As social beings, we as humans have integral systems within us that ensure our survival and allow us to thrive. Both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are necessary to our overall quality of life. The sympathetic nervous system navigates our actions for survival and the parasympathetic nervous system renews our minds and bodies, allowing us to be more open to opportunities, learning, and change.
According to Richard Boyatzis, Distinguished University Professor, at Case Western Reserve University, there are two primary states, the Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA) and Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), that are characterized by emotional arousal, endocrine arousal of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems, and neurological activation. These states dictate whether someone is open to change, opportunities, and learning, or on the defense ready to do what’s necessary to survive. Both of these states are self-regulating. The NEA is linked with the sympathetic nervous system and determines our actions for survival. Hormones are secreted that initiate the fight/flight response, which shuts down our thriving functionalities of our brain so that our bodies are ready to do what is necessary for our survival. When in the sympathetic nervous system, we are closed off to change, learning, and opportunities. We become defensive and hyper focused on what is necessary to survive. So thank goodness for the sympathetic nervous system because that is why we are still living and breathing today.
The interesting thing is that because we have evolved in our culture and the advancements of medicine and other safety precautions, our sympathetic nervous systems are still reacting in situations that are no longer considered fatal or dangerous. This is why the PEA and parasympathetic nervous system are more applicable today in our ability to thrive and obtain overall success in life. The changes to our physiology by being in the parasympathetic nervous system allows us to be more open to change, learning, and opportunities giving us a greater chance to sustain desirable change. In a society that is ever-changing it is imperative that we are able to adapt quickly in ways that renew and minimize stress. The PEA and parasympathetic nervous system are necessary for our growth and ability to thrive in a performance-seeking culture.
To conclude, the PEA and NEA are necessary emotional states. These states are determined by our environment in which we interact and determine whether we will enter the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system sustains our survival, while the parasympathetic nervous system allows us to grow, renew, and thrive in our ever-changing world.