Our Brains’s Balancing Act – Individually and collectively we must learn ways to integrate a balance between the emotive (heart) and cognitive (head). Daniel Goleman said the “hub of the battle” (1995) between our feelings and thoughts is to find better ways to integrate the Limbic and Neocortex. Emotions are needed input for thought, but thought is important to understand and label emotions. “We must strike a balance between thought and emotion.”(Jacobs, 2003) It was Lawrence Shapiro who suggested that, “the cortex allows us to have feelings about our feelings.” (1997) I view emotional intelligence as a balancing process of identifying emotions, understanding emotions, and having an appropriate cognitive response. The balancing act is a transactional process between the emotive (Limbic) and the cognitive (Neocortex) and is one of the major balancing acts in life. A lot of bad and sad things can happen when the heart and the head are in conflict. This balancing act is part of the Act of the Balance, and the Art of the Balance, that I extensively discuss in the Theory of Balanceology. I suggest that each of us is our own balancer, and we have the responsibility of balancing-out the many dualisms that exist in our life.
I have come to understand bio-energetics as a process where there is an integration of mind-body. This integration includes biology and physics. This integrative process is a psychosomatic process addressing: 1.) vast interconnections with our mind and body, 2.) quantum interconnections as particle-waves flow between mind and body, and 3.) huge interconnections between our new brain and our old brain. Psychosomatic energy gives us life and it makes human energy and mind-body energy. When it comes to health, a healing that focuses only on Newtonian Physics (modern medicine of materialism) will look towards chemicals and drugs to heal. However, a healing that focuses on bio-energetics will focus on mind-body integrative processes in healing. Depending on how the mind-body is viewed we can create a tremendous amount of (+) mind-body energy that can enhance us, or a tremendous amount of (-) negative mind-body energy that can deplete our resources. Good (+) energy energizes <—> bad (-) energy de-energizes. I will address mind-body integration, mind-body interconnections, and mind-body energy many times in my theory and treatment model.
Brain Interactivity – Human emotions may begin in the Limbic Brain but at some point there is prefrontal cortex involvement. There is an interactivity between the Limbic Brain and the Neocortex. I ask, “How is the prefrontal cortex involved in emotions emanating from the Limbic system?” It appears that the prefrontal lobes executive function allows for a meta-emotional interpretation of Limbic system emotions. It interprets emotions into feelings (often inaccurately). The frontal lobe can inhibit the expression of certain emotions but there will always be some emotive involvement in our thinking. For neuroscientist Antonio Damasio there is a link between emotion and thinking and this link comes in terms of “somatic markers,” or a kind of gut reaction having an emotional component that is useful in making decisions. (1966) Lou Marinoff suggested that, “the experience of an emotion occurs in a higher part of the brain where physiological responses are interpreted and labeled. It is a one way street. Can’t control emotion. Only recognize.” (1999)
Brain Interconnections – In recent posts, I reviewed major human brain dualisms —> mind-body, 2-hemispheres, rigidity-plasticity, and emotive-cognitive. I now emphasize that beyond the dualisms are connective neural structures of the CNS. When I discussed the debate over the Triune Brain, I referred to Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) research that verifies these interconnections. Neural structures have the ability and the capacity to collaborate and help solve our predominant contrapuntal forces: 1.) self-preservation (Self-Needs), and 2.) species-preservation (Belonging-Needs). In this post, I emphasis the interconnections between our Limbic Brain and the Neocortex. For personal, interpersonal, social, and cultural advancement I ask, “What interplay must to take place between emotion and cognition?” Vallant maintained that, “the limbic system is very much at the center of emotional life, but it is neither its beginning or its end.” (2008) Our brains 3 ½ lbs. of energy-matter have huge interconnections —-> especially the thalamic and cortical brain connections, and the corpus callosum that connects the 2-hemisheres. The thalamic and neocortical connections are from the Limbic system to the prefrontal cortex.
One of the classic debates in neuroscience, psychology, psychiatry, and philosophy is the debate between a dualism of emotion vs. cognition. The debate between head-and-heart. Or, the debate between the Limbic Brain (emotive) and the Neocortex (cognitive). Emotional brain supporters argue that emotions predominate, while rational brain supporters argue cognition is paramount. This dualism can make for 2-Selfs: 1.) the emotional Self, and 2.) the cognitive Self. I ask, “What Self will predominate; the Self of ‘I think,’ or its dualistic counterpart of ‘I feel?’” George Vaillant said, “human evolution has created a brain that has really 2 brains: 1.) mammalian brain that can feel, emote, and, 2.) homo sapien brain that can speak, think, analyze.” (2008) I attest that at this evolutionary stage of human nature we need both brains. The Limbic Brain gives us survival instincts, emotive elements, and intuitive powers. The Neocortex gives us the ability to think, gather new knowledge, organize this knowledge, and the capacity to plan ahead. Importantly, I ask, “What will it take to allow for a working balance and alliance between the Limbic (emotive), and the Neocortical (cognitive)?”
Our brain can become fossilized when fewer new brain connections are made (review previous posts). However, there is now a realization that our brain has potential powers and uses that have not even begun to be explored. As I earlier stated, there is now an understanding that even with certain brain injuries there is a brain plasticity that has a certain reserve and redundancy that may flare-up and compensate for what has been lost in another part of the brain. I advance the idea that our brain’s potential, reserve, and redundancy will take on new meaning when brain research fully includes and incorporates the sciences of Energetics (Ch. 2), Epigenetics (Ch. 6), and Noetics (Ch. 24).
As we get older, old age has certain failing mind-body faculties related to seeing, hearing, physical agility, and mental acuity. However, old age also brings accumulated knowledge that adds to our wisdom. Brain research now indicates that there is “life-long brain plasticity.” (Goldberg, 2005) Even in old age our brain can rewire itself. Even in old age we can challenge our brain. Old age doesn’t have to be about dotardism, caducity, or being weak-minded. What was once thought impossible is the growth and development of new synaptic connections even at an older age. Brain decline is either from disease or the brain is not being used —> “use it or lose it.” For some individuals old age can lead to atrophy with non-brain usage. The brain that is not used (at any age) can be frozen with few new brain connections being made. According to neurologist Richard Restak, “the brain never wears out; it gets better the more we use it; it changes in structure and function throughout our lives. As a consequence of this plasticity we sculpt our brain according to our life experiences.” (2009) What research is starting to investigate is the advent of those superagers who are not just living longer, but are engaged with life and are performing and functioning productivity well into their late 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and beyond. This research confirms that an, “old dog can learn new tricks.”