Monday, September 7, 2015

The emotional complexity of the mental world

File:Eeg gamma.svg
Gamma wave recording by Hugo Gambo

An increasing number of studies show that negative emotions tend to have an insidious, long term presence, which is bad for health, toxic for relationships and damaging for a career. Surprisingly however, negative emotions can and often play a role in long term success. Although positive emotions are the most important generators of personal and professional success, in some cases, luxury and comfort can lead to laziness and mediocrity. Promising, overconfident young talents can morph into disillusioned, bitter personalities, with insignificant lives. The above contradictions indicate the complexity of emotional regulation.

Our inner thoughts stretch out into the past or the future, but we respond to stimulus (by actions and behavior) in a fraction of a second. This fast reaction rate does not leave time for careful analysis or analytic thinking. The action part of our lives necessarily occurs in a completely automatic fashion, directed by our momentary mental state. We know that positive emotions feel good and they have powerful health benefits, yet we cannot help feeling blue, aggravated, or get teary eyed when faced with tragedy. Emotions are not under conscious control and have unstoppable power in directing our lives.

Emotions are energy states; therefore they cannot be altered without interaction with the outside world! However, changing our attitude about a situation is like switching the car into reverse. Attitude can overturn the emotional charge between positive and negative intention in an instant (for example, love can turn into hate or vice versa). This is the reason, negative emotions can propel someone toward success and positive emotions can lead to failure. For example, stress affects almost everybody from time to time, yet some people manage to strive in spite, or because of stress. Those, who can maintain focus on positive attachments or goals (by positive attitude), will transform a negative emotional state into positive one, greater brain frequencies into lower ones. This process requires patience and determination, but if done consequently, it will lead to long term success. It is therefore often found that personal challenges, which can even take the form of a physical handicap, can become the source of exceptional creative and professional success.

Goals are powerful motivators toward success. Even in robotic simulations a characteristic future control grabbing is found by Wissner-Gross and Freer. Both immediate satisfaction (short term joy) and aggravation by unsatisfactory circumstances exhausts future opportunities by using up energies in the present. Mental calm, non-reaction in the present on the other hand conserves energy for progress, increasing future freedom. How to navigate life's emotional complexity? The situation can be well visualized as a moving boat. As side-to-side movements slow the boat, emotional storms derail progress, but a fast moving boat cannot rocks side to side. Recent scientific studies support the above claim and can be found in my book. Emotional stability is an inner confidence, which is the engine of mental progress. What kind of a boat are you? Can you reliably regain your inner calm when things are tough?

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