A new study suggesting some people’s brains are “hard-wired” for panic and anxiety is the dead end of mainstream psychology’s dismissal of the mind, says psychologist Dr Michael Hurd.
[The] new University of Wisconsin-Madison imaging study shows the brains of people with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have weaker connections between a brain structure that controls emotional response, and the amygdala, which plays a key role in the processing of emotions. The study suggests that the brain's "panic button" may stay “on” due to lack of regulation.
Not so fast! This research asks you to uncritically accept and to take for granted that the physical makeup of the brain determines your emotions. Period. It just isn’t so.
If these researchers were trying to repair a room full of computers damaged by malware, they’d be the sort of numbnut who’d immediately destroy computers, printers, cameras, keyboards, and even mice, while ignoring the malware causing your problems.
As Hurd says,
Research like this University of Wisconsin study treats the hardware of the brain (i.e., your laptop) as the only relevant factor in emotion (output). It leaves out any notion of programming (i.e., Windows or any operating system) and reduces all mental functioning — thought, emotions, feelings — to sheer mechanics.
So what does determine your emotions then, if not your wiring? Answer: It’s not your hardware, it’s your software: it’s in the choices we make, and our consequent evaluation of what the facts around us represent, for good and ill.
Emotions come about as a result of how our minds are programmed by ourselves or by others whom we allow (either consciously or by default) to program our thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and viewpoints…
Our emotions … are the result of a complex array of thoughts, beliefs, ideas and (critically understood or not) underlying premises…
We all make choices whether or not to think. And we often choose what (and what not) to think by subjecting ourselves to the will, beliefs, actions and attitudes of others. Either way, it’s a choice. The physical hardware of our brains – the amygdala and all the rest – is certainly not immaterial, but is not the fundamental cause of our emotions, thoughts, ideas and values.
I miss the relevance of the mind in what used to be the field of psychology. Knowledge of the brain's functioning is no threat to psychology, but it can’t replace it, either.
Read on for more: Programming the Brain (DE Wave)
UPDATE: There’s an unacknowledged impact that philosophical theories, for good and ill, have on psychological theories—which I’ve touched on in the comments. Philosopher Diana Hsieh’s podcast ‘Philosophy Versus Psychology’ is worth a listen on this one.