Your Limbic System

Why you cannot think your way out of your emotional issues

When you are feeling anxious, panicky, overwhelmed, or angry - why is it that you cannot think your way out of that emotional state? Why is it that when you tell yourself logically to calm down or that there is nothing to worry about, or feel angry about - why doesn’t that make you feel better? Or why does it only work in the very short term? Why doesn’t it shift you and move you out of those feelings? Why do those same feelings and responses seem to happen again and again?

The answer lies in a part of your brain called the limbic system. It’s the part of your brain that deals with emotions and feelings and it’s separate from the intellectual, logical, reasoning part of your brain. This is why you cannot always think your way out of your emotions and feelings. Your limbic system has its own logic and follows its own rules!

Before I go on I should add, in case you didn’t already know, that I’m not a neurologist! I’m talking about this so you can better understand how the parts of your brain affect your emotions, feelings, psyche, your mind. To help you understand let me explain the three main parts of the brain:

1) The Neocortex

The neocortex is the front part of your brain. This part is all to do with your intellect, logic, reason, language, impulse control, memory, and consciousness.

2) The Limbic System

The limbic system is known as the midbrain. This part, as I have already mentioned, is to do with your instincts, intuition, emotions, and long-term memory, especially emotional memory.

3) The Reptilian Brain

The reptilian brain is connected to the brainstem, low down at the back of the brain. This part is to do with your vital bodily functions, such as heart rate, breathing, appetite, balance, and temperature regulation.

When you are feeling strong emotions, such as anxiety, you will not be able to completely rationalise your way out of the feeling, even with the knowledge that there is nothing in the present moment or in reality to feel anxious about. You simply cannot use your intellect to work through these emotional issues with any long term effect. This is because the feeling, in this example - anxiety, originates from the limbic system.

What is the limbic system?

Your limbic system is your emotional watchdog. It works in a very instinctive way. It is always scanning, ‘looking’ and sensing to see if you are safe, secure and connected. When it detects that you are not feeling those things, or when it detects something that reminds it of a time in the past when you didn’t feel OK, you may experience anxiety or fear or another strong emotional response. It is your limbic system sounding the alarm, reacting to protect you. Firing off the stress response or fight/flight/freeze response. Your limbic system has its own way of thinking about things and understanding situations, which is very different to the way your intellect interprets the same information. For example, it doesn’t distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Basically, it just reacts.

When you are in the middle of feeling very anxious, it could be that it is to do with something that is happening in the here and now. You may feel threatened by something in the present moment and your limbic system is doing a good job - firing off, getting your attention, putting in motion an emergency response. However, your limbic system is also an emotional storehouse. It recalls all of the feelings, experiences and emotions that you have ever had throughout your life. So, actually, when you feel something in the here and now it could also be some form of a memory from the past that has been triggered by some aspect of the present moment. As far as your limbic system is concerned, there isn’t much difference between past and present.

When you try to rationalise this feeling it does not work as your intellect is not where the feeling is coming from. For example, when someone is feeling bad about themselves, they might constantly apologise or feel like everything is their fault even when logically they know that they are not to blame. They may logically know that there is nothing to be scared of, or that anger is not a logical response to someone else’s behaviour. It doesn’t matter what you tell yourself logically or rationally because the feelings are not coming from the intellectual, rational mind (neocortex). They are coming from the limbic system and it does not follow or respond to logic. The limbic system knows only instinct. It only asks, “Does this feel good/safe or does this feel bad/threatening?” It doesn’t care how illogical its reactions are. It only knows its job is to keep you safe and alive.

The problem is that this wonderful, protective part of our mind can get filled up with emotions, memories and feelings that are no longer relevant to the here and now. This is where Analytical Hypnotherapy can help.

We will be taking a more in-depth look at how Analytical Hypnotherapy helps in next week's vlog and blog post. I will be focusing in on anxiety and how your limbic system is the key to long term resolution (by the way anxiety is the number one symptom that I see clients with). We will take a closer look at anxiety in relation to your limbic system and I will explain exactly how Analytical Hypnotherapy supports you to access this part of your brain in order to process and work through those feelings. In other words, how you can resolve your symptoms and emotions permanently by dealing with the feelings at the source.

If you have any questions, struggling with something and not sure about the best approach or how Analytical Hypnotherapy could help then email me on or find me on Facebook @KirstyWickHypnotherapy. You can also find lots of information on the website

Want to learn more? Check out my weekly Facebook live #thursdaytherapy every Thursday at 1pm here on the Kirsty Wick Analytical Hypnotherapy page @kirstywickhypnotherapy. Each week I chat about therapy, without the jargon, and look at different techniques, tools, share information and look at specific issues such as anxiety, relationships, self-esteem and confidence. Get in touch with any question you would like answered or an issue you are struggling with.

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