Emotional Styles of the Brain

The brain is the source of all our emotions and behavior. Although humans have known for many years that all our behavior, feelings, and thoughts come from the brain, there has not been much progress in learning exactly how it works until recently. Researchers have been looking at many aspects of our emotional life and tracing them to specific patterns in particular regions of the brain. In this research, they have found that one size does not fit all. In other words, you have to take into account the individuality of the patient which can often be determined by DNA and also previous circumstances that may have happened during the patient’s lifetime.

The first emotional style is resilience to adversity. The adversity can be a wide range of so-called setbacks – from the most trivial things such as someone cutting you off in traffic (but if this happens at the beginning of your day, it could trigger negative emotions starting off your day) to the more significant setbacks such as the passing of a loved one. Under certain difficult periods of people’s lives, they may behave and/or react differently during these times.

When you have a setback, and we all do at some point, how do you bounce back from it? Is it pretty quickly or do you wallow in anger, unhappiness or jealousy, or any other negative emotion? Everyone will vary in how well and how quickly they are able to recover from such adversity, and also depending on how significant the setback may be. On one hand, people are resilient – look at how we as humans have survived on this planet for thousands of years. Yet with the more significant setbacks, your resilience could be thwarted (which is completely acceptable), so the resilience relies on the circumstance. Researchers are now seeing particular patterns of brain activity in particular regions that actually show the ability to quickly and easily bounce back or the difficulty to bounce back.

The second emotional style is outlook – meaning whether you have a positive or negative view on life. Do you tend to think that things will work out for the better regardless of the situation? Or are you more of an Eeyore with a gloomy cloud over your head with no hope for better days? There are also particular brain patterns and brain activity at play here that underline whether you have a positive or negative outlook in life.

This is part one of a series of blogs on the emotional styles of the brain, which will begin to cover your brain and your relationships in next week’s post.

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