Working with emotion: Our internal climate

Summary

  • Emotion arises in order to affect us – to create (or stop) change.
  • Internal affect is achieved by creating physical change in our body, often pushing us out of homeostasis / balance, and our interoceptive system (internal body awareness) brings this to conscious awareness.
  • The physical changes in our body are experienced on a scale from pleasant to unpleasant, and from none to strong activation.
  • We can unconsciously create physical changes that impact us through emotion by not looking after our physical wellbeing (pushing ourselves out of balance), so: sleep, eat well, rest and move.
  • To recognise the function of a particular emotion (what change it’s trying to push us toward), we combine our internal awareness, with our context and thoughts. This is a skill than can be actively developed.
  • The ability to describe our emotional state accurately, using precise vocabulary, seems to really help in growing our emotional skills, and working well particularly with unpleasant emotion.
  • To improve our emotional skills, we can:
    • Improve our emotional vocabulary, even creating our own words that mean something to us.
    • Bring mindful awareness to our emotional state, and describing or labelling it.
    • Articulate our own drives and nuances, along with how to nurture them.
    • Exploring the function of specific states when they arise.
  • We can grow our skill in pleasant emotion by experiencing it, for example, through savouring, gratitude and compassion.

The red or blue pill?

Take blue pill and stay in ignorance about how our emotional system works, continue to flight it, feel stress not because of reality (yes, that unpleasant thing really happened), but because of it (I shouldn’t feel like this, why can’t I stop thinking about it, everybody thinks I’m rubbish, it’s not fair, …).

Take the red pill though, and explore emotion, be curious about how and why it works, and your own unique recognition and expression; what it’s trying to get you to do, in full knowledge that it may come with irrational thoughts that you don’t have to beleive or go along with, it’s just part of the territory.  Taking the red pill doesn’t guarantee a pleasant life, but it is a great approach to reduce the amount of self-administered unpleasant emotion, living more with reality rather than the layers of unhelpful belief that may come with the blue pill.

Emotions are physical and are required for decision making

It’s easy to think that decision making, particularly at work or in realms of perceived objectivity, are the antithisis of emotion.  But that’s not the case.  This is one area where the incredibly helpful chimp paradox model falls down – decisions combine muliple thinking styles both rational and emotional are required, I used this clip from David Engleman’s series on The Brain to illustrate:

 

References