I’ll bet you are smiling right now. She wasn’t smiling because I smiled at her. This smile was just a pure gift to me. And yes, it made me smile. Still does.
Perhaps you have noticed how when certain people walk into a room they seem to have the ability to change the whole emotional climate of the room for better or for worse. Some dampen the spirit of the room while others put a smile on everyone’s face. Charismatic speakers also have the same ability to move a crowd. You might also experience this just through a one on one conversation. Has anyone ever said to you, “I feel better just talking to you!”?
One major explanation for this is found in the concept called limbic resonance (or for the sake of this blog, I will call it emotional resonance). The limbic system is the region in your brain that is the home for emotion, behavior, long-term memory, and motivation. Without getting into all the science (of which I am no expert), neuroscientists have discovered that this part of your brain runs on an open loop rather than closed. In other words, our limbic systems affect other people’s limbic systems and vice versa. It’s kind of like an electromagnet field except it can travel through emotions. It can even span great distance through electronic media such as TV or Radio. Although, it resonates most powerfully up close and personal.
Here’s what happens (again, this is the kindergarten version-I’ll do my best): You have neurons in your limbic system called mirror neurons. Mirror neurons fire when a person (any mammal) acts or is acted upon, but it also fires just by witnessing someone else acting or being acted upon. This is what we call empathy. When we witness another person in pain our mirror neurons fire up and we empathically feel their pain.
When we think of empathy we usually think of pain and suffering, but the same is true for joy and excitement. We smile or laugh or feel elated when we witness these emotional states in other people.
When you live or work in close proximity to people over a period of time, your emotions become linked to them. Children, in particular, are wide open to your emotional states. If you are depressed and not able to manage your depression well, your children are vulnerable to your depression. And on the other end, if you are joyful, your children are more likely to be joyful. Believe me as a parent of young children, knowing this stuff can make you a lot more sensitive to your emotional states.
Now, let’s shift gears. As I have mentioned in previous blogs by becoming more emotionally aware of what’s going on inside of us and around us (or we might say mindfulness), we become more open to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit gives us awareness of the mind of Christ.
Think of the Holy Spirit as radio waves and your brains receptors as an antenna. I realize that this will be hard for many of you to believe unless you’re Pentecostal, but this Presbyterian believes that the Holy Spirit is a perceivable entity. And I also believe that Christ is also a living and perceivable entity through the Spirit. (As a side note, let me say that believing something doesn’t make it real, nor does disbelieving something negate its reality.)
Now, if we have access to the mind of Christ, we have access to both his thinking and his emotional states. Does that blow your mind at least a little? It does mine. Perhaps being a spiritually mature person from a Christian standpoint means that you are in a state of emotional resonance with Christ. Emotional resonance is science. Having emotional resonance with Christ is faith.
At the very least, can we agree that Jesus, as he was on earth, had an emotional impact on his followers? Why, then, would it be any different for his followers today? How do you think Christ feels when he sees great suffering or injustice? How do you think he feels when a baby is born? What if what you are feeling IS what Christ is feeling?
Not that I have proven anything to the skeptics, but if you accept what I am saying as at least a possibility, then let us consider how we might impact the people in our lives. If you are in some way in emotional resonance with Christ, then your brain from its limbic system can impact the brains of the people you have influence on or even proximity with. The very mind of Christ can be projected through you into the brain of someone else through their mirror neurons residing in the limbic system. And it also means that you might find Christ smiling at you through someone else. Maybe even through an 8 month old child.
That’s some hands-free Vulcan mind meld evangelism going on!
I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my limbic system!
Think about it.