We often talk about managing emotions, learning to manage them. I even sometimes have the impression that we sometimes feel like not having at least the disturbing ones, those which make suffer but do they not remind us of something?

But that's another story, yours, and mine.

First of all, what is an emotion?

Emotion comes from the Latin root “EMOVERE ”- to set in motion. It is a change in our condition. It is a sudden , temporary and involuntary affective reaction , often accompanied by physical manifestations . It can be due to an internal or external stimulus.

“In biology, emotions are characterized by changes in appearance, including facial expression, characteristic acts (shouting, leaks or attacks) and upheavals within the body (heart beats, blood pressure, blood supply of the skin and viscera, secretion of hormones ...). »According to Professor Jean-Didier VINCENT.

Emotions are fleeting and volatile, intense. They can disappear or otherwise become more mood states (this will be seen later).

An interesting quote:

Emotions are neither positive nor negative: “they are only elements of our vital energy. They each have their own function. »- Elisabeth Couzon.

For a long time, emotions did not have a “good reputation”: you should not listen to them but just reduce them to a disruptive function, it is to cut yourself off in part from yourself.

But why is that?

Knowing how to decipher your emotions allows you to better know yourself. To deny them is to deny a large part of the human being. This is tantamount to refusing communication and understanding. Knowing and understanding emotions is knowing how to respond appropriately to the needs expressed through them.

It is an essential communication and it has made it possible to do what we, human beings, are = evolved social beings. Basic emotions are also recognized throughout the world, thanks to the specificity of facial expressions, postures which are used to express them.

But what are the basic emotions again?

It was the naturalistic scientist Charles Darwin who first studied the subject. He asked correspondents around the world to make observations with a questionnaire to determine if the emotions and their facial expressions were universal. From the answers, he concludes that the expression of emotions is indeed universal and innate.

Researchers have since confirmed that there are at least 4 basic emotions that are universally recognized = fear, anger , joy and sadness to which we can add surprise and disgust (Paul Eckman American psychologist - according to his work on facial expressions)

Later, Daniel Goleman - doctor of clinical psychology and personal development - in his book Emotional Intelligence - cites 8 most commonly mentioned emotions:

· Anger

· Sadness

· Fear

· Pleasure

· Love

· Surprise

· Shame

· Disgust

What is the journey of an emotion? - in a simplified way

An event, a signal is brought to our attention and it is processed by our brain which will then transform it into information, and will trigger reactions:

· bodily = chills, tremors, sensations of hot or cold, cries, laughter, ...

· behavioral = by attack, flight, paralysis, ...

What is going on in our brain?

American neurophysiologist Walter Cannon studied subjects with brain damage and deprived of certain emotions to conclude that the hypothalamus was one of the brain centers of emotions. In 1937, his thesis was made more complex by the anatomist James Papez who tried to explain the emotions felt by the subject by the action of a circuit connecting the hypothalamus to the median cortex. In 1952, Paul MacLean first used the expression "limbic system" to denote an integrated system comprising, in addition to Papez's circuit, the amygdala, septum and prefrontal cortex.

There is not one, but several "emotional brains"

MacLean's theory is of paramount importance in the history of neuroscience, especially the idea that the brain circuit of emotions can be independent of that of cognition. Its identification of the limbic system with an "emotional brain" has, however, been questioned, researchers stressing the extreme diversity of our emotions and their attachment to several circuits rather than a single center. There would therefore be several “emotional brains” in the brain, each emotion corresponding to a distinct brain unit or to a system made up of several interconnected brain units.

Today, neuroscience is therefore focusing on studying very specific emotions, rather than emotions in general, by seeking to identify possible corresponding brain circuits.

Focus on an emotion shared by all: fear

Fear, simple emotion, clearly identifiable and shared by animals, has been the subject of major recent experimental studies, including the New York researcher and pioneer in neurology emotions Joseph LeDoux .

Fear reactions are mainly controlled by the amygdala - a structure almond-shaped part of the anterior part of the temporal lobe. It sends signals to certain nuclei of the nervous system and the hypothalamus, which controls hormonal secretions from the pituitary gland. In addition, the amygdala is connected to all the sensory cortices as well as to the different regions of the brain linked to the expression of fear. Through its multiple connections, it is able to influence major cognitive faculties such as attention, perception or memory, which corresponds to certain effects of an intense fear, which, in a situation of danger, can "prevent to think”.

It also turns out that there are somehow "two roads" to triggering fear. LeDoux takes the example of a walker in the forest, who sees out of the corner of his eye the blurry image of a stick that looks like a snake. The sensory stimulus first reaches the thalamus. On the one hand, it instantly activates the amygdala, which initiates bodily reactions of fear and fleeing reflexes. But on the other hand, at the same time, the thalamus transmits the image to the visual cortex which analyses it in a precise way: if it is indeed a viper, the fear is in some way validated and persists, but if the visual cortex identifies the image of a dead branch, it stops the activity of the amygdala and the fear ceases . We can thus distinguish a thalamo -tonsillar pathway of fear (short route) and a thalamo- cortical-tonsillar pathway (long route).

If we talk about emotions, we also talk about emotional intelligence ☺

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