Have you ever wondered what Emotional Style you are?
Up until recently, there has not been a lot of research on the part of the brain that that is responsible for emotion, in fact as early as the 1970’s psychologists believed that any form of emotion ‘interrupted’ the cognitive function of the brain. We know now through the amazing field of Neuroscience, that the Prefrontal Cortex, Hippocampus and the Amygdala are primarily responsible for the the way we process information, memories and life events and how we quickly we are able to return to baseline from an emotional response.
It therefore makes sense, that according to the way our individual brains are constructed, we each have a unique style of emotional reactivity.
Becoming aware of our emotional style will assist us in many aspects of our life and will help us navigate relationships and perceived injustices with greater clarity and wisdom.
Richard J Davidson (2013) in his book, The Emotional Life of the Brain, suggests that ‘Our emotional style can affect the way we feel about ourselves and those around us, how we behave, how susceptible we are to stress, our cognitive function and our vulnerability to particular psychiatric disorders’. He also goes on to say that our emotional style also affects physical health and can impact on our respiratory, immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine system.
Yes, the mind/body connection phenomena is very real!
Davidson suggests that there are six dimensions of emotional style. Each dimension describes a continuum. Some people fall at one or the other extreme of that continuum, while others fall somewhere in the middle. The combination of where you fall on each dimension adds up to your overall Emotional Style.
And without any further ado, here they are (taken from The Emotional Life of your Brain):
Resilience – Can you usually shake off set backs, or do you suffer a meltdown? When faced with an emotional or other challenge, can you muster the tenacity and determination to soldier on, or do you feel so helpless that you simply surrender?
Outlook – Do you seldom let emotional clouds darken your sunny outlook on life? Do you maintain a high level of energy and engagement even when things don’t go your way? Or do you tend toward cynicism and pessimism, struggling to see anything positive?
Social Intuition – Can you read people’s body language and tone of voice like a book, inferring whether they want to talk or be alone, whether they are stressed to the breaking point or feeling mellow? Are you socially intuitive or do you become puzzled by peoples responses to you?
Self-awareness – Are you aware of your own thoughts and feelings and attuned to the messages your body sends you? Or do you act and react without knowing why you do what you do? Do you find it difficult to label your emotions and describe how you feel on any given day?
Sensitivity to Context – Are you able to pick up the conversational rules of social interaction so that you do not tell your boss the same dirty joke you told your husband or try to pick up a date at a funeral? Do you become baffled when people tell you your behaviour is inappropriate? Are you tuned in or tuned out?
Attention – Can you screen out emotional or other distractions and stay focused? Are you so focused on your video game that you don’t notice the dog whining to go out until he makes a mess on the floor? Or do your thoughts flit from the task at hand to the fight you had with your spouse this morning or the anxiety you feel about an upcoming presentation for work?
Everyone has elements of each of these dimensions of Emotional Style. Everyone is unique and there are countless Emotional Styles. Research shows us that despite having inadequacies in any one of these Emotional Styles, neuroplasticity means we can change the way our brain works and reap the benefits of more fulfilling longer-lasting relationships, greater self-esteem and ability to bounce back from setbacks.
So, how can we do this?
- By being aware, where we sit on each of the above spectrums
- Engaging in exercises and activities that increase our emotional resilience and allow us to engage in behaviours that are prosocial and reflective by nature
- By understanding that we can always improve, no matter how amazing we are!
If you would like to learn more about your brain, and what your specific emotional style is, contact me today for a FREE consultation via Skype. It might be the best thing you ever did for yourself!