Tag Archive for "Fear"

Fear: Intuition, instincts, and awareness

Welcoming the gifts of fear! As we take an empathic tour through the emotional realm, we’ve started with the emotions that help you set boundaries: Anger, guilt and shame, the masking state of apathy, and hatred. Today, we’ll look at an intuitive emotion that helps you orient yourself, connect with your instincts, and keep yourself safe: fear. Fear arises to orient you to change, novelty, or possible physical hazards. Fear focuses on the present moment and your immediate surroundings.

Bringing nuance to your emotional life

The Wonderful World of Emotional Nuance! As we study emotions empathically, I’m starting out by focusing on four ideas that are widely shared, completely accepted — and absolutely problematic. These four commonly accepted ideas actually prevent you from being able to approach your emotions — or anyone else’s — intelligently. They are: The problem with valencing (imagining that there are positive or negative emotions, or pro-social or anti-social emotions) The problem with expression and repression (having only two options for working with your emotions, both of which can be unhelpful) The problem of nuance (not understanding that emotions arise in a multitude of intensities, and are present in your every waking moment) The problem of quantity (not realizing that it is completely normal for emotions to arise in pairs, groups, and clusters) In this excerpt from my new book The Art of Empathy, let’s look at the problem of not (Read more...)

Emotions are Action-Requiring Neurological Programs, revisited

When I wrote The Language of Emotions, I had not yet found a concise definition of emotions anywhere, so I sort of tap-danced around the issue and dove into my own empathic view of emotions as unique messengers that carry specific gifts. But I read a wonderful book last year that presented the perfect definition: emotions are action-requiring neurological programs — and I relied upon this definition in my newest book, The Art of Empathy. It is an absolutely magnificent frame through which to view emotions!

Empathy and autism

Empaths, we’ve got a situation. After these most recent mass murders, people are focusing their fears onto mentally ill people and autistic people. This is not only cruel, but it’s counterproductive, since autistic people and people who are mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of crime than to commit crimes. Since the Sandy Hook murders occurred, I’ve been very quiet, reading academic books on murder and violence, selectively accessing media, and watching people in my Facebook feeds reacting, sharing information, raging, grieving, posting, counter-posting, and theorizing wildly about the young man named Adam Lanza who killed his mother and then went to a local school to kill 26 people and then himself. The opinions are still exploding, people are grandstanding, fake messages from Morgan Freeman are circulating, and feverish, ungrounded theorizing about mental illness, autism, survivalism, gun safety, and school safety are being argued about ferociously. All (Read more...)

How the world didn’t end — again

Hello time travelers! Last year, I made a prophecy about the Mayan 2012 prophecy, which is being promoted by some as either the end of the world or the beginning of a new dawn in human spiritual development. Since I grew up in a spiritual group that believed in an earlier version of this exact same prophecy, I took an empathic, historic look at prophecies that foretell the end of the world, the end of an era, or the beginning of a new, Utopian future. I’ve time traveled into the near future (you’re welcome!), and I can tell you with assurance that there will be two equal and opposite reactions on December 22nd, which is the day after the supposed end of the Mayan calendar: 1) The world won’t end, and 2) It won’t matter, because the prophecy will still feel true. End-of-the-world prophecies are powerful stories that speak a (Read more...)

Emotion Theater!

Last week, I taught Emotion Theater to the Master’s of Counseling Psychology program at the University of San Francisco. Emotion Theater is a teaching tool I created to give people an idea of how emotions interact in real time. In the book, I give each emotion its own chapter and talk about what each emotion is for, what gifts it contributes to you, how it works, how it can become disordered, and how you can get into a better relationship with it. In some chapters, I talk about interactions between emotions such as anger & sadness, anger & fear, fear & confusion, and so forth. However, in a book, I can’t really show you how all of the emotions interact — because there are so many emotions, and because their interactions are too numerous and too rapid to get down on paper.  So I created a live action teaching tool, (Read more...)

How much emotion is too much? (revisited!)

When I talk about The Language of Emotions, one of the central ideas I try to get across is that all emotions are useful. If you can approach them with care and ask them the right questions, there aren’t any “bad” emotions. Every emotion has a specific function, and all of them are important and instructive. Some very intense emotions (such as hatred and panic), which I call the “raging rapids” emotions, need to be handled with care, but in most normal cases, you can understand and work with your emotions on your own. However, there are times when you’ll need assistance with your emotions. The way to know when you need help is simple: When your emotions repeat continually and do not resolve, or when they overwhelm you or the people in your life, it’s time to find out what’s going on. When things are going well, all of (Read more...)

Emotions: Action-requiring neurological programs

In my previous post, where I asked you to tell me what you’d like to learn in this year’s online Language of Emotions course, we got a wonderful set of responses. Thanks! I’m already creating a group of learning modules based on your feedback. Thanks everybody! As I pondered your responses and requests, I kept being reminded of things I had just read in Antonio Damasio’s book, Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. It’s a good, though quite involved read, in which Damasio is laying out some theories of consciousness, based on his work as a neuroscientist. How does a brain create a mind? How does the mind create a self? What are the connections between wakefulness, consciousness, mind, and self? Can you be awake but not conscious? (Yes, for instance, in epileptic “absence” seizures.) Interestingly, Damasio puts forth the hypothesis that true self-aware and other-aware consciousness cannot occur (Read more...)

Critical thinking skills for your emotions

When I go out to speak about The Language of Emotions, I often have the audience call out the things they’ve learned about emotions. I start off by saying “Big girls don’t cry, There’s nothing to be afraid of, You should be ashamed of yourself …” and then the audience adds their own versions of the messages we all get as other people attempt to manage our emotions for us (or shame us about them). We ingest a huge number of messages about the inherent wrongness of emotions, which is one of the major reasons we grow up and learn about everything but emotions. I say in the book that humans are “intellectually brilliant, physically resourceful, spiritually imaginative, but emotionally underdeveloped.” Our ignorance about emotional development has unfortunate consequences in each of our personal lives, but it also has societal repercussions, in that the understanding of emotions has been medicalized (Read more...)

Are you positive about emotions?

As tan bear clearly shows us, if there’s one thing many people know about emotions, it’s the idea that there are positive ones and negative ones. But it’s not just silly cartoon animals that share this idea: In emotion research, the categorization of emotions into the two simple categories of positivity and negativity is called valencing. Valencing theory tells us that there are two kinds of emotions: Positively valenced emotions are evoked when something is attractive to us, and negatively valenced emotions are evoked when something is aversive. There is also some attempt to valence emotions into the categories of pro-social, which is positive, and anti-social, which is negative. What’s funny is that when you start to question the criteria under which an emotion is valenced, the categories begin to fall apart almost immediately. On page 26 in The Language of Emotions, I write: The socially accepted view is that (Read more...)

The emotion lists!

Hey!  Thanks for all your help!  We’ve got some excellent and articulated emotion lists to help us become fluent in the language of emotions. Let’s take a look at our updated emotion lists now that we’ve discussed them and organized the categories. In this post, I’ll give you the vocabulary lists without any of the explanations or caveats we had in the original posts (post 1, and post 2). Here’s a reminder about why we’re creating these lists: The more I talk to people about emotions, the more I realize how paltry our emotional vocabulary tends to be. This is a problem, because descriptive words help us understand ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t have enough names for our emotions, it’s hard to get a handle on what we’re feeling when an emotion arises. I’ve been looking at the work of cognitive psychologist who are finding that (Read more...)

Creating our emotional vocabulary

The more I talk to people about emotions, the more I realize how paltry our emotional vocabulary tends to be.  This is a problem, because descriptive words help us understand ourselves and the world around us. If we don’t have enough names for our emotions, it’s hard to get a handle on what we’re feeling when an emotion arises. I’ve been looking at the work of cognitive psychologist who are finding that having a more precise vocabulary (for instance, having specific names for light blues and dark blues, as Russian speakers do) tends to make people quicker at identifying subtle differences.  We’ve all seen that having a larger vocabulary makes us more articulate and more able to express nuance and subtlety; what is interesting is that a large vocabulary also helps your brain identify things more quickly. This can be immensely helpful where emotion are concerned! The sooner you know (Read more...)

What’s so funny ’bout “negative” emotions?

Last week, I spoke at two bookstores here in California. During one Q&A, someone asked me about the ideas a current spiritual teacher has about emotions. This teacher says that emotions are the body’s responses to thoughts. I blurted out “Oh, he’s full of sh!t.” Out loud. I experienced a complete failure of my internal monologue system. Oh shiiiite! You could hear a pin drop, and then you could hear all the angels who were dancing on that pin drop as well. Thud. Clearly, I had gone quite loopy. I forgot that you never question a spiritual teacher’s ideas. You also can’t express “negative” emotions about spiritual teachers. There’s absolutely no mechanism for those normal human behaviors in many spiritual circles. How fortunate it is that we’re not in any spiritual circle! I am sorry that I blurted out what I really thought about this guy’s ideas, but it’s not (Read more...)

Intuition is what?

People are very interested in increasing their intuition, and there’s a fascinatingly mistaken idea about intuition in many circles, which is that intuition has nothing to do with thoughts or emotions — that it comes from another place altogether. In point of fact, intuition isn’t otherworldly or extrasensory; it’s clearly an empathic skill that we all possess, and it comes directly from our emotions. In my post on the gifts of sadness, we learned to channel sadness and access the gifts of relaxation and revitalization it brings us. It is fascinating to me that many meditation systems utilize the gifts of sadness without realizing which emotion they’re using. This confusion about emotions is universal; we’re trained from our earliest days to see emotions as troublesome, or negative, or as the opposite of rationality, intuition, relaxation, or spirituality. None of that is true, but these ideas get repeated so often that they (Read more...)

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining!

Are you dealing with Passive-Aggressives? These people fall through on their promises and responsibilities and then blame everyone and everything but themselves. They also have the charming tendency to blame you or bring up grievances when you call them on their non-performance. What is going on with these people? Passive Aggression was once seen as a mental illness or personality disorder, but further research showed that we all use passive aggression when we’re faced with unpleasant tasks or authoritarian structures. Sometimes, it’s not possible to be assertive; sometimes, you gotta perform a little passive resistance. However, there are people among us who take passive resistance to new heights; they tend to use it as a life strategy rather than a momentary choice. Wikipedia has a good description of the behavior: Passive–aggressive behavior, a personality trait, is passive, sometimes obstructionist resistance to following through with expectations in interpersonal or occupational situations. (Read more...)

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