The Neuroscience Behind Emotional Behaviour - Alex Diaz

By: • 3 months ago •

In any team sport, creating a robust team dynamic is always the greatest challenge for any coach. Team members differ in personality styles, attitudes, motivation, and behaviours.
A coach fixated in believing that his message will equally resonate with each player will fail to create a cohesive team approach as individual’s differences are not being considered.

To achieve an effective teamwork atmosphere, leaders shine in their ability to unite a group of individuals
by seeking a common goal while supporting emotional behavioral differences amongst team members.

 

According to psychologist, Peter Levine, emotional memories are “felt-sense emotions such as surprise, fear, anger, disgust, sadness, and joy.”
These memories lie just below the neo-cortex, hence are only expressed when we place meaning on the awareness. Having to give an oral presentation before a large audience may bring an array of different felt-sense emotions, such as calmness or nervousness, which are derived from implicit memories of prior experiences.
Factually expressing that those emotions have first appeared two months ago at a community assembly speaking engagement is the job of our explicit memory.

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An individual’s emotional behavior results from the combination of personal genes and life experiences, both supportive and upsetting. Such experiences mold a neurological imprint in our brains leading to the development of behaviors whose roots lie in implicit,
subconscious, emotional memories. These memories cannot be intentionally brought up.

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Hierarchically, our brain develops implicit memories first and explicit ones later. We feel butterflies in the belly and later express them as feelings of anxiety.The tennis player who is about to serve to win a grand slam match will feel rapid heartbeats and shallow
breathing. If the player is Australian, such felt sense awareness will be expressed in English; if the player is
from Japan, the same felt sense sensations will be spoken in Japanese. Both players brought forth implicit
memories based on past experiences. Regardless of their nationality, human beings experience non-verbal awareness before those sensations turn into verbal language. To be coherent between what we sense and what we express is a result of how emotionally regulated we are.

When athletes are asked about the experience of losing a very close game last week, they tend to rationalize their feelings by either minimizing its emotional content or expressing a rationalization aimed at, subconsciously diverting the attention from that of feeling upset. An emotionally regulated athlete not only feels the upsetting emotion by embodying a higher heart palpitation, but also by verbalizing it.

When leaders attune to the
emotional needs of self and others, an implicit level relationship takes place. It is at this implicit rather than explicit level where a sense a trust and a feeling of safety are forged. Being emotionally met allows for channels of communication to open up between leaders and team members. A team member will be more cooperative if he/she feels an inner sense of trust.
In a survey presented at the 2015 World Class Performance Conference, the first leading factor for top Olympic performances rested on the coach-athlete relationship over other factors such as athlete self -awareness and having optimal training environment.
In a 2008 Coach Survey Summary Results: Evolution of Athlete Conference, it indicated that focusing on the athlete as a whole person was more valuable than
seeking techniques to improve performance.

When leaders attempt to emotionally connect by primarily relying on explicit language, it creates a sense of emotional disconnection with team members.
Individuals fall back to rationalizing and thinking, which as important as they are to achieving results. It
leaves a sense of emptiness and emotional distance.
More importantly, it leads members to having second thoughts about how valuable they are in the team or they turn the perceived lack of attention as having done something incorrectly.

On the other hand, verbalizing support to a hard working or frustrated team member, praising when sincere effort is performed rather than taking such a behavior for granted, and encouraging when mistakes are made lead to promoting a higher sense of being
understood and appreciated

Holistic approaches aimed at self-regulating emotions by eliciting attunement at an implicit language
has attracted the attention of holistic approaches that promote present moment awareness such as yoga, mindfulness, breathing relaxation, visualization of positive experiences, and positive reframing.

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Likewise, spending less time connected to electronics and getting few hours of sleep are conducive to having difficulty regulating emotions and creating behavioral habits that promote emotional disengagement with team members.

At the core of who we are as humans, the emotional connection is what has kept us alive and able to survive for so many years. Whether we are part of a sports or corporate team, we owe it to ourselves to enhance our capacity to regulate emotions at an implicit level as such experiences will only bring a greater sense of human connectivity and an enhanced present moment awareness.

Dr. Alex Diaz is a 20-year licensed psychotherapist holding a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology with a specialization in Somatic Psychology. He is certified inSomatic Psychology, Sports Peak Performance Coaching, and Family Systems.

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Dr. Diaz is a frequent speaker addressing mental strategies that promote peak performance in athletes and in business. He has coached business executives on the topic of emotional regulation and mental focus.
Dr. Diaz also works with collegiate and professional athletes to help them elevate their performance and learn how to navigate emotional obstacles.
Dr. Diaz is the Sport Psychology Consultant for Concordia College in Bronxville, NY and provides private consulting services from his offices in Westchester, NY.

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