Monday, May 19, 2014

Emotion, an evolutionary survival tool

Four Boys at Lake Tanganyika by Martin Munkacsi
In all appearances the mind rules over the body, but in reality an elaborate regulation of behavior is governed by emotions. From the food we choose, the position we sit in, our constant body temperature, our desires and complaints are all controlled by emotions. Nevertheless, frequent emotional actions gradually lose their emotional charge and become automatic. For example, when we first learned to walk, it started out as an emotionally motivated struggle to stay upright, but gradually it became under the control of the automatic brain. Emotional and automatic mental operation works in such seamless unison that we have the perfect illusion of having full control. This way, emotions have immense role not only in our conscious actions, but in every aspect of our lives, and emotional intelligence is the major contributor of intellectual abilities. "People who lack emotions because of brain injuries often have difficulty making decisions at all. ...Emotions are part of the process of homeostasis, by which the body maintains its stability," says neuroscientist Damasio.

Emotional states feel permanent; pain or joy feels as if it would exist forever, but when they depart, their experience evaporates, as if they never existed. This fact has a great role in motivation. Because pain and suffering is so easily forgotten, we can find new strength to go on with life and through the feeling of permanence, emotions do propel actions. Emotions are permanent phenomena of life, and their intensity can only change through interaction. They may disappear from conscious awareness, but negative emotions keep manipulating the mental state from the background leading to stress, corrupting mental abilities for extended time, until their emotional charge is transferred through interactions.

So the mind-body relationship depends on the state of the body (and by extension our social state) being reflected through the sensory system. We cannot control our emotions. However, emotions can be mastered. Sign up for my mailing list to never miss a post. 


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