Putting Feelings into Words!

Lieberman, M. D. (2007). Putting feelings into words - affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli. Psychological Science.

Lieberman’s studies substantiate the effectiveness of client-centered conversation: During a brain scan, the test subjects were shown images of faces, which expressed various emotions, such as fear or anger. The subjects responded to the observed emotions with an activity in the amygdala. The amygdala calmed down and the activity in the prefrontal cortex increased as soon as the subjects clicked on that term from a list of words describing specific emotions, which adequately described the observed feeling.  

There is one more brain research, which impressively proves as to how important it is, for an emotionally charged topic in terms of a “TOC” (Trigger point of Change), to precisely and correctly state the choice of words in a statement tree before the Coach starts with an intervention. The American psychologist Matthew Lieberman was able to confirm with the results of his research, among other things, the effect of client-centered conversation: “Putting Feelings Into Words” is the name of the title of his study (Lieberman, Putting feelings into words – affect labeling disrupts amygdala activity in response to affective stimuli, 2007).

In the brain scan, Lieberman and his research team showed to a number of test subjects the facial images of people, which expressed various emotions: Anger, rage, sadness etc. The subjects responded to these “emotional faces” with an activity in the amygdala – thus, they were physically touched and felt the observed emotions. Thereafter, a list of emotional words was given, and they were to click on the word that described the image very well: “Angry”, “sad” … etc.” According to the brain scan, exactly when the particular word was clicked, the brain activity of the observer of the image changed: The Amygdala calmed down and the activity in the cerebrum – primarily in the prefrontal cortex – increased. Thus, when a feeling does not remain just a feeling, but needs to “be expressed” by means of a language, we human beings experience a stress relief and an increase in “clear thoughts”. We could sort the emotions and, therewith, even manage them. Therefore, the testing of word and statement as the elementary part of the Neuro Linguistic Coaching and the method of wingwave Coaching is very important: Already the linguistically correct naming of the neurological responses of the body– such as, for example, by means of emotions – has a stress relieving effect and stimulates cognitive resource.

Incidentally, the test subjects were even able to assign names, such as “Mary” or “Peter” to the emotional faces – but this naming had no influence on the calming of the amygdala. The stress relief set in only with the correct naming of the emotion. This know-how has a practical application in the NLC in the client-centered conversation and in the client-centered testing using the Myostatic test. The NLC Coaches and wingwave Coaches consider the “speaking out” by the Coaching clients already as a meaningful intervention. Thereby, of particular importance is the so-called “verbalization of the emotional experiences”, and later the precise testing of the individual Vita language of the Coachee. If specific sentences or words prove to be stressors, these are – as already described – as defined as reference words and sentences – for example, the word “cleaning lady”, “economic crisis/depression”, “anger”, “helplessness”. If the resonance to the word changes towards the desired direction, it is considered as the successful Coaching result. In this way, the client-centered attitude makes the Coachee an expert on his topics: We are predominantly working with the language material of the client, and are somewhat reserved with the language material of the Coach.