The rational rider and the emotional horse: the human balance

The rational rider and the emotional horse: the human balance

Our brain is symbolically divided into two cerebral hemispheres,known as the "emotional" or "intuitive" right hemisphere and the "rational" left hemisphere. Human balance is determined by the relationship between the two and influences our own well-being.

In our brain,the center of emotions is in the oldest part, phylogenetically speaking.However, our most logical and rational part starts from the neocortex, the most recent area, and allows us to perform the most sophisticated mental tasks.

Emotion and reason are not opposite poles; emotions are the basis of reasonand give value to our experiences. For example, neuroscientist Paul MacLean compared the relationship between the rational brain and the emotional brain to that between a competent (experienced and logical) rider and his (strong and instinctive) horse.

Human balance is determined by the relationship between the emotional hemisphere and the rational hemisphere.

The human balance

The word equilibrium comes from Latinaequilibriumaequus,which means "equal" andlibrawhich means "balance".We recognize balance in harmony, equanimity, measure, common sense, lucidityand also, of course, in people who enjoy good mental health.

When our emotional brain and rational brain are in balance, we can feel better ourselvesand feel our own personal experience. For example, in situations where our survival is threatened, both systems (emotional and rational) can function independently.

The emotional system would give us the energy to take a first urgent step (grabbing a ramp or a protruding part of our strength in the event that we fall down a precipice) and reason would look for a way out of us. from there (we could not stay forever suspended).

The human balance determines our well-being.

The rider and the horse

A competent rider must learn to dominate his horse if he wants to ride him.If there are not many obstacles and the weather is favorable, it will be easier for the rider to learn to control it. On the other hand, if something unexpected happens, such as a loud noise or the threats of other animals, the horse will try to escape and the rider will have to hold on, maintain his balance and intelligently soothe the horse's anxiety.

The same thing happens when people feel threatened, scared or have a huge sexual desire. In these circumstances, it is harder not to lose control.The limbic system detects and decides on threats that are important or not,and the connections between reason (the frontal lobes) and this system become confused.

Neuroscience research has revealed thatmost of the psychological problems are not caused by comprehension problemsbut by pressures in regions that are more specifically charged with attention and perception. It is very complicated to follow advanced logical processes when our emotional brain begins to panic and focuses only on the signals it perceives as dangerous.

What happens when the rider does not control the horse?

Sometimes we get angry with people we love or we are afraid of something or someone we depend on. This causes a struggle.Our "viscera" and our brain begin a battle that, independently of the one who wins, makes us very often feel bad.

If the rider (rational brain) and the horse (emotional brain) do not agree, who ends up winning?In principle, we would say the horse because it has a lot more strength. In fact, this result is more likely before our brain finishes to develop completely, something that, according to studies, occurs around age 21. Before that, our prefrontal lobe has not finished forming and, unless we have acquired tools that compensate for its weakness, it is inferior to the strength of the limbic system.

Once our brain has completed its development (or almost completed, because it never stops evolving), it is easier for the person to control his most instinctive and emotional part. On the other hand, the experience and tools acquired on the path of life also help.Therefore, enriching these two foods (experience and psychological tools) will help prevent our emotional brain from taking control of our thoughts or behaviorswhen it would be harmful.

"Follow your heart but take your brain too."

-Alfred Adler-

Bibliographical references

Van der Kolk, B.A. (1994). The body keeps the score: Memory and the evolving psychobiology of posttraumatic stress.Harvard review of psychiatry1(5), 253-265.

Emotional reasoning: when emotions veil thoughts

Emotions often take over rational thoughts, preventing us from seeing reality as it is. Learn more
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