Emotional Footprints

Oct 16, 2022

Ever hear a song and find yourself transported back to prom or some other significant event in your life?  Yep.  That’s an emotional memory, which is a strong force in the brain.  Although some cognitive information fades, emotional footprints stick with us long after events have passed.

Earlier this week I found myself in the Atlanta airport with several hours to kill, so on a whim I stopped into The Barber Shop to take some weight off the top of my head – and boy, was that the right move.  It was an experience – like stepping into the bar on the old television sitcom, Cheers.  Everybody was incredibly welcoming, and the employees went out of their way to make sure their clients had a positive experience – which I did.

Unfortunately, within minutes of leaving the shop I found myself trying to get through airport security with about 300 other people.  From start to finish it took me exactly one hour and four minutes to move through the continuous maze and get cleared.  Did I mention this was the expedited TSA pre-check line?  Though I had reason to feel angry and frustrated, my brain was still saturated in positive emotions from the haircut.

That’s the power of an emotional memory.  The amygdala, an area of the brain that processes emotions, is strongly connected to the hippocampus, an area associated with memories.  This potent pairing can make or break us when it comes to daily interactions, as strong emotional states stick with us. 

Teachers, it can be disheartening knowing some of your students deal with negative emotional states outside your classroom, but I recommend you remain optimistic. Every day you have the chance to leave positive emotional footprints on your students that they will keep long after they have left your classroom.  And it’s not so much the amount of time you spend with them that makes the difference, but the impact of the experience itself.

With time, I’m certain I will forget about my hour-long wait getting through security – but my emotional state during the haircut – that positive feeling is with me to stay.  So, if you ever find yourself traveling through the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta airport, I highly recommend you stop in to have a trim at The Barber Shop.  Trust me, you’ll leave with a heavy dose of joy and a great haircut as well.

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