The Creative Citizenship Curriculum
Richard J Davidson is one of the world’s leading neuroscientist in the study of the brain structures that underpin our emotions. His theory of Emotional Styles has emerged from the study of hard data from the brain scans of countless volunteers, and in particular the study of ‘outliers’ – people who demonstrate exceptional brain states such as Buddhist monks, over 30 years of research.
In his book, The Emotional Life of the Brain, Davidson explains how there appears to be 6 styles of emotional response to stimuli and everyone has a distinctive combination of these styles. They are –
Resilience: How slowly or quickly you recover from adversity, determined by signals between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala.
Outlook: How long you are able to sustain positive emotion, based on levels of activity in the ventral striatum, a region of the brain critical for generating a sense of reward.
Social Intuition: How adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you, shaped by the interplay between the amygdala and fusiform regions.
Self-Awareness: How well you perceive physical signals that reflect your emotions, determined by the insula’s ability to interpret signals from the visceral organs.
Sensitivity to Context: How good you are at regulating your emotional responses depending on the context you find yourself in, driven by activity levels in the hippocampus.
Attention: How sharp and clear your focus is, regulated by the prefrontal cortex.
Our personalities to some extent are reflected by our emotional styles and while there are some combinations that are not helpful to ourselves or others e.g. depression is often indicated by a negative outlook and low resilience; the good news is that certain practices such as mindfulness based approaches enable us to change our emotional styles if we wish to. The changes talked about here are not on the level of modified behaviour alone but in the actual structure of the brain. Something that neuroscientists are only now discovering is the extent to which the brain can physically re-wire itself – called brain plasticity.
Our Creative Citizenship Curriculum for schools uses Context Oriented Theatre and Movement, a mindfulness based creative approach, to help all ages and ability become aware of their emotional styles and to notice how having such a style impacts their education and wellbeing. They can then decide whether they would rather develop different styles to make the most of the opportunities life presents and the innate capacities that they have.