Our Limbic System and The Spirit
I write this not to necessarily provide any answers, but to put forth and explore a question I have been thinking about/experiencing for a while now.
A few years ago, I realized that what I had sometimes labeled as “the Spirit” communicating to me, was probably, more accurately, my anxiety. It started me thinking about times in my life when that might have been true, and how I might be able to sort through that a little bit better.
I’ve been an anxious human since childhood and also highly valued and connected to spirituality since a young age. Both have played a prominent role in how I make decisions, and looking back, I think sometimes got mixed up.
As I’ve studied more body-centered approaches to art and well-being, I’ve learned more about our limbic system and its function in our life.
Limbic System: An important and complex system within our brain and body that responds, remembers, and protects.
“The limbic system isn’t a specific organ or part of the body, but rather a group of brain structures that work together. … The limbic system acts as a control center for conscious and unconscious functions, regulating much of what the body does. In some ways, it connects the mind to body, bridging the gap between psychological and physiological experiences. For example, by activating the fight or flight response, the limbic system triggers a physical response to emotional experiences such as fear.” (https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/6-ways-the-limbic-system-impacts-physical-emotional-and-mental-health-0316197)
The Spirit: Higher divine being/universe/inner self communicating to us peace and good direction.
Both the Limbic System and the Spirit communicate important things to us. And I think they are not necessarily completely separate from each other - I can imagine that there is some kind of working together. But I’ve realized that there were times when my brain and body (limbic system) was communicating to me a anxiety/trauma/fear/protection response and I was calling that direction from “the Spirit,” when a response that might have been more appropriate would have been for me to pause and tune into my body and mind and listen to what it was communicating to me - fears, protections, etc. - reflect on that, process that, and then get myself to a place where I could feel the peace and good direction.
So my questions have become:
When is it my limbic system communicating to me, and when is it the Spirit?
How can I tell the difference?
How do they work together?
What is my limbic system communicating to me? How can I respond to that?
What is the Spirit communicating to me? How can I respond to that?
In this time of great unknown and potential anxiety, maybe your limbic system communicating loudly. (Mine certainly has been!) I’m finding it helpful to take time doing mind-body practices to help me work through these feelings/communications and get to a clear place: writing, qigong, yoga, walking in nature, speaking with trusted loved ones, breathing meditations, laughing, etc.
Thoughts? I would love to hear them!
3/19/2020 10:41:08 am
I've often thought about this as well! We often hear "if it's a good thought, it's from the spirit" or "if it's a good thought, it doesn't really matter", but I think that's short changing the complexity of it. Some things are generally good thoughts, but maybe have exceptions (I often thought about this when I was single and would be sitting by myself at church, but people would feel obligated to come sit by me, because "no empty chairs" or whatever, but I LIKE sitting by myself, especially in a church setting, at a time in my life when I craved any spiritual experience, and other people sitting by me disrupted that!)
3/19/2020 06:48:07 pm
So interesting!! I’ve been trying to sort through similar thoughts for a while myself. We know that the spirit of fear is not of God, but sometimes real direction is hard to discern when feelings of anxiety show up and make things messy! I like the idea of taking the time to get to a better place mentally/physically and THEN seeking direction.
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Musings on engaging in yoga and yoga-esque perspectives and activities while in the midst of daily living. I still very much consider myself a beginner and hope I am not too presumptuous in offering my thoughts. If you ever feel to respond or share, I will be so glad to witness your sharing.