Feelings & the Brain

Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D. is a “Harvard-trained brain scientist” who documented her recovery from a major stroke.  Her book is entitled My Stroke of Insight and step by step recounts her very personal experience (as both patient and scientist) through the dark, back into the light.  The following passages I found intriguing as Taylor gives support to our biological drive to FEEL.

“Sensory information streams in through our sensory systems and is immediately processed through our limbic system. By the time a message reaches our cerebral cortex for higher thinking, we have already placed a ‘feeling’ upon how we view that stimulation – is this pain or is this pleasure? Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.

Because the term ‘feeling’ is broadly used, I’d like to clarify where different experiences occur in our brain. First, when we experience feelings of sadness, joy, anger, frustration, or excitement, these are emotions that are generated by the cells of our limbic system. Second, to feel something in your hands refers to the tactile or kinesthetic experience of feeling through the action of palpation. This type of feeling occurs via the sensory system of touch and involves the postcentral gyrus of the cerebral cortex. Finally, when someone contrasts what he or she feels intuitively about something (often expressed as a ‘gut feeling’) to what they think about it, this insightful awareness is a higher cognition that is grounded in the right hemisphere of the cerebral cortex.”

If one takes this a step further, we might reflect on how our culture values thinking over feeling (intuitive or otherwise), and the far reaching implications for how we engage in relationships, express and take care of ourselves, raise our children and more.  

One Comment on “Feelings & the Brain”

  1. barbara says:

    this is truly fascinating. i am going to ponder this. i love the distinctions teased out here……one thing that has long bothered me is that in this culture–or certainly in at least the professional world i inhabit–it sometimes seems as if “feeling” is the stepsister of “thinking,” one long step down the hierarchical ladder. this reverses that, or at least readjusts it……
    back to work, for me. feeling before i think…xoxox

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