We have many wonderful scientists like Dr. Dan Siegel to thank for providing us with scientific explanations for how our brains work, and why people do what they do. Brain science is not just changing how we teach; its opening up a huge door to addressing challenging behaviors more compassionately and productively.
Adults as well as children can be triggered by a frustrating or threatening situation. At that moment, the amygdala (the "downstairs" of primal part of the brain) takes over to protect us as the emotion escalate. It literally becomes disengaged from the prefrontal cortex (upstairs or decision- making part of our brain). Thus, the amygdala (downstairs brain) cannot receive information from the upstairs brain to assist in making a thoughtful choice.
Dan Siegel calls this “flipping our lid.” Until we calm our mind, the upstairs brain is unable to message the downstairs brain, so we literally react without thinking, so we often choose to fight, flee or freeze. Dan likes to tell kids, "your upstairs brain is offline. " He recommends using simple mindful practices when we notice we have been triggered, in order to calm the mind and create some space between the stimulus and our response. We are then more likely to respond instead of react. Sharing this biological cause for strong emotions and reactions with adults and students encourages us all to learn techniques for calming our minds, so we can "connect before we redirect." (Siegel, 2014).
The brain's role in causing us to react or respond to emotional triggers is easy to explain to both young children and adolescents. Visit Rearch Expert Videos to watch Dan Siegel and Jeanette Yoffee talk about "Flipping our Lids."