"Not very long ago, emotion was thought to be the exclusive
province of poets.... Now, a new science of emotion is discovering pathways
in our brains that create powerful emotional memories. Normally these protect
us against repeating harmful encounters and guide us to what's good. But
science is just now beginning to understand how emotional memories can
also become prisons when hijacked by anxiety or trauma."
- National Institute
of Mental Health
The STAR MAN, (in the movie of the
same name), editorialized from his unique extra-terrestrial point of view
that, " you (humans) are at your best when things are at their worst. Often
we rise to the occasion by calling on on our inner (emotional) reserves
to act out our ideals and bring them about in the face of a terrific struggle.
Just when the environment is about to evoke our personality, there is an
epiphany resulting in a kind of emotional quantum leap. Aha!
We tend to imagine our influence and control
of events and people around us to be greater that it ultimately .may be.
And we tend to minimize the extent of our ability to manage our own emotions.
In fact this is the one area of our lives where knowledge and attention
to detail makes the greatest difference. A thought comes and produces a
certain feeling in the body. The brain thinks that is what it is designed
to do. Our job is to choose which thoughts to actualize or give energy
Our emotions are shaped by our beliefs
-- by what we tell ourselves. Candace
Pert, who discovered opiate receptors and got a Nobel Prize, said that
emotions are the "glue that holds the cells of the organism together."
But of the six basic or so-called core
emotions (happiness, sadness, surprise, disgust, anger, and fear),
only one positive emotion (happiness) on the list. Probably because emotions
are human beings' warning systems as to what is really going on around
Emotions have the potential to serve us
today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions
alert us when natural human need is not being met. When we feel uncomfortable
or afraid, our need for safety is unmet. Experiences of negative emotion
are inevitable and at times useful. Even so, extreme or prolonged periods
rooted in negative emotions, can bring about related health problems
such as anxiety, depression, aggression, and stress.
is the part of the brain involved in producing and responding to nonverbal
signs of anger, avoidance, defensiveness, and fear. It is the key structure
in the brain's integration of emotional meaning with perception and experience.
The amygdala complex is composed of two almond-shaped, fingernail sized
structures that are richly and reciprocally connected to most brain areas,
especially advanced sensory processing areas.
The amygdala is capable of initiating a
sequences of chemical reactions which create extreme energy. Its principal
task is to filter and interpret incoming sensory information in the
context of our survival and emotional needs, and then to help initiate
appropriate responses such as fight or flight. Many excited gestures, grimaces,
avoidance and protective postures reflect the amygdala's turmoil. Some
brains are evidently a bit more efficient in creating such energy, as it
comes quite readily.
Our emotions are shaped by our beliefs
-- by what we tell ourselves. Clearly, our various religious, cultural
and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they
have tragically and even fatally divided us. Ignorance and closed minded
belief systems can virtually destroy resiliency which helps us survive
and "thrive." Emotions, on the other
hand, are universal. That which is classic is that which touches us all.
The challenge is how to learn to use that
energy in a constructive way more often than in a destructive way. There
are some general guidelines for managing negative emotions. Be aware of
destructive feelings that drain your energy and kill your motivation. "Am
I feeling pessimistic or resentful about something? Am I feeling hopeless
or discouraged?" A more intense form of disappointment is bitterness.
Giving other people the power to make us
happy is a surefire formula for pain and suffering.
The pain comes when we expect to be treated a certain way, when we expect
a certain response and we don't get it. Ask yourself, "Am I looking for
something on the outside to happen before I will feel happy? Am I feeling
too dependent on someone?"
Consider the parent who tells the child
"I am utterly disappointed in you," or, "you really disappointed me." Think
for a moment how you feel when someone says such things to you. You feel
guilty, blamed, inadequate, unworthy, ashamed. These are not feelings we
want to cultivate in our children! Where there is shame or guilt, there
is chaos and emotional voids that tend to fill with darkness.
The parent who uses disappointment or shame
doesn't consider the long term damages to the child's self-esteem. The
parent is simply using guilt as an expedient way to emotionally manipulate
the child as a form of control. Disappointment in another person
is basically a form of rejection and disapproval. It is powerful and toxic.
emotions may result in excessive, unreasonable or unneeded fears and
traumatic memories, such as a fear of heights, flying, the dark, bugs,
public speaking, taking tests, meeting people, asserting one's self, being
away from home and many other situations such as confrontation of any kind.
We push away some of our thoughts because we are afraid of them, but closing
off pain and hurt is not the answer, since this also closes off its polar
opposite, peace and love.
Emotions change hormone
levels, and hormone levels change emotions. As human beings we
experience change, in fact the very basis of life is change. Resisting
change is the cause of suffering. Fearing change doesn't stop it from coming,
it just makes the journey uncomfortable and sometimes unbearable. Acceptance
of each moment is the key to living a serene, happy life. Acceptance doesn't
require that you like what is happening in that moment.
By practicing, accepting and allowing all
of our own thoughts and feelings without pushing them away, without making
them bad or wrong, we will in turn learn to accept and allow other people's
thoughts and feelings. How do we do this?
emotions help us avoid danger, while positive emotions help us approach
what we need to survive (food, shelter, and procreation). For example,
during our reproductive years we respond to the secondary sexual characteristics
of a potential mate in subtle ways we may not really be aware of. The very
lucrative cosmetics industry is actually based on the simple premesis of
placing epmhasis on the eyes, lips, complexion, and hair -- personal advertisements
of suitability for mating.
Negative emotions are backward focused,
and are more automatic, while positive emotions are about the future, and
need to be cultivated by engaging the imagination in constructive ways.
Taking Positive Emotions Seriously means Cultivating
Positive Emotions to Optimize Health and Well-Being.
The "pursuit of happiness" amounts to learned
optimism, a conscious choice not to be overwhelmed by negativity. Positive
emotions are more than the absence of negative emotions. The capacity to
experience positive emotions remains an often untapped human strength.
Positive emotions can have effects beyond making people "feel good" or
improving their subjective experiences of life. They also have the potential
to broaden people's habitual modes of thinking and build their physical,
intellectual, and social resources.
Emotions affect endocrine
levels and studies have shown that contentment and joy speed recovery from
the cardiovascular aftereffects of negative emotions. Contentment and amusement
share the ability to undo negative emotional arousal. Moreover, correctional
evidence suggests that the undoing effect may extend beyond speeding physiological
recovery. In other words, their effects are likely to go beyond treating
and preventing problems that stem from negative emotions and into the realm
of building personal strength, resilience, and wellness.
emotions broaden and build and open people's mindsets, enabling creative
and flexible thinking. Finding positive meaning in adverse circumstances
may thus be another case of positive emotions undoing negative emotions,
which helps build resilience to future adversities. These resources are
durable, and can be drawn on later, long after the instigating experience
of joy has subsided, and it does appear to have reliable outcomes. In general
terms, this positive affect "enlarges the cognitive context" and leads
to increases in brain dopamine
levels, and may stimulate the release of various healing
substances in the body.
A sense of well being can be cultivated
through the use of alpha
brainwaves and relaxation practices, range from more traditional forms,
and yoga, originating in India and Asia, to more modern forms, like progressive
muscle relaxation and biofeedback,
developed in the West. Despite obvious dissimilarities across these forms,
empirical studies have shown that each form effectively treats problems
rooted in, negative emotions, including anxiety
People have long held the intuition that
positive emotions are somehow incompatible with negative emotions. Therapists
and researchers and have long operated on this intuition, either explicitly
or implicitly. Joy and related positive emotions (e.g., exhilaration and
amusement) can be described as broadening an individual's thought-action
repertoire. During most positive emotions that repertoire is broad, yielding
flexible, receptive, and to some degree unpredictable thinking and action.
During most negative emotions that repertoire
is narrow, yielding fixated, less receptive, and more predictable thinking
and action. Positive emotions and negative emotions are fundamentally incompatible
because a person's thought– action repertoire cannot be simultaneously
broad and narrow.
Finding ways to cultivate positive emotions
will forge paths towards health and well-being. This is sometimes
referred to as emotional
intelligence. It involves the ability to monitor one's own and others'
emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use the information to guide
one's thinking and actions. The most effective way to suceed is to see
yourself already having accomplished your goal, and to hold this image
in your consciousness as often as possible.
intelligence includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence,
zeal and self-motivation, empathy and social deftness. These are the qualities
that mark people who excel in real life. Forgiveness
and acceptance lead to inner peace and better physical health. In the antique
cultures this was often referred to as the wisdom
of the heart.