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Limbic System

Because we are mammals, we also have a limbic brain.  It is often referred to as our emotional brain. It operates through the use of empathy. Empathy is the capacity to know and feel what another person feels. With empathy, the very fabric of our relationships are woven.  An authentic, fulfilling relationship is when we stay connected with ourselves while connecting with another.  Staying connected to ourselves is also called emotional regulation.  Emotional regulation is slowing down time so that we can be aware of our emotions and choose healthy ways to manage them.

Emotional expression is the language of the limbic system. Though emotions can certainly be alluded to by words, their most favorite form of communication is through the body. This is known as nonverbal communication.  Nonverbal communication happens through overt gestures, like pointing your finger with aggression, to the most subtle and nuanced signs, like the softening of your upper eye-lids with caring affection.  These nonverbals are what either create and maintain close relationships or do the opposite. Mammals are usually natural in maintaining healthy and loving relationships. Anyone with a pet can attest to this.  With pets, authentic expressions of love and caring easily can happen through petting, tail wagging, feeding, cuddling, playing, walking, purring, licking, and making eye contact.

However, it often gets overridden by our state of the art brain, called the cerebral cortex.  The cerebral cortex give us our rationality, language, ability to set and achieve goals, and much more.

However, here’s the thing: staying connected to ourselves through regulating our emotions only gets learned through being connected with someone else who is regulating their own emotions.  In other words, the only way to learn how to truly be connected to yourself is through being in relationship with someone else.  But, not just any relationship. It is a relationship where the other person is able to be firmly anchored in who they are (that is, emotionally regulated), thus being able to mirror back to us what our experience is through empathy and understanding.  This is called atunement.  Atunement is the ability of another person to emotionally connect and accurately mirror back to another what they are experiencing. Ideally, our primary caregiver(s) attuned to us. Sadly, that’s not always the case