Like a diary, memory does not just jot down the facts of what happens to us but also records our emotional states. Then all of this information is consolidated and stored together. So whenever we activate a memory a large scale assemblage of neurons and synapses all across the brain are recruited simultaneously. This includes neurons projecting into the amygdala, a brain region associated with intense emotions.
In one study, participants either relaxed for a few minutes or jogged in place for a few minutes and then read an article. The ones who jogged were more likely to share the article with friends later on. This is because the joggers were in a state of activation and arousal when they read the article and this information was consolidated together with the content of the article. Thus, when they recalled the article later on the joggers remembered being more excited about what it said.
The same thing happens with negative emotions like fear and anxiety. If, for instance, we have a negative experience while we are on an airplane or while we are are hearing about airplanes, those unpleasant feelings get linked to the concept of “air travel”. This can lead us to develop a fear of flying.
What is something that makes you nervous or fearful? How might you have developed the link between this concept and negative emotional state? A technique called neuro-linguistic programming can be used to eliminate these fears.