Thinking Brain vs Emotional Brain

Theoretically, we all know that we have one brain each. But figuratively, we have more than one brain: the thinking brain and the emotional brain (aka the feeling brain). Come to think of it, having two brains sound sophisticated until they clash with one another. There is a constant battle between the two brains, one trying to overpower another. And, that explains the struggles we encounter in decision-making and problem-solving.

Now, here comes the science of the two brains. Our thinking part of the brain is called the cortex – the top layer of the brain. We can relate to our thinking brain – we can see how it works as we can listen to the process of our thoughts and inner conversations. (Reed, n.d.)It is what we refer to as the mind – our identity. Below the cortex is the midbrain, also known as the limbic system, which is the emotional part of the brain. It is more difficult to relate to our emotional brain because its functions are involuntary; we cannot see how they work. (Reed, n.d.)We can only feel its effects, which are both physical and emotional. For instance, we experience both physical and psychological effects when the "fight-or-flight" reflex is triggered. The amygdala, which is located in the midbrain, is supposedly the emotional brain's alarm center, and it sparks the "flight-or-fight" reflex. In this situation, we feel frightened, anxious, or heated along with our muscles tightening, adrenaline rushing, and our hearts beginning to race.

Let's imagine an everyday scenario. You know that you need to start saving up your money. You need to live on a low-budget and cut off unnecessary expenses. But you just saw a new pair of sneakers on ASOS – the one that you've wanted for a while. And, you got a fleeting thought that urged you to "treat yourself as you have been studying for five whole minutes or any applicable self-justification" so you added it to the cart and began your wait for the shipment to arrive. In this scenario, your emotional brain vanquished your thinking brain. The truth is, we are all guilty of letting our emotions run high and making impulsive decisions.

Nevertheless, your thinking brain is just as influential, though. It commands you not to go anywhere your feelings take you. Due to the thinking brain, you can make more rational decisions, analyze any given situation, compare the pros and cons effectively, and act appropriately in particular circumstances. (Kloppers, n.d.)Most importantly, you can question your instinct and use logic to scrutinize whether to go with or against your gut feeling. For example, being a confident public speaker indicates that your thinking brain has conquered the emotional brain. Speaking in front of a large group is nerve-wracking for most people. Hence, overcoming that nervousness takes using the power of your own mind. You make up your mind to nail that speech regardless of whether your emotional brain brings up any possible scenario that can go wrong or your instinct makes you hesitate, messing up with your confidence.

As mentioned above, there is always an ongoing conflict between the two brains. Sometimes, the thinking brain wins; sometimes, the emotional brain wins. Our thoughts and decisions can control most of the way we feel, but they cannot always control all of it. The emotional brain can become very compelling – this is when things like road rage, violence, and anxiety happen. When we suffer from such things, our emotional brain is forcefully in control over our thinking brain. Even if we are aware that we should not be feeling this way, our emotional brain coerces us to experience such negative feelings.

On the whole, does this mean that we need to shut down the emotional brain? Absolutely not. Display of emotions is a form of intelligence as well. We cannot solely live on our rationality and intellect; it will gradually shape us into becoming selfish and impassive. In the book, "Everything is F*cked" by Mark Manson, he envisions that the emotional brain is the driver, while the thinking brain is the passenger. Metaphorically, we are the car. He believes that the thinking brain should navigate – not pressure – the emotional brain by using sound judgment and reasoning towards the so-called journey, life. Both brains need to coexist and cooperate.


Kloppers, M. (n.d.). THE THINKING BRAIN VERSUS THE EMOTIONAL BRAIN. Retrieved from Thoughts on life and love :

Reed, S. B. (n.d.). A Tale of Two Brains–How REMAP Can Help. Retrieved from A Tale of Two Brains–How REMAP Can Help:

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