Monday, August 24, 2015

Negative emotions lead to stress, disease, and compromise the chance for success

Lucretia by Rembrandt




Whether we are anxious, angry, or sad to the point of crying, negative emotions feel like physical pain. Their complex biology and psychology becomes clear by examining the brain during and in the aftermath of negative experience.

The workings of the brain is generally measured by placing electrodes over the scalp, which give feedback of neuronal activity close to the cortical surface. High brain frequencies are important in many brain functions (such as sensory perception, analytic problem solving, motoric activity). However, negative emotional processing also involves high frequency oscillations, a detail oriented and energetically expensive, therefore tiring mental processing. The overwhelming information stresses the mind and leads to impatience. Aberrant thought patterns of psychiatric illnesses can often be traced to errors in emotional processing, such as social problems in the case of autism, persecution in paranoia, and unyielding conscientiousness in obsessive-compulsive disorder. At its extreme form problems in emotional regulation can weaken the immune system, which can even lead to disease. The possible role of emotions in mental problems and disease gives urgency to the better understanding of emotions, particularly the high brain frequencies of negative emotions, which siphons away mental power. Over the long term negative emotional states lead to insecurity, fear, and weakness.

Gradually and constantly shifting neuronal activation pattern guides mental focus, which unfolds a conceptual landscape, completely symmetric in its operation to a physical one. Like elevation in physical space, the variation of brain oscillations correspond to changes of the mental, conceptual landscape over time. Increasing brain frequencies are identical to being in lower elevation, whereas decreasing oscillations are analogue to movement toward higher elevation. A neutral state corresponds to flat landscape. Consequently, positive emotions give the sense of being on the peak of a mountain, allowing the expanding, overarching picture of an open horizon. This expanding feeling is not distracted by details. In contrast, negative emotions are analogues to being in a valley in a physical space, and correspond to a narrow, restricted and detailed focus. This way negative emotions reflect fear, and the feeling of weakness or inferiority. In studies guilt has been found to correspond to insecurity. Those weighed down by guilt consider chores to be more difficult and even overestimate their own weight.

The connection of negative emotions and high brain frequencies has been repeatedly, exhaustively shown. Moreover, negative emotions can have an insidious, long term presence. Although they often disappear from conscious awareness, they continue to manipulate the mental state from the background, corrupting mental abilities and blinding us to opportunities. Negative emotions involve chronic high brain frequencies, which lead to a perceived shortage of time (appropriately called stress). It inhibits focused work or analytic thinking and contributes to furthers negative arousal. This is supported by numerous studies on healthy brains. For example anxious individuals are attracted to and spend more time with negative stimuli (such as looking at angry faces), which only heightens their aggravation. Negative emotional states can lead to passive aggression and a tendency for judgment, criticism.

In some studies the effort to suppress negative emotion seems to reverse the negative brain state, giving hope that persistent conscious attention can lead to mental change. That is why meditation, mindfulness based therapies often work. Beyond the energy need of greater brain frequencies (which are tiring), negative emotions affect the entire body and result in long-term negative health consequences. Like the derailed train that moves inevitably toward an accident, emotional cruelty and negativity generates a constricted mental world. Over the long term, this state unfailingly gravitates toward negative psychological, mental and health consequences. Emotional weakness, fear is a typical trigger for aggression, which generates failure, sickness, family problems. Social problems and unhappiness shows close relationship to cognitive decline, mental problems, auto-immune diseases, and heart disease. The long-term consequences of emotions on well-being, success or lack of those is recognized as karma. Further reading: The Science of Consciousness.

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