Making Changes and the Limbic Lag

What is the Limbic Lag?

It is what happens when we want to do something and something is holding back.

BrainThe  two parts of our brain that this post will address are the lymbic system and the neo-cortex

The Limbic system is fully developed at birth, it tags experiences with emotions. When it is bad it will avoid it, if it is good it wants more. It sustains life and it adjusts its settings to what is safe.

It can be (re-)programmed through experience but not through knowledge, acceptance, being listened to, being loved.

The Neo-cortex is not fully functioning at birth it develops from age 5 to the mid twenties. It is the logic mind.

When the emotional and logic mind are both developed and ‘speak the same language’ we have the wise mind.

Changing our mind/attitude does not have lasting effects if it is not combined with the reprogramming of our limbic system.

Experiencing love and acceptance helps that change.

I.e. when we had a good experience and we talk about it, write about it, relive it and we feel love and acceptance doing so from ourselves and others it contributes to the reprogramming(the new neural pathway gets reinforced, bigger)

If we are under threat emotionally the logic shuts down. Our emotions trump logic when the fight/flight, freeze response is triggered.

When we are confronted with the pain and discomfort we end up staying in our comfortzone of being trapped in our small ‘safe’ world and we are unable to tap into the endless possibilities.

We react in old familiar ways with coping mechanisms in order to adapt and survive.

We experience feelings and are unaware of whether they are related to the past or present. We can be caught up in a distorted belief system or we may shut down to the point of not being able to think even to the point of not being able to remember our own name.

When we were little we started to develop ways/habits to protect ourselves like rage, aggression, hypervigilance, submission and automatic obedience.

We may be unable to set boundaries.

These coping mechanisms provided a way to either avoid or soothe uncomfortable stress symptoms.

We can learn to be aware and to consciously respond and adapt and not only survive but strive.

This awareness means being conscious of our feelings, images and thoughts which then results in being able to chose better/healthier ways to interact with ourselves, others, the world and beyond.

We can stay present in the feeling (pain, discomfort) and the logic will kick back in again.

We can be connected with our feelings and thinking which tunes us into our wise mind.

The result of living with awareness is the ability to tap into endless possibilities and live a life with purpose.

Instead of being trapped in our small world, our comfortzone, by fully experiencing the pain and discomfort, being conscious and aware and we are then having access to the expansion of endless possibilities.

We can observe our [intlink id=”1070″ type=”post” target=”_blank”]feelings [/intlink]in a compassionate way, just be with them, feeling them in our body without judgement or analyzing.

Accept the feeling, allow them, let them be, feel them in your body. How big is it? How strong?

Avoiding the pain is immediate gratification.

‘Pushing’ through the pain leads to a life with purpose where we have something to offer the world.

The basic steps suggested in the book  ‘The Tools‘ by Phil Stutz and Barry Michels to

“Activate a force more powerful than the desire to avoid pain are:

1. Stand in your comfortzone and say “Bring it on.

2. I love pain – moving through

3. Pain sets me free!”

Read the Blog for ‘The Tools’ on Psychology today at

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39 thoughts on “Making Changes and the Limbic Lag”

  1. Yorinda, thanks for such a powerful and insightful article. I’m enthusiastic about the truth of the need for compassion, acceptance, accurate understanding, and healing love, since I’m in the professional counseling business. Additionally, I personally have been in counseling for myself in the past and currently, and I can attest to the power that a counseling relationship brings to change.

    However, loving community, friendships, and the practices of self care you described are equally powerful. And when we connect with our God in love we can truly open up to the person we were created to be and make the changes we need to make.


  2. Yorinda,

    I love the explanation of the brain and how it does not easily change. I’m not so sure about your statement “I love pain – moving through.” I know a lot of people who would resist that; they don’t want to feel the pain. Many people think they can bypass the pain of life by taking addictive substances, having emotional and sexual affairs, and by running away from personal responsibility. However, when we do face our pain and allow ourself to connect with a higher power, God, even the most painful situations can be handled and overcome.


    Dr. Erica


  3. Wow!Thanks for sharing the useful information, honestly, I haven’t heard about the limbic lag before, at least not as deep as you have described above. It’s been really interesting, thanks for this nice scientific article!


  4. HI Yorinda, First off I would like to say I loved this article, at first glance I had to wonder HUM I have never heard of the a Limbic Lag before? What is she talking about! OH The brain! Yes it s so weird how we learn things from our childhood that are programmed into our subconscious minds as we get older. This was something I really had to work on as my parents taught me that money didn’t grow on tree’s and it was very hard to get. So,this is how I thought things were… When I started to read more about the power of the mind I realized this was not true. I then started to work on my personal development, lerning different exercises to help me change this belief.. Yes! The mind is an amazing tool, I am going to share this for you, more people need t read this kind of material. Thanks for sharing. Chery 🙂


  5. Hi Yorinda. This is a fascinating post. I was especially taken with your comment about how logic shuts down when we feel emotionally threatened. I have experienced that many times in my life…often when I get in to conversations with people on controversial topics and we are not on the same side.

    I also like your focus on awareness and moving through pain. I believe that is where the power is. The more aware we are the more fulfilled and happy our lives become. Thanks for a thoughtful post.


  6. Hi Yorinda, I love the way you explain how this works, although there’s a huge part where some teachers would disagree.

    One of my favorite teachers says that instead of pushing through that pain, we should get aligned with whatever it is we are uncomfortable about doing. It might take time to get aligned, depends on the level of discomfort, but the better we feel about that thing, the better it will work for us. That way, when we do “whatever it is”, we will be inspired
    to do it. That’s a VERY brief explanation.

    Have a great weekend Yorinda!


  7. Hello Yorinda,
    wow, this post is way, way off my chart for me to understand… yes, I read it, but some how my brain does not want to learn what I read… NO, is not you or your writings… it is me who NEVER liked to read about these things and guess what, every time I have to read anything of this nature… some how it all come back and refuse to pay attention.

    Perhaps since you know about this stuff, you may know what it is, so I do not have to explain (because I would not know how anyway haha 🙂

    No matter what… I MUST say thank you for taking time to research and learn about all this stuff and sharing it here for people who can focus to learn from you… congratulation for doing a great job.


  8. I must admit, it is pretty indepth info.. I’l have to go through it a few times to make sure I get it all and then figure how I can makes some changes. Makes sense however, it is deep.. My curiosity is certainly peaked!!


  9. Wow Yorinda, You’re a wealth of fascinating and useful information. I really enjoyed learning about how are limbic system can be reprogrammed. I did not even know that there was a limbic lag before reading your informative article. I agree that learning how to deal with pain and move past it is a important key to healing.

    Love and light,



  10. Yorinda–great stuff. This is such a fascinating topic! Our brain does so much that we don’t understand or credit it for. I have read Dr. Caroline Leaf’s fascinating “Who Switched Off My Brain?” It seems incredible that we are now able to see how the brain acts differently when fed differently: depressing food brings depression, a choice of good healthy “brain food” produces a “happy brain” and a happy person. God created us in such an incredible way. . . .


  11. Hi Yorinda,

    You are on one of my favorite topics. Great job explaining!

    I always teach on why are the words we use when we speak are so important. Using low energy words such as ‘hard’, ‘worry’, ‘difficult’ or ‘problem’ stimulates negative emotions in the middle or limbic brain, slowing down or diminishing our intent. Conversely, high energy, powerful impactful words like ‘excitement’, ‘joy’, ‘fun’, ‘laughter’, ‘harmony’ or ‘success’ get the imagination flowing by stimulating the cerebral cortex–the initiator of great results.


  12. Talk about the limbic system and emotions, here’s a fantastic TED Talk about the very subject. Simon Sinek talks about our WHY and how it applies.

    What I didn’t know is that the limbic system is fully developed at birth. There is tremendous insight in just knowing that.

    Thanks, Yorinda. The little boy in me thought it was very helpful.



  13. Yorinda,
    this is my second time here.. I know that sooner or later I will get it haha :-

    As I was reading your post again, I got to understand a little more… mind you, I would not be able to explain it all… but this part I got it more clear than last time “The result of living with awareness is the ability to tap into endless possibilities and live a life with purpose.”

    I love endless possibilities and I will always strive to be aware of all what is going on around me and soon, I know I will access :-0

    Thanks so much again.


  14. Yorinda,

    You make a great point in your post — most people don’t want to deal with the pain. They do NOT want to deal with the reality of a situation. If someone at work or at home makes them feel uncomfortable, they try to convince themselves that they do NOT feel uncomfortable in those situations. That seems to be an easier strategy for the very short term. But, in no time at all, the uncomfortable, stressful situation has cropped up all over again.

    That’s why you say to just feel the pain, “love the pain” because that’s another way of saying “love reality” because sometimes Pain is Reality. And when it is, you had better deal with it or things will get worse.

    Simple example: accidentally putting you hand on the stove. When that happens, acknowledge the pain and Remove the Hand. Don’t stand there telling yourself and everyone around you that it doesn’t HURT. Not acknowledging the problem means you cannot Solve the problem.

    Great article!

    Thanks so much!

    ~ Jupiter Jim


  15. Yorinda, this is definitely some new information. Limbic lag…..I have never heard of this. However, you have written a thorough article about it and I feel enriched to have come to your blog. You have peaked my interest, of course!
    Bless you!


  16. Pain is good. It builds us. No Pain, no gain. I’ve always looked as pain as a signal that we are alive. Pain keeps you honest. Pain should be respected. “Bring it On” says it all, don’t let pain beat you. You control it…


  17. HI Yorinda,
    Thanks for a fascinating article. I also didn’t know this much about the limbic lag. I totally agree with your comment about logic shutting down when we feel emotionally threatened. Unfortunately, that happens to me when I am challenged by someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about ( I am in the alternative health field and there are many strongly opinionated people who think it is phoney). And they have a very dictatorial approach to communication. This creates an emotional response in me and I lose my ability to present a scientifically sound argument. I now avoid such discussions at the first sign that they are starting!!! This is my coping mechanism.



  18. Hi Yorinda

    Interesting concept.
    We definitely are a product of our environment. We learn from such an early age, that we can’t remember where it all started. Unfortunately if we didn’t grow up with a lot of love and be yourself it became difficult to function normally. It is always the battle we do with the demons in our heads and it takes a lifetime of work to undo the damage. The harder the circumstances one grows up in, the harder one has to work through it. But if they do they end up with more compassion, understanding and appreciation for others. Hail to the underdog!
    Good post.


  19. Hi Yorinda,
    This explains parts of the human brain very well. It is true that we become like a programmed computer with our daily habits and emotions. Becoming conscious and living moment to moment without fear really helps us to stretch, learn and grow.

    I like Neale Donald Walsch’s quote that says: “Life begins outside our comfort zone.”

    Take Care.


  20. Interesting blog post…I think regular spiritual practice helps to keep us intentional and awareness. Meditation does it for me and when I encounter agressive or negative behavior and become the observer and not the opponent…we need everything…for me opposition keeps me centered by adding contrast for me to see clearer what I need to see…Sometimes, I even change my mind. 🙂 Teresa


  21. This is an interesting idea, Yorinda. I have never heard it expressed this way. I suspect this is one of the ideas that makes journaling so effective when done with a pen or a pencil as opposed to a keyboard. The movement of our hands as we recount our past successes over again and write down our desires.

    The movement and the emotion and the thought that by giving time to our feelings we are making them more valuable and cementing them into place is a really big one. Connecting our parts into a whole, especially a whole that runs on good emotions is a terrific idea, thank you very much for sharing this with us.


  22. The wise mind is trapped in rationality and are buffered by what you’ve called the comfort zone.

    People are always more comfortable staying where they are instead of moving forward into unknown realms.

    We need to embrace pain and discomfort in order to get past this obstacle mindset and live through our wise mind.


  23. Very interesting article. We respond to just about everything from an emotional place. Emotional pain is unpleasant for sure, but you can move through it. I have experienced a lot of it, through death of parents, a brother, and “letting go” can be emotionally painful, but little gems of awareness and leanings come from the pain as well. If you are willing to see it… nice article … thank you for sharing


  24. Your post makes a lot of sense, Yorinda. Avoidance is something I learned as a small child, and I’m only now realizing the extent to which I do it even now. It’s much easier to stay in one’s comfort zone, no matter what problems that brings with it, than to face one’s feelings and do what’s needed to change things for the better.

    Willena Flewelling


  25. I learned a lot about the limbic system I did not know about before Yorinda thanks.
    “Bring it on” this si a great way to re-frame resistance and fear.
    I use a tool I call ” digging into the emotion” that is has the same effect and releases frustration, anger and negative emotions on the spot. Powerful.
    This way the rationals and emotional minds communicate in the best way to welcome infinite possibilities.


  26. I’ve never heard of Limbic Lag until now. I heard about reprogramming the subconscious, is this the same as that? I totally agree about moving past the pain and moving forward which is totally essential for healing.


  27. Yorinda – you have the greatest book suggestions – I quickly went over to Amazon and “The Tools” will be my next read.

    Our brains are so incredibly powerful – I’ve been reading about the lymbic system and the neo-cortex for a while now and am just amazed at what a difference we can make in how we approach problems if we just take a step back, become an observer for a moment and work to diffuse negative feelings and accentuate positive ones. Creating new neural pathways, isn’t the impossible dream – it can happen – it just takes patience and work.

    Thanks for anyother wonderful post.


  28. Hi Yorinda,

    You wrote, “We can observe our feelings in a compassionate way, just be with them, feeling them in our body without judgment or analyzing. Accept the feelings, allow them, let them be, feel them in your body. How big is it? How strong?”

    A wise friend once told me that is what it means to live in the present moment. When we judge ourselves for our negative feelings, we tend to resist those feelings or beat ourselves up for them. Neither reaction is helpful, and only makes things worse.

    It is a lesson I want to learn better, but even so, it has helped me tremendously in the past few years since losing our son and our son-in-law.



  29. Hi Yorinda,

    What powerful three steps!

    “Activate a force more powerful than the desire to avoid pain are:

    1. Stand in your comfortzone and say “Bring it on.

    2. I love pain – moving through

    3. Pain sets me free!”

    I had a dear friend who was badly injured in the Second World War who was left with a limp and a lot of pain in his leg.

    Once he realised the pain would be with him for life he refused to take painkillers and said it was God’s way to remind him of all the suffering others were going through.

    He lived a life of service which still inspires.


  30. Hi Yorinda,

    The limbic system, also called the reptilian brain (in the triune brain model) is a basic element that helps us deal with emotions and triggers adaptative responses. It is a nice lesson in Neurolinguistic programming.

    Yes, I am aware that we can access the limbic system and learn how to control it and use it to our own advantage. I would call this emotional education.

    Emotional education is something that should be taught in schools from day one. This would help the children become more mature, more responsible and so the environment can become more harmonious. When you are an adult, educating the limbic system is more difficult. Not impossible, just more difficult.

    It is a valuable lesson and a good post to start raising awareness about this important domain.

    Have a wonderful day


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