19th September, 2017
What are emotions? We all have them but, why do we feel them? And, can we change them?
The first question can be looked at in two different ways:
Emotions can be seen as a complex experience of thoughts, beliefs, bodily sensations and behaviour, interacting simultaneously to produce what we call an emotion. The emotion we feel reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs.
Others have argued that emotions are perceptions of changes in your body such as heart rate, breathing rate, perspiration, and hormone levels. With this view, happiness is a kind of physiological perception, not a judgment, and other emotions such as sadness and anger are mental reactions to different kinds of physiological stages.
Personally, my belief is a blend of the two as human beings experience through our senses, we build up a mental data bank of these sensorial experiences as we grow up. We code these experiences into two categories; unpleasant and/or excited feelings and calm and/or satisfied emotions. When we encounter similar experiences later on in life, the database is accessed and the stored emotional response is triggered.
Have you ever felt an emotion but not entirely sure why you are feeling that way? This is common, as the beliefs and memories that trigger our emotions tend to reside in the subconscious mind which isn’t readily accessible to us.We feel emotions as an internal indicator of past, present, or future, real or imagined, internal or internal events or stimuli. Our emotions are negative, positive, healthy or unhealthy are working for us as indicators of the world we experience.
I am especially taken by the words of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus who says “men are disturbed not by things, but by their opinion of them”. Indeed this is the basis of the first theory of emotions in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). The practice of this psychological model and its philosophy has been empirically proven to indeed able to change our negative emotional responses to more positive versions if we have able to firstly uncover our underlying core beliefs through means such as socratic questioning and methods, mindfulness, hypnotherapy etc. Once we have discovered these dogmatic, rigid and irrational core beliefs, we are able to construct new healthier versions and then through behavioural repetition and force, we begin to form new neural pathways and experience healthier emotions and behavioural responses.
If we have the wisdom to notice and accept what we cannot change and notice and change the things that we can, life becomes more joyful and we experience a greater sense of well-being. So, if you find yourself stuck in an undesirable emotional state, do not feel powerless or suppress them, as doing so is the root of most emotional and psychological disorders. Instead, remember you have the power to change your emotional state to experience life in a more positive and happier way. At that point, you would have re-opened the door to experience life’s joy, abundance, and aliveness - things that a hidden part of you have long been yearning for.
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