Richard Davidson: “The Emotional Life of Your Brain”

Just as each per­son has a unique fin­ger­print and a unique face, each of us has a unique emo­tional pro­file, one that is so much a part of who we are that those who know us well can often pre­dict how we will respond to an emo­tional chal­lenge. Dr. Richard Davidson, The Emotional Life of Your Brain

The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live–and How You Can Change Them (2012), by neuroscientist Richard Davidson with contribution by science writer Sharon Begley, addresses the concept of us each having an “emotional fingerprint” based on where we fall on six different continuums:

  • Resilience–recovery from adversity
  • Outlook–duration of positive emotion
  • Social Intuition–sensitivity to social cues
  • Self-awareness–awareness of internal signals
  • Sensitivity to Context–ability to modulate emotions according to context
  • Attention–how focused or scattered

Jack Kornfield, Ph.D. calls it “(t)he best book I know on how to use the exciting discoveries of neuroscience to change your life. A fabulous read – a scientific adventure story like Sherlock Holmes meeting Watson and Crick with the Dalai Lama as their advisor.”

And psychologist Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., says, “Whether he is measuring neural activity in the laboratory or climbing the Himalayas to meet the Dalai Lama, Davidson is an inveterate explorer who has spent a lifetime probing the deep mystery of human feeling. Don’t miss this smart and lively book by the world’s foremost expert on emotion and the brain.”

And how does the Dalai Lama weigh in on Richard Davidson? “Sometimes I call him Guru of Science!”

Phie Ambo‘s 2012 documentary Free the Mind follows Davidson’s work as he combines his scientific research with his interest in meditation to explore treatment for a couple veterans with PTSD and a five-year-old boy with ADHD. According to the production staff, “The film poses two fundamental questions: What really is consciousness, and how does it manifest in the brain and body? And is it possible to physically change the brain solely through mental practices?”

Marco Chown Oved, Toronto Star, describes the film’s subjects:

Will, an adopted toddler with ADHD, wears his emotional turmoil on his face. His anger, frustration and joy is so transparent that it’s hard not to empathize with him as he confronts his fear of elevators after having been caught in one some time ago.

Stephen and Rich have both returned from tours of duty in Iraq and are closed and opaque young men who calmly describe the horrors they witnessed and participated in. They are heavily reliant on medication to sleep, and complain of the constant anxiety and overwhelming emotions associated with PTSD.

The conclusion of Oved: “Whether you buy all this new-age Zen talk or not, it’s hard to argue with the results. As the sweatpants-clad vets do breathing exercises and yoga stretches, their anxieties start to slip away. The children learn to recognize their emotions and develop coping mechanisms for their anger.”

The trailer:

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