HomeHarry L. Mills, Ph.D.Joyce R. Mills, M.S.StressWellscriptsMindfulnessSelf-regulationHumorPurposeWisdom


imagescauygmoo.jpgThe seat of our emotions is a small almond shaped part of the brain called the amygdala.  There are two, one on each side of the head.  The amygdala is like a psychological sentinel that examines each event in our lives for its emotional meaning.  It asks basic questions like:  Is this demeaning? Do they intend to hurt me? Depending on the answer the amygdala sends out an alarm.  The amygdala can start our reactions in motion before the neocortex, or the thinking brain, can check on the reasonableness of our actions.  The amygdala can hijack the rest of the brain.  This has led neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux to point out that the emotional system can act independently of the neocortex.

Some emotional reactions and emotional memories can be formed without any conscious cognitive participation at all. That often happens with anger.
 Fortunately, the part of your brain just behind your forehead, the prefrontal lobes, can modulate these emotional impulses. The left prefrontal area can switch off emotions.  The thinking brain can serve an executive role.  Unfortunately executive control does not always prevail. The emotional brain can and does surge out of control.  Harmony between thought and emotion is thus lost. One of the keys to anger control is to develop and understand the best ways to facilitate that prefrontal executive control. There are two essential elements: 

  • Reduce the arousal level with relaxation
  • Use cognitive control techniques

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