinking.
Here’s a good example; road rage. So, someone pulls in front of you on a busy road, too close for comfort. What’s your reaction? Your Human rational self might think that this person is in a hurry and perhaps has an emergency they need to get to. In reality, your Chimp has just broken out of the cage and is jumping around shouting profanities at this person who has the audacity to cut you up and put you in danger! If our Computer is working well and has positive resourceful information in abundance, your Human self will be able to access this and manage the Chimp (and the situation) well, leaving you fear-free, stress-free, and in control.
So, what do I mean by ‘your computer is working well’?
Well, you are the sum of everything you have learned and experienced in life. This forms your values and beliefs. Your Computer operates with the information provided to it by the Chimp and the Human.
You are what you think.
Coming back to the road rage example, adopting a belief (and NLP Presupposition) such as ‘Behind every behavior lies a positive intention’ can be useful and resourceful to you. Adopting the belief that everyone acts with positive intent helps diffuse fear, frustration or anger when a person’s actions are not in line with your own values or behaviours.
If you want to be at your best, the information that you input needs to be in line with what you want to do, feel, and be in life. You can’t access what you don’t know.
Programming your computer with useful and resourceful beliefs can have a positive impact on your emotions, your wellbeing, and your ability to manage fear.
1 Positive Action – and breathe!
You might not have had time yet to consider and adopt new and resourceful beliefs. In this case, a quick and effective way of calming your brain and your emotional self when you are feeling stressed or anxious is deep breathing. Just a few deep breaths work a treat, pumping oxygen back into your human brain and allowing you to get back to rational, calm thinking.
Deep breathing techniques help stimulate relaxation. The 4-7-8 X 7 breathing exercise is simple and effective: Breathe in through your nose while counting to four, hold your breath and count to seven, and then exhale through your mouth while counting to eight. Repeat this pattern seven times.
While inhaling and exhaling sound pretty self-explanatory, most of us don’t naturally take deep belly breaths. Instead, we tend to take shallow breaths that don’t allow our lungs to fully fill with air or our bellies to rise and fall. To practice deep breathing techniques, sit in a quiet and comfortable seat. Take a slow deep breath in through your nose. Let your rib cage expand and belly rise as your lungs fill with air. Exhale slowly, and feel your belly and chest fall. You can place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest to feel the accordion-like movement of your torso. Keep taking full, deep breaths until you start to feel a sense of calm.
What positive action will you take to help better manage your emotions and improve your wellbeing?
* It’s worth noting that Dr. Peters simplifies how the brain works in his book The Chimp Paradox and I have just touched on some key concepts that I have taken from the book to aid reflection (and let’s not forget I’m no neuroscientist!). If you are interested to learn and understand more, I can recommend the book and of course, if you have any questions, click here to get in touch!