The human brain is a network of over one hundred billion neurons. Different experiences create different neural connection which brings about
While certain neural connections become stronger and more efficient, others can become weaker. This is dependent on which neurons are stimulated –
this is called Neuroplasticity.
From this we can suggest that virtually any talent or skill can be created and enhanced through training. Whatever you are doing at any time, you are
physically modifying your brain to become better at it.
Since this is such a foundational mechanism of the brain, being self aware can greatly enrich our life experience.
Specific neurons and neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine (nor-eh-pin-freen) trigger a defensive state when we feel that our thoughts have to be
protected from the influence of others. If we are then confronted with differences in opinion, the chemicals that are released in the brain are the
same ones that try to ensure our survival in dangerous situations. In this defensive state, the more primitive part of the brain interpheres with
rational thinking and the limbic system can knock out most of our working memory – physically causing narrow mindedness.
We see this in the politics of fear, in the strategy of poker players or simply, when someone is stubborn in a discussion. No matter how valuable the
idea might be, the brain has trouble processing it when it is in such a state. On a neural level, it reacts as if we are being threatened, even if
this threat comes from harmless opinions or facts that we may otherwise find helpful and could rationally agree with.
But when we express ourselves, and our views are appreciated these defence like chemicals decrease in the brain, the dopamine neurotransmission
activates the reward neurons, making us feel empowered and increasing our self-esteem. Our beliefs have a profound impact on our body chemistry; this
is why placebos are extremely effective.
Self esteem or self belief is closely linked to the neurotransmitter serotonin. When the lack of it takes on severe proportions, it often leads to
depression, self-destructive behaviour or even suicide.
Social validation increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain and allows us to let go of emotional fixations and become self aware
Mirror Neurons & Consciousness
Social psychology often looks at the basic human need to fit in and calls this the normative social influence.
When we grow up, our moral and ethical compass is almost entirely forged through our environment, so our actions are often a result of the validation
we get from society.
But new developments in neuroscience are giving us a better understanding or culture and identity.
Recent neurological research has confirmed the existence of empathetic mirror neurons. When we experience an emotion or perform an action, specific
neurons fire. However when we observe someone performing this action, or when we imagine it, many of the same neurons fire again, as if we were
performing the actions ourselves.
These empathy neurons connect us to other people, allowing us to feel what other feel. And since these neurons respond to our imagination, we can
experience emotional feedback from them, as if it came from someone else. This system is what allows us to ‘self-reflect’.
“The mirror neuron does not know the difference between it and others” – and is the reason why we are so dependant of social validation and why
we want to fit in.
We are in a constant duality with ourselves and how others see us. This can result in confusion in terms of identity and self-esteem. And brain scans
show that we experience these negative emotions even before we are aware of them.
But when we are self aware, we can alter misplaced emotions because we control the thoughts that cause them. This is a neurochemical consequence of
how memories become labile when retrieved and how they are restored through protein synthesis.
Self-observing profoundly changes the way our brain works. It activates the self-regulating neo-cortical regions which give us an incredible amount
of control over our feelings. Every time we do this our rationality and emotional resilience are strengthened. When we`re not being self-aware, most
of our thoughts and actions are impulsive and the idea that we are randomly reacting and not making conscious choices is instinctively frustrating.
The brain resolves this by creating explanations for our behavior and physically rewriting it into our memories through memory reconsolidation, making
us believe that we were in control of our actions. This is also called backward rationalization, and it can leave most of our negative emotions
unresolved and ready to be triggered at any time. They become a constant fuel to our confusion as our brain will keep trying to justify why we behaved
edit on 22/6/2012 by Kluute because: (no reason given)