Click to watch a video in which neuroscientist Jeff Schwartz describes research looking at the power of linguistic labeling of emotion to calm our amygdala. (Here’s a blog post about this same research on labeling the affect.) The cognitive use of language to manage emotions is one of several topics he covers in this short clip from a talk he recently gave at the Mayo Clinic entitled "The Quantum Brain and Self-Directed Neuroplasticity."
He also explains the statement "the brain puts out the call; the mind decides whether to listen." Whether to listen and how we listen determines if we just follow the brain’s commands in an animal-like way or if we activate the frontal cortex. If we do the latter, we can decide not to mechanistically follow the brain.
Of course, in order to label our emotions or to make the decision not to heed the brain’s call, we need to be paying attention to what we are paying attention to. In order for our clients to make those decisions to move from reactive to reflective, they need to be paying the same kind of attention.
As you watch, you will see that attention is a main theme of this talk excerpt. Jeff also explains the quote from William James: "Volitional effort is effort of attention." He looks at the value of directing our attention, especially under circumstances of painful or emotionally evocative stimuli. As we all know, conflict often involves such stimuli. Attention is a key skill in handling pain and emotion.
Listening to this short clip can remind you why conflict professionals can be more effective by seeing themselves as attention choreographers.