How our brain works

This videol explains how our brain works using a simple hand model to illustrate the brain's different parts and their functions. He describes how stress and emotions can cause us to "flip our lids," losing control and reacting impulsively. Siegel emphasizes the importance of recognizing these moments and using techniques to calm down and re-engage the thinking part of our brain. This understanding can help us manage our reactions and improve our interactions with others.

A woman speaks:

Have you ever flipped your lid? Have you ever wondered how your brain works? Dan Siegel uses the following explanation to make sense of our reactions.

If you take your thumb and you put it in the middle of your palm, then put your fingers over the top. This is a very useful model of the brain. When we can actually see in front of us what's going on in the brain, then we can change what the brain does.

So let me walk you through very basically what happens in our brain, and the structures in it. It goes like this. The spinal cord comes up representing the wrist and then you run up into the skull, the brainstem, and what is called the limbic area. These work together to help regulate arousal and your emotions. Think of this as your survival system. Our fight-flight-freeze response.

And finally, this front part of our brain, this is known as the cortex, is where we do our problem-solving and thinking. All sorts of things happen in our life. If we are tired and someone pushes a particular emotional button, we can flip our lids rather than being tuned in, connected, balanced, and flexible. We can lose all that flexibility and even lose our moral compass for a time.

We can act in ways that are terrifying to others. But now you can actually bring yourself back online and come back to a higher road and make a repair. While our safety system turns on automatically, we have to turn it off manually. We have to step away from our flight, fight, and freeze reactions and switch our thinking part, our frontal cortex, back on.

Once you understand when feelings are rising up from the brainstem and limbic areas and how this system is overriding your ability to think clearly, you can get ahead of the game and not flip your lid. This is the time to take a break. Take a time out. By even just naming that, you can tame your knee-jerk response. That's the power of using the hand model for ourselves. It can help us to make sense of what goes on in our everyday life.