2 MINUTE READ
To get started, let’s take a quick, extremely high-level tour of our extraordinary and wildly complex brains.
The largest part of our brain, the cerebrum, is comprised of four lobes: Frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital. The outer layer of the cerebrum is comprised of gray matter and is called the cerebral cortex. It houses between 14-16 billion neurons and is involved in things such as our intelligence, personality, ability to plan and organize, and other sensory and motor functions.
Going through all four lobes in detail is likely to drive you to leave this site and never return, so for now, let’s focus on the frontal lobe and temporal lobes, as those are the most relevant parts of the cerebrum for our purposes.
The frontal lobe, the largest of the four, houses an area called the prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is significant as it contributes to (although not exclusively) our executive functioning, namely our ability to reason, focus, plan for the future, anticipate events, predict consequences, coordinate and adjust complex behaviors, and importantly – manage our emotional reactions, a.k.a. our impulse control.
In an area of the temporal lobe, specifically the medial temporal lobe, is a region of the brain called the amygdala. It is a component of the limbic system and is primarily associated with emotional processing.
Unlike emotional regulation, which is seated in the prefrontal cortex, our amygdala is on high-alert for danger. It will automatically activate a stress response (fight, flight, freeze, or fawn) when it perceives danger, whether real, exaggerated, or non-existent.
This automated stress response was critical to our survival when the threat of physical harm was real and prevalent. This issue for us today, however, is we don’t spend most of our time in actual dangerous situations, but our brain doesn’t realize that and so it freaks out all the time, and causes us to react in all sorts of ways that we’re often not proud of once we calm the heck down.
More, much more, on that to come as increasing our self-regulation is critical to our success as trusted, well-liked, happy, and healthy humans.