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

Photo of cranky puppy
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 as if they were original thoughts of his. I’ve heard similar ideas bandied about for decades in an endless number of spiritual ideologies, but I naively hoped that they had gone away. To meet them again in 2010, re-packaged but not reconsidered — wow, it was a shock. It wasn’t just an angering event: I felt depressed, despairing, offended, horrified, and sort of crushed under the weight of centuries of emotionally-stunted ignorance.

I could have responded by being diplomatic and all-encompassing.  I could have utilized assuaging and comfortable social lies. I could have applied my giant vocabulary to the creation of some temporizing and politically apt non-answer. I certainly know how to do that. I could have looked really pulled-together and above the fray. But instead, I used the magic healing balm of of swearing to help myself tolerate the intense pain I was feeling. Swearing is fecking magnificent!!!

But I was in a place where kids could hear me, so that was crass.  Dang!  I hope the parents used it as a teaching moment.

Now, after many days and liberal amounts of analgesic, health-building swearing in private, I can be more nuanced in my response.

Some Thoughts about Emotions

Contrary to the opinions of many metaphysical and spiritual thinkers, thoughts do not control emotions; they can’t. Emotions are irreplaceable aspects of our intelligence, and they evolved over many hundreds of thousands of years (okay, millions; thanks Leo) to help us survive. Emotions are instinctual, protective, communicative, and meaning-generating aspects of our thought processes. Without them, we can’t understand other people, we can’t communicate or connect; we can’t love, we can’t learn properly, and we can’t even make decisions, as Antonio Damasio showed us in his classic book, Descartes’ Error.

We’ve all been trained, however, to see emotions as problematic — as lower than our thoughts, or lower than our spiritual notions — and we’ve been taught to set up hierarchies inside ourselves. We’re taught to imagine: This part of our humanity is better or higher than that part. This part is more real than that part. This part can control that part. I talk about these unfortunate ideas in my book, and I artificially separate the emotions, the mind, the body, and the spiritual aspects in order to really question what we’ve been told about emotions.

My conclusion is that what we’ve been told about emotions is nonsense, and in many cases, it’s dangerous nonsense. It’s also ignorant nonsense, because it ignores the findings of neurology, psychology, and evolutionary biology.

Emotions are not lower than thoughts; they are an integral part of thinking. In many instances, such as when you’re in actual physical danger and you need to act quickly, you’ve got to rely on your emotions to save your life. Over-thinking when something requires an emotional response can endanger you.

Emotions are not less intelligent than rational, step-by-step thinking. Again, emotions are an integral part of thinking, and without them, you would be less aware, less functional, less capable, and less intelligent. Emotions have very specific functions and offer us very specific intelligences. They’re not like our slower, step-by-step rational thinking processes, but they are equally necessary and equally intelligent.

Emotions are not the body’s reaction to thoughts. Emotions in most cases precede thoughts. Emotions are faster, more agile, and smarter about the intentions and emotional states of other people than mere intellectual ruminations can ever be. Emotions and thoughts do interact (constantly), but to call emotions a byproduct of thought shows (and let me say this without swearing this time) near-total ignorance of neurology, evolutionary biology, psychology, and intelligence itself.

Afraid of Fear, Angry about Anger

All of these confused and incorrect opinions about emotions display the crux of the issue, which is that many people see emotions as negative, irrational, or nonspiritual. This isn’t merely a view of gurus and their followers; it was also a view among scientists for many years. In the past decades, the study of emotions has gained some credibility, but it’s still impacted by these confused ideas.

The relatively new science of positive psychology is attempting to study emotions, but unfortunately, without challenging this confusion. In positive psychology, the central premise is that positive emotions such as happiness are good for you, for your health, for your relationships, and for your well-being. There are a lot of studies being done on optimism, positive affirmations, positive re-framing, and other pop psychology (and pop spirituality) staples.

Interestingly, the data aren’t supporting these premises. In fact, the data on positive psychology are leaning toward the negative. Positive affirmations can lead to a lowering of self-esteem, “positive” marital behaviors may actually damage relationships, and the entire field of positive psychology is being called into question as simply not robust enough.

But here’s the thing: these negative data are only surprising if you take the incorrect view that emotions are lower than, or less than, or subservient to thoughts, etc. For people who understand emotions as vital and irreplaceable parts of full intelligence, these seemingly surprising data elicit a “No sh!t, Sherlock” response. I mean, of course leaving most of the emotions out in the back yard while you enforce allegedly positive emotions won’t work. Enforcing some emotions and suppressing others means that you have to truncate and diminish human intelligence … of course it won’t work!

And who decides if an emotion is positive or negative in the first place? Negative to whom? Positive for what?

The socially accepted view is that there are good emotions and bad emotions. These categories have a bit of interplay, but basically, good emotions are the ones that make us easy to be around, while bad emotions are the ones that shake things up. The good emotional states are happiness, pleasantness, joy, and some forms of sadness (if an appropriately saddening situation has occurred, and if it has occurred within a recent time frame). Anger dips a little toe into the good category when it’s a response to injustice, but the acceptable time frame for anger is a lot shorter than that allowed for sadness. Notice how people will let you be sad about a senseless death for a lot longer than they’ll let you be angry about it.

The bad emotions category is very large indeed. Sadness that lasts too long (or deepens into despair or grief) is definitely bad. Depression is bad, but suicidal urges are emergency-room bad. Anger is bad, as are peevishness, righteous indignation, and wrath. Rage and fury, then, are extra-strength bad. Hatred, we won’t even go into. Jealousy is bad, bad, bad. Fear is so bad, we’ve got bumper stickers that shout to others that we, at least, haven’t got any fear – not a drop! So, all the fear-based emotions are bad, too. Anxiety, worry, and trepidation are bad, and panic is call-the-hospital bad. Shame and guilt – they’re so bad that we don’t even know what they mean any more! We’re persistently trained and implored to express (or more often, repress) our emotions so that other people feel comfortable. (from The Language of Emotions, page 26)

In truth, the concept of positive emotions is not a scientific idea, and it’s not a spiritual idea; it’s a form of social control. Sure, strong emotions such as anger or fear aren’t happy-peppy fun to have, but I challenge anyone who says they are not necessary. I also challenge the idea that strong emotions are not pro-social.

For instance, anger is one of the bad boys of the emotional world, and though almost no one will tell you this, you’ll feel anger when your position, your place in the world, your self-esteem, or your boundaries are threatened. Anger brings you the strength you need to recover from attacks to your person. However, you’ll also feel anger when you see someone else being threatened or offended against, and anger will give you the strength you need to intervene and help the other person re-set his or her boundaries. That’s clearly pro-social and positive behavior coming from a supposedly anti-social and negative emotion.

Fear is another bad boy of the emotional world, but fear is also totally necessary — not just for your survival, but for your social viability as a friend, mate, or parent. You feel fear when you sense change in your environment, and when you sense threats to your physical survival. Fear brings you the instincts, the intuition, and the street smarts you need to make it through in one piece. However, you’ll also feel fear when you see another person’s life endangered, and you may do foolishly brave things that will save the other person’s life. Fear can provoke totally pro-social behaviors, and it’s totally positive when you need it.

Shame is another emotion people run from but shouldn’t. You feel shame when your behavior may hurt another person, or when you’re going against one of your internal rules of conduct. Shame brings you the strength you need to halt your behavior and make amends. As such, shame is massively pro-social; it’s one of the most pro-social emotions going, but the myopic and confused views many people bring to their study of emotions throws shame into the shadows.

Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe asked What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding? I’m asking the same thing about the allegedly negative emotions. Because honestly, those old, tired ideas are so full of sh!t!

Just tell the kids I said “full of spit,” okay?


28 Responses

  1. Kay
    | Reply

    Interesting. It’s not just spiritual circles that make this link between thoughts and emotions. Psychiatrist David Burns also espouses, via cognitive therapy, that your thoughts inform your mood. http://www.feelinggood.com/

    Do cognitive psychologists differentiate mood from emotion?

    Food for thought.

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hi Kay, thanks for the question.

      I can’t say what all cognitive therapists do, but as far as I understand it, CBT teaches people to unhook the stories they tell themselves that can lead to uncomfortable feedback loops of emotion.

      I think that what I call a feedback loop is what CBT would call a mood. A mood is different from an emotion because it is not a momentary, fleeting feeling that comes forward to help you deal with a problem and then go on its merry way. A mood is an overarching emotional state that doesn’t move properly or resolve, and instead of accessing the help and information that an emotion brings you, a mood clogs you up and confuses you.

      For instance, worry and anxiety are feedback loops in the area of fear. Fear itself is a very helpful and necessary emotion, and it can create an incredible activation of adrenaline. This is great when you need to get quickly out of harm’s way or save someone’s life with a nutty-altruistic act of heroism.

      However, if you get into a feedback loop with fear, the activation can drive you quite loopy. In CBT, therapists get you to question your thoughts so that you can stop the loop.

      So it’s possible that thoughts can create a mood, but they can’t create an emotion. Emotions have their own reality, their own purpose, and their own intelligence.

      It is possible that some people in CBT maintain that your thoughts create your emotions; if so, I’d ask them to think again. Hah! Do you see what I did there?

  2. JY
    | Reply

    Love the dog, love the Costello song, love your spit-fire response! I say challenge on! You’re precisely right about the thoughts/emotions dichotomy. These ideas that we need to pray away negative emotions out of our spirits/psyches to be good is not helpful, not helpful at all!

  3. Leo
    | Reply

    Great post! Indeed, neuroscience is just beginning to get a grip on what emotions are, and how they interact and help guide our rational faculties. Emotions were there in the beginning, before we even were conscious, before we were even human and our emotions have evolved right along with us for millions of years. To dismiss emotions as primitive or distractions from “real” thinking is to be blind to both modern neuroscience and evolutionary biology.

    BTW: Damasio’s whole trilogy (Descartes’ Error, The Feeling Of What Happens and Looking For Spinoza) on emotions is excellent. Highly recommended reading. Not at all dry. Some of the writing, especially in LFS is right up there with Sagan in poetic beauty.

  4. Michael
    | Reply

    This is a really good post,it is revelant to the resistance that I come across daily with people when simply discussing the issue of Emotion & new ways to be with them in ourselves & others.Thank You Karla for modelling on this site what is possible with our emotional lives!!!

  5. Kay
    | Reply

    Thanks, Karla. I appreciate the fine-tuned distinction you make between mood and emotion.

  6. Jessika
    | Reply

    Great posting!!

    When I got a serious illness a few years ago that has turned out to be chronic and progressive, I got tons of comments of the necessity of not going negative. To see the positive in whatever. I was 27 at the time. Now, 7 years later, people are trying to assure me that the cure is behind the corner. At this time I am not that interested in a cure if it comes with too high of a price, I just want equilibrium.
    Too struck with pragmatism, an increasing number of medicines keeping me alive and the complications of a syndrome that turned out to be hard to manage being positive wasn’t exactly a priority. And positive about what exactly? It sucks being sick, it truly does. That is about the only thing being sick has taught me. One thing however, before I didn’t understand the expression carpe diem, I didn’t know what it meant, to live in the day.

    I had lived with a calendar booked for months in advance. Illness made, or required rather, that I slow down. I couldn’t see beyond one day at a time. For better and for worse.

    My surrounding hasn’t been all that supportive in terms of understanding the width and depth of emotions you go through. Initially I was furious, livid, depressed, but the anger ruled. I wanted to know whose fault this was? If noone else was to blame then surely I was. It was echoed among others too. As was suggestions on curing myself. Everything from positive thinking, prayer, eating fish oil and cutting out refined sugars and white flour. Oh wth, cut out anything resembling food.

    For all I know, people are trying to be kind, helpful in a time where all you can actually say that this sucks and then leave further commentary unsaid. I didn’t get sick because of negative thinking or whatever, I got sick because my autoimmune system decided that parts of my body is alien to it and tries to destroy it. In the ensuing chaos it has been suggested more than once that I, myself, could fix it if I only… Had I been given an euro everytime someone had said that, I’d be a billionaire now.

    Me and my boyfriend found Barbara Ehrenreichs book, enjoyable because it so truly echoed my, our, experience.
    I still get angry at times. Not as furious as before but angry. I stopped searching for my own failures a long time ago, from the time I started hearing what my doctor(s) had said all along. Things happen without any reason, without any causal effect ever being established. It just happens. It took me 6 months before I heard them. I was sooo entrenched in finding fault and failure, especially with me specifically. I was assured that anger is a very basic emotion and now, I much preferred being angry over that of being sad.

    We’re trying to prohibit or, at least, make anything that resemblance human emotion (except happiness) something to be combatted.
    Only when I excepted how things were, I could se that there’s (not positive) but nice and beautiful things around me. I started collecting orchids and became an amateur botanist. I care for myself but the ventures I attempted for so long in getting myself cured. I’ve stopped that.
    I eat, sleep, take my medicines, do physical therapy, whatever makes me feel a bit better. But in hind- and foresight. It is not really me that wants me cured, it’s my surroundings and relatives specifically.
    You can find happiness and peace without forbidding anger. I don’t understand why this is viewed as such scepticism from the “be happy at all times or you’ll die-people.” You’ll have a happier existence if you don’t turn bitter, bitterness can make life miserable, and you will be more alive if you allow and appreciate the full emotional range of living and being human.

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Thank Jessika, I’m so glad you found Barbara’s book. Wow, is hers the only one that helps people feel their actual feelings when they get sick?

      I hope not, but I suspect there are very few others like it. I’d like to see more of them.

      I grew up in the new age/metaphysical culture, and I can’t count the number of people who were invited to see themselves as responsible for their illnesses, their difficulties, their poverty, or whatever else. What a travesty!

      One of my best friends died last year of mesothelioma, which is a form of lung cancer she got from exposure to asbestos. She died thinking that she had failed in healing herself. I always made her laugh about such ignorant ideas, but I was one of the few people in her life who saw her disease as a disease, and not as a character flaw. She really couldn’t protect herself from the onslaught of unthinking cruelty her well-meaning friends dumped on her.

      The positive psychology and positive affirmations people seem harmless, but Barbara’s right: when something is actually wrong, their advice is dangerous and injurious to others.

      I’m glad you’ve been able to find some comfort, even though your illness is a total drag. Bless your heart!

  7. Thea Blair
    | Reply

    Hi Karla,
    I am reading your work and enjoying it tremendously. It’s like discovering a missing link in my process of self-recovery.
    In response to the claim that “thoughts create emotions”, I have found this process occurring :
    Something happens. An emotion arises in me. I avoid the experience of this emotion (and what it can teach me) by telling myself a story, ie: thought. This thought/story inspires another feeling, which I then avoid by telling myself another story, etc… I have found it quite fruitful to “leapfrog” back to the original emotion and FEEL IT. And then let it inform me.
    I have found that my mind is habituated to “protecting” me from emotions by telling me stories. That is where is see the truth in this idea that “thoughts create emotions”.

  8. Leo
    | Reply

    @Jessika: Barbara Ehrenreich’s Bright-Sided is fantastic! I read it a few weeks ago and I didn’t expect to learn very much since I already knew quite a bit about the history of the Positive Thinking movement and I’ve seen firsthand the idiocy sold to managers and entrepreneurs based on it. One of my big bugaboos is a particular business advice columnist who constantly reiterates that you must conquer your emotions in order to succeed. Anyway, I’ve always enjoyed Ehrenreich’s books so I read it anyway and I was so happy to find so much stuff that was new to me. In particular, I had no idea about Positive Psychology’s ties to the Templeton Foundation which was itself founded by a disciple of Positive Thinking. And here I thought it was just a goofy foundation that gave money to scientists to try to scientifically prove god. Oh, OK, I’m mischaracterizing Templeton’s goals a bit there but they do have an agenda to promote religion and seek to co-opt science in their favor.

  9. wayn
    | Reply

    Love your new book. I find the part about shame to be most interesting. It has been an eye opener that you define shame as violating your own standards.

    The stuff that comes from the outside world is ‘shaming’ and perhaps on further review it is more accurate to call it ‘blaming’.

    I would love to see a posting dealing with how we untangle all the old stuff that has gone from “you are a horrible child” to somehow “I am a horrible person”

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hi Wayn, I wrote a post about working with shame and blame; see if that’s close to what you were looking for.

      Leo, Barbara’s book was so useful, and I was surprised to discover that she has a graduate degree in cell biology. The depth with which she understands the nuances of the social world had me thinking she was a sociologist. After I read it, I thought, “Oh, I have GOT to get into grad school.” I’m looking at Sociology, but dangit if Social and Cognitive Psych haven’t taken over what was once called Microsociology (my favorite bit). I’m looking at the Psych dept. here at UC Santa Cruz while feeling rather grumpy that the Soc dept. is so tediously macro.

      Thea, point well taken. Thoughts and emotions continually intertwine; they’re not separate at all. You can certainly jack yourself into any number of emotional states when your thoughts go loopy. But as you point out, the emotions have a purpose and something specific to do in your psyche. In my book, I give the neocortex something helpful to do when emotions come forward — that way, the emotions and the rational mind become less toxic to one another. Yay teamwork!

  10. Bill
    | Reply

    i was confused about something in this entry. i am always open to new learning and understanding, so perhaps i am missing something. but the idea that “emotions are the bodys respones to our thoughts” , while i would not put it in those terms cuz it sounds too “new agey” ..is it that impossible to believe? let me start out by telling everyone, what came to mind as i read the entry. i thought of my co worker, who cannot stand our other co worker, because he misses so much work. her emotions are ones of anger, and resentment. i would think that her emotions are based off of her thoughts (opinions, judgements, interpretations, perceptions, etc) and therefore that is what is causing her emotions. am i wrong? so wouldnt this be a case where thought precedes emotion? also, the entry stated a case for evolutionary psychology, which i happen to agree with (although i am not well educated in it), but their are other theories of emotion that are out there, various cognitive theories , and others. i would just like some insight into my initial thoughts on this topic to see if i am off base, or maybe i am on the right track, but looking at it a little wrongly.


    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks for your question. Yes, emotions and thoughts interact, and you can seriously jack yourself up into an emotion by ruminating and muttering to yourself all day.

      But in the situation you describe, it looks as if the late co-worker who is shirking is truly causing troubles for the angry co-worker. The emotions are normal, and they are a response to the reality of the situation. Your co-worker isn’t managing her angers well, and it sounds like she’s stuck in them. But the anger and resentment for being dumped on are pretty normal emotional responses.

      Work is an especially difficult place for proper emotional functioning, because there’s so much nonsense in the workplace about positive thinking — which of course doesn’t work when something needs to be addressed or changed. You have to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book — she’s got a lot in there about the ways the workplace attempts to enforce positive thinking as a way to control employees.

      Also, check out this post on Emotion Work, which is a related topic that dovetails nicely into the subject.

  11. Jessika
    | Reply

    Thank you!! On the topic of shame, that was also intrinsically a part of it all. A good and well-behaved person does NOT get sick. And certainly not with an in-curable illness. And to make peace with life and the very real eventuality of death (since I have been that sick too), that is weird, shameful, damn outright disgusting.
    I got very depressed after a while. Perfectly normal, back then it certainly didn’t feel normal. I wanted to be abnormal in some way, maybe people would understand. It made me angry to hear that all was normal. In the years I have come to rely on medicines, periodically ALOT of them. I was early on prescribed an antidepressant. This brought on all sorts of reactions. Unfortunately one of my parents reacted so negatively that it was deafening. I shouldn’t take it, shouldn’t NEED it, better to work stuff out. Pull yourself up by the boostraps. Eventually we ended up with me saying that if I don’t take this medicine I’ll die.
    Eventually you come to terms with your limitations, at least to a degree. This is certainly not the life I wanted or envisioned for myself but then that I’m not alone in. Stuff happens, like I said above, without any particular reason, and not as a punishment.
    I hate it when I hear of people that die, like from cancer, thinking it was all their fault. Like if your friend and the mesothelioma, like she should have known of the asbestos early and protected herself. The Cancer Survivor thing, it will sound harsh but it does imply that you survive for a reason, for something you did or didn’t do. I’ve watched glimpses of an absolutely disgusting tv-show (The Incurables) where people with illnesses that are terminal survive by using diets, yoga, praying. Now, I have a religious persuasion myself, I was brought up as catholic. This added another dimension to shame and punishment and most of all GUILT. Maybe if I had prayed, maybe if I could bring myself to believe that it does make a difference but I couldn’t and can’t. And I don’t see it as I was born to be sick, all the talk of that you don’t get more than you can carry. Whoever came up with that should be shot. Anyone can buckle under the weight of events you didn’t see coming.
    And when friends that I have met over the years, when they’ve died, that is what I’ve felt. Guilt. They die, I live. There are sooo many dimensions to living, to being human, and to emotional range that just shutting it out. It takes away a part of you. And when you end up in a crisis, you’ll be utterly lost. Even more so if you’ve believed that positive thinking etc., has vaccinated you towards any kind of bad luck. We’ve had to talk about death and the ceremonies of death. Now, try doing that. Try talking about what you’d like after you die in terms of organ donation, burial, then note that you can hear a pin drop.

    As to being positive. I always seem to think that oh, it could be worse. I could have x or y disease. If I’d get x or y disease I’d find another take on it.
    I’d worry if I woke up every day and found nothing pleasurable in that day, but I can’t swoop reality under the rug, noone should be asked to do that. If I complained over the weather, the state of whatever, the news, the absence of news.

    If I fear anything these days, it’s dying and what I leave behind. I’ve got an absolutely wonderful and beloved boyfriend. God knows I left him with enough options of leaving but after he spent a few weeks at my bedside during a particularly rough patch, I just quit.

    @Leo, and others.
    Another book on the power of positive thinking, as it being used to tell people that it is your own fault that you’re poor, unemployed etc., I’d recomment another of Barbara Ehrenreichs books, Bait and Switch. Also, the history of collective joy. The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby.

    you could look into anthropology and one of it’s many sub-fields. It shares much of it’s theories and philosophers studied (Bourdieu etc). If you’ve had a sociology major you can usually be accepted. The major difference between them is scientific approach to research which is field studies.

  12. Bill
    | Reply

    thank you karla very much for your response. i downloaded the book u mentioned from audible, and i will be listening to it! thanks again!

  13. Allison Peacock
    | Reply

    Oh, Karla, I’ve fallen in love with you all over again. Thank GOD we’ve survived the “new age” and are now applying neuroscience to what we know about emotions. Next time you feel a need for a public swearing call me, Sister. I’m right there with you and even have a tag on my blog for my “sailor’s mouth!” Just sign me a fellow empath geek girl.

  14. Terre Spencer
    | Reply


    Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Some years ago, I was involved with a man and an organization (GRC) that insisted, a priori, that feelings are a result of thoughts and all feelings can be “controlled” with thoughts.

    I knew in every fiber of my body this was untrue and spoke up during the GRC training sessions, during fights with the boyfriend who “suggested” how I could think to avoid the painful feelings I was having about his NPD and addictions, yada, yada.

    I kept insisting that my painful feelings were a request to have changed circumstances. . .and since HE was not in the least inclined to make changes, (narcissists never believe anything but their own perfection, so why on earth would he behave differently?), I exited both the man and the organization.

    I am so thankful you have returned to speaking and writing about feelings. Emotional Genius has been a very important book in my library of thousands of books (that is no exaggeration). I have ordered your new book.


    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hey Allison, hellyeahs!! Empath geek girls like to swear!

      And thanks also to Terre. I’m reading the Damasio books Leo suggested earlier in this comment thread, and he’s got a really interesting tree model of emotions as responses an organism makes to its environment. I’m gonna blog on it when I finish the books (The Feeling of What Happens and Looking for Spinoza), but there’s an illustrations Damasio uses to explain how emotions arise, and it’s fascinating. You could copy it and beat the GRC people over the head with it. Or at least give them paper cuts.

  15. Terre Spencer
    | Reply


    You would be proud, I have quite a library on the topic of emotions, including Demasio’s books. I like his work and it is heading in the right direction.

    Another book that explores dissociation and emotions is is “The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotions” by Jawer and Micozzi. Although it does not work with the emotions as adeptly as you do, it describes many things that have not been explored by psychology, science and philosophy. And makes some very interesting connections. Please consider it for your reading list.

    Paper cuts? Good one! 🙂 GRC flamed out upon the death of its founder some years back. Although I heard that was an attempt at a revival. . .

    I work with survivors of relationships with sex addicts and NPDs (Narcissistic Personality Disorder)—commonly co-morbid. The trauma model is just beginning to be used for these women instead of the co-dependency model. To emerge from the trauma, we need emotional education.

    Thank you again, Karla. By the way, your newest book arrived yesterday and I began it last night. I am so impressed with it, I ordered the digital download from Sounds True this morning so I can listen while I go through my day. :}

    Blessings and Gratitude,

  16. Jednorozec Pokojowiec
    | Reply

    I got a copy of Descartes’ Error out of the library and there was one sentence in the introduction that jumped off the page and hit me over the head: ‘Feelings form the base for what humans have described for millennia as the human soul or spirit.’ Tell that to all the gurus that want to rise above the material world with all of it’s nasty emotions.

    Did you notice the Unicorn on the dust jacket?


  17. Jednorozec Pokojowiec
    | Reply

    I just came across this

    • Karla
      | Reply

      Hah Jesus and Mo!

  18. Noreen Barron
    | Reply

    Brilliant article Karla, I love your work!

  19. Renee
    | Reply

    “In truth, the concept of positive emotions is not a scientific idea, and it’s not a spiritual idea; it’s a form of social control.”

    You can say that again.

    For a few months in my early 20s, I was heavily involved with positive psychology. To be honest, it Did help me get out of a toxic environment. But it was never completely honest. It was more like “Ha ha, I’m so positive that I’m just going to deny any negativity you bring my way.” Even when listening to what’s being denied is the safer choice albeit a scary one, I know that now.

    Anyway, once I was out, I kept the positivity going and then obviously crashed. I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s book and felt so duped by the positivity movement. I ended up going in the opposite direction and started embracing negativity and pessimism with a passion, which also wasn’t helpful.

    Mistakes help growth eventually. They can also provide funny stories from the past.

    • Karla McLaren
      | Reply

      Isn’t Barbara wonderful? I love her fierce advocacy for humanity.

      I’m glad you experienced both poles and found a healing middle path!

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