Tag Archive for "Shame"

The Myth of Negative Emotions

The Myth of Negative Emotions is of course related to The Myth of Positive Emotions In my work with emotions, I focus on the intelligence, gifts, and skills that every emotion brings to you. I don’t leave any emotions out, and I don’t treat any emotion as better or worse than any other. This unified and ecological approach to emotions treats all emotions as vital, irreplaceable aspects of your neurology, your cognition, your social skills, and your awareness. I’ve discovered over the last four decades of study, research, and practice that emotions are central to everything we do, everything we think, everything we learn, and everything we are. Emotions evolved over millions of years to help us become socially successful primates, and every single one of them is vital to our functioning. We can’t leave any of them out if we want to live whole lives with all of our (Read more...)

Embracing guilt and shame

Befriending all of your emotions! In my post on befriending your anger, I re-framed anger as a necessary emotion that supports you in developing and maintaining your healthy self image. This week, let’s look at the emotion that I call anger’s friend or partner: shame. I envision healthy anger as the sentry that calmly walks the perimeter of your self-image and watches out for any challenges to your standpoint or your sense of self. I envision shame as a related sentry emotion that turns inward and watches you and your behaviors so that you don’t unnecessarily challenge, offend against, or wound others. When it’s working well, your healthy shame helps you become a stand-up person who follows an inner code of ethics and honor — in regard to other people, certainly, but also in regard to yourself. And thankfully, when you and your shame are working well together, it won’t (Read more...)

A new option for working with your emotions!

The Wonderful World of Emotional Choice! As we enter into an empathic study of emotions, 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 (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!

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...)

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...)

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...)

Even more emotional vocabulary!

Thank you so much, commenters and Facebook pals! We did a great job with our first four emotions, and now I’d appreciate your help with the emotions Shame & Guilt, Jealousy & Envy, and the Suicidal Urge. Jealousy & Envy are especially difficult, because they’ve been mashed together in our language as if they’re the same emotion! We’ll start with a social emotion that has a ton of words associated with it. As you read, let me know: Do all of these words work for you?  Have I missed a perfect word? The Single Emotion Called Shame and Guilt In the book, I take the word guilt out of the equation pretty quickly, because I see it as a weasel word in relation to shame. I know I’m unusual in this respect, but I’m not on a wild-eyed crusade to rid the English language of the word guilt! However, I (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...)

Reworking a toxic emotion

The main message in The Language of Emotions is that all emotions are necessary. And yet, we all know that emotions can be really troublesome. So how do you take an emotion that’s a total drag and turn it back into an asset? First, you learn what the emotion is supposed to do and what message it carries. I find that when people know what their emotion is asking of them, they have a much easier time working with it. For instance, if you know that anger is about boundaries, you can look at an overabundance (or lack) of anger and re-frame the entire situation in terms of how you set (or ignore) boundaries. When you know what emotions are for, it’s a heck of a lot easier to work with them. However, we often get ourselves into a rut with certain emotions. Maybe we’re very forceful and angry at (Read more...)

The Gifts of Shame

In posts about Tiger Woods on Friday and Saturday, I followed the thread on an article about his anger, but then realized that what he’s dealing with is actually shame. So I blogged away and didn’t realize that my take on shame is unique, to say the least! So let me fill in some information on shame so we’re all on the same page. First, I take guilt out of the shame equation, because it’s a weasel word in relation to shame. Shame, which is often thrown at us or pressed onto us by others, can be so overwhelming that we’ll take a detour and say, “I feel guilty” rather than naming the emotion and saying “I feel ashamed of myself.” But here’s the problem with that: guilt isn’t an emotion; it’s a legal fact. Either you’ve done something wrong and you’re guilty, or you’re innocent and not guilty. Emotions (Read more...)

But is it really Anger?

You know, I was mistaken yesterday in my post on Tiger Woods and his anger management. Because, I think what he’s got a problem with isn’t anger; it’s shame (which is anger at yourself). From what I can tell, Tiger Woods explodes when he makes a mistake, which means he’s working with shame. And as we all know, shame can be a very tricky emotion. What I look for in a person’s relationship to shame is when the shame arises and how it’s handled. For instance, if you’ve got a bad habit you’re trying to break (like poor eating or poor exercise habits, drinking, smoking, too much interwebs, etc.), and you just cannot break the pattern, you need to work with your shame. When it’s healthy, your shame will arise before you do something you shouldn’t. You’ll think of eating a candy bar, but you won’t because you know you (Read more...)