Thursday, February 03, 2011

Steve Handel - Emotions Are Like Poop

The Emotion Machine is a newish blog penned by Steven Handel - I haven't had a lot of time to explore yet, but he seems to be interested in positive psychology, mindfulness meditation, and various forms of personal growth. The title of this one caught my attention.

I'm not sure I fully agree with his perspective, but it's certainly one way of looking at the issue. I just don't tend to see emotions as a "waste product," they are too important to the system of the self to be considered waste.
Emotions Are Like Poop

I don’t care what you are, whether a Buddhist monk or a sociopath, we all have emotions, and emotions play a huge role in how we think and behave.

In truth, emotions seem to be a byproduct of consciousness itself, our ability to experience the world from our own unique vantage point of self-perception. As human beings, we experience our world through a multitude of different senses. According to most research on perception, humans sense the world in over 10 different modalities: sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch, balance and acceleration, temperature, proprioception (our 3d representation of how our body is positioned), pain, direction, among other internal receptors in our lungs, bladder, esophagus and more.

This raw sensory “data” conglomerates into what we call everyday experience. It is the building blocks of all our thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships.

Our brain is so complex in arranging this data that it becomes a kind of sensory organ all on it’s own. When we reflect on a past event, we can experience that memory in an entirely different way depending on other thoughts and feelings we experience in the moment. Similarly, we can create entirely new sensory experiences through our dreams, imagination, and creativity.

Our minds are designed to eat up information and organize it in significant and meaningful ways. How we digest this information will ultimately affect our thoughts, behaviors, and well-being in the future.

Some information gets deleted, it just isn’t worth remembering. For example, do you remember what you had for lunch a year from today?. Our minds aren’t infinite in memory, so much of what we sense and experience is eventually discarded and forgotten, especially if it’s not very important.

Presumably, it’s only what the mind finds important that we actually remember. Like that time you touched a hot stove when you were 3 years old. That’s something very useful to know for your survival, right? So your brain quickly makes the association “stove → hot → pain.”

Read the whole post.
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