The Thinking and Feeling Brain
ASA students are continuing to learn to identify and name their feelings and practice their healthy calming strategies. During school counseling classroom visits recently, students learned how our brain works during an emotional response to a situation. We spent some time identifying how our brain reacts and how we can use our strategies to bring it back to calm.
Child psychiatrist Dan Siegel calls “flipping your lid” the process of your brain’s reaction to negative emotion. We used a hand model to see how your rational brain disconnects and the emotional brain engages with these emotions. The students practiced making this brain hand model to represent our feeling and thinking brain. This process introduces the prefrontal cortex (PFC), hippocampus and the amygdala to the students.
The students learned that the guard dog is the amygdala. It senses your feelings and works to keep you safe from danger with flight, fight or freeze. The elephant symbolizes the hippocampus, the memory saver. The hippocampus helps you learn, saves memories and remembers things. The wise owl is the prefrontal cortex. It helps you think before you act and make “wise” decisions.
The hand model demonstrated that when your brain is calm, your thumb (amygdala) rests in your palm (hippocampus) and is covered by your four fingers (PFC). When your PFC disengages, your fingers open straight up and you tend to “flip your lid” emotionally. This will expose the amygdala (thumb) to initiate your guard dog response.
We practiced strategies we can use to calm the guard dog and bring back down your wise owl/PFC (fingers) to engage your thinking brain. Some of the strategies they liked were square breathing, hot chocolate breathing, figure eight breathing and zig zag breathing. When needed, the students always have the Elementary Virtual Calming Room or the Middle School Virtual Calming Room they can go to for accessing calming strategies as well!