"Older textbooks explained that the hypothalamus, an evolutionarily ancient structure lodged at the base of the brain, reacts to stress by triggering the secretion of hormones from the pituitary and adrenal glands, which makes the heart race, elevates blood pressure and diminishes appetite. Current research reveals an unexpected role for the prefrontal cortex, the area immediately behind the forehead that serves as the control center that mediates our highest cognitive abilities—among them concentration, planning, decision-making, insight, judgment and the ability to retrieve memories. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that evolved most recently, and it can be exquisitely sensitive to even temporary everyday anxieties and worries.
When things are going well, the prefrontal cortex acts as a control center that keeps our baser emotions and impulses in check. Acute, uncontrollable stress sets off a series of chemical events that weaken the influence of the prefrontal cortex while strengthening the dominance of older parts of the brain. In essence, it transfers high-level control over thought and emotion from the prefrontal cortex to the hypothalamus and other earlier evolved structures. As the older parts take over, we may find ourselves either consumed by paralyzing anxiety or subject to impulses usually kept in check: indulgence in excesses of food, drink, drugs or a spending spree at a local specialty store. Quite simply, we lose it."
Taken from: "Neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4774859/. Accessed 17 May. 2018.
Thoughts from stress inducing events can get encoded as a threat to our continuation. When memories from such events are recalled there is a window of opportunity to change their meaning by introducing a new learning and meaning, the process of recalling and updating a memory is called memory reconsolidation.
Taken from: "Understanding Memory Reconsolidation" January 2015, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281571640_UNDERSTANDING_MEMORY_RECONSOLIDATION. Accessed 30 Jun 2023
Without resolution, recalling, thinking, writing, or retelling such events can cause cycles of intrusive and ruminative symptoms (emotional suffering) which inadvertently reinforce the original learning within brain’s neural networks.
Why do the unwanted experiences get so much attention and memory space?
The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences, and Teflon for positive ones.” Our brains are wired to have an affinity for cataloging and comparing any event data that might be considered a threat to our continuation, “negative emotion enhances not only the subjective vividness of a memory but also the likelihood of remembering some (but not all) event details” add to this that:
The collective result is that the brain gets stuck in a loop of executing commands to take actions about such events to make the event stop happening then and now, energy builds up to be used for this purpose but since the target does not exist the energy is unable to hit its target and is experienced as stress, anxiety, depression, anger, guilt, shame, regret, grief, etc.
Taken from: "Hooked on a Feeling: intrusive and ruminative symptoms in PTSD ...." 18 Nov. 2014, http://sites.tufts.edu/emotiononthebrain/2014/11/18/hooked-on-a-feeling-intrusive-and-ruminative-symptoms-in-ptsd/.
“Our brain cells communicate with one another via synaptic transmission–one brain cell releases a chemical (neurotransmitter) that the next brain cell absorbs. This communication process is known as “neuronal firing.” When brain cells communicate frequently, the connection between them strengthens. Messages that travel the same pathway in the brain over & over begin to transmit faster & faster. With enough repetition, they become automatic. That’s why we practice things like hitting a golf ball–with enough practice, we can go on automatic pilot.” https://www.dailyshoring.com/neurons-that-fire-together-wire-together/
"The Neuroscience of Happiness | Greater Good Magazine." 22 Sep. 2010, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_neuroscience_of_happiness.
"Negative Emotion Enhances Memory Accuracy - Boston College." https://www2.bc.edu/elizabeth-kensinger/Kensinger_CD07.pdf. Accessed 16 May. 2018.
"Emotional learning selectively and retroactively strengthens memories ...." 21 Jan. 2015, https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14106. Accessed 16 May. 2018.
"You Have No Idea What Happened - The New Yorker." 4 Feb. 2015, https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/idea-happened-memory-recollection.
"Neural circuits responsible for conscious self-control are highly ...." https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4774859/. Accessed 16 May. 2018.
What is experienced as suffering is the brain stuck in a loop of
“Trying to make an event not happen or happen differently than it did”- in past, present, or future.
Suffering is the mind's chronic resistance to
what is, was,
or will be.