Transforming relationship break ups and breakdowns into breakthroughs
So why we have emotions is your first module in the Emotions Master Class series. Im really excited to share this master class with you and I am honoured that you chose to work with me through this.
I actually think a better question to begin with would be why do we have so many problems because of emotions? Thinking of your relationships can you you think of a time when emotions have created some havoc for you?
Emotions hold the keys to the quality of our relationships, the keys to our health an indeed the keys to the quality of our lives. And at the same time, emotions can literally destroy us, and bring us to our knees in an instant. It's almost as if our creator was messing around with their sense of humour at our expense. Its not all bad though, when you get curious about emotions and open your mind to new understanding.
If you look far back enough in time you discover why we have emotions. The unsophisticated origins of man were based on two clear principles:
First we needed emotions to develop a sharp intuitive sense of danger. Maybe you became face to face with a tiger. Fight or flight. Heart pumping blood rushing, adrenaline forming preparedness in order to survive or even defeat the threat.
Second we needed a keen eye, a keen nose, and keen taste buds to identify sources of nourishment that wouldn't make us sick. Certain colours would be more attractive or pleasing to the eye for instance.
Alongside those two key principles we had the overriding goal of evolving as a species, which meant mating, reproduction and nurturing the man cubs.
Fast forward around half a million years and we still hold those early emotional lessons deep in our subconscious. We experience fight or flight even when there is no tiger in the room!
Even today we can acknowledge two prime emotions as our key motivators. Since we have become a little more sophisticated we can look upon these as pleasure or pain. You are motivated primarily to avoid pain, but also to gain pleasure. Some people mix the two up, but that's a whole different relationship encounter I don't need to get into here.
So that's basically why humans have emotions.
The emergence of neuroscience and psychology has enabled us to not only recognise why we have emotions but also that emotions are the equivalent of electrical energy or pulses of energy on particular parts of the brain. The pulsed energy links one area to another and forms a neural pathway. The repetition of the emotion lights up the same neural pathway and with increased repetition can make the pulse occur without significant stimuli.
The impact of the the thoughts, and the locations of the pulses within the brain can determine a specific chemical or hormone release which thus creates a physical reaction in the body. Some scientist refer to the physical reaction as arousal, in a general sense as opposed to sexual, although the sexual desire emotions and subsequent physical arousal offer clear support for this theory.
I think the most interesting aspect of arousal is that it is almost impossible to directly think about the result and achieving it. For instance, you cannot simply think about increasing your blood pressure or heart rate and create a result, but you can think about particular stimuli that will then lead to that result being created for you.
Try telling your body to shiver. It won't work. Think about a cat walking past your leg and brushing your shins. Then looking down to stroke it you realise there was no cat there. This will definitely work for some!
When you think about why we have emotions you have to realise the benefits as opposed to anything else. Emotions serve us and help us make sense of the world. They make our experience of reality totally unique. Nobody else can see the world exactly as you see it. Reality is therefore merely a construction of your emotions, values, and beliefs.
We need emotions to move us, to sooth us, to get us going or to calm us down. They work to stimulate or regulate us. They drive us to achieve things we want, or avoid things we don't want.
Another reason why we have emotions is that they help us remember and recall more easily. This principle is one of the keys to effective mind mapping. Create an emotional response to whatever it is you are learning and it will stay with you. The more powerful the emotional response, the stronger the memory.
I anticipate that you had little trouble remembering these significant events.
Did you know, that you can utilise the power of emotions on purpose? I will reveal more about utilising the power of emotions in module 5: How to Master Your Emotions.
In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear presents a formula for breaking down the process of our habits. He identifies four steps:
Habits can explain the importance of why we have emotions. If there were no cravings and no reward it is difficult to imagine how we would ever amount to very much.
If there is no desire (craving) to act (response), what (cue) would make you want (reward) to act? We would become automatons, ready to be programmed to function in whatever capacity the programmer desired.
Think of habit you have that you either like or don't like.
Can you identify the emotions in relation to the habit?
How are they linked to your reward?
How can you make the habit stronger or less strong by shifting your thoughts?
Emotions don't just affect our habits. Emotions if left uncontrolled or bottled can explode in dramatic fashion. Sometimes passionate people express their emotions with passion which can be overwhelming for more mild mannered type people.
Emotions can also direct you to things you find pleasing or attractive. You will link emotional associations with objects, people, places, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes.
Name an aroma that when you smell it is absolutely delightful.
Now name an aroma that when you smell it is absolutely revolting. The emotional response allows you to unconsciously sort and catalogue your memories to support your survival. That is precisely why we have emotions.
In a survival sense we have a lot to thank our ancestors for. They had to learn which berries gave them energy, and which made them sick. They had no concept of why we have emotions, only what helped them survive and thrive. Thankfully we don't have to learn at that level anymore, we just pick it up as we grow. Thats how we are able to even spend time considering why we have emotions in the first place.
You have probably heard the saying that repetition is the mother of skill. Experiencing emotions with a degree of frequency can elicit a particular response.
Try this example:
Think of seeing a big juicy lemon in your minds eye. Then reach out and pick it up. Notice the the lemony scent drift into your nose before you bite down into it. Feel the cool bitter juices flowing down over your tongue.
Ok stop that. Clear the thought from your mind.
But before you do, did you notice any response in your mouth? Did your salivary glands open up. Did your cheeks pull slightly tighter in anticipation of the bitter juices?
This is why we have emotions. Emotions can trigger within us. The dripping tap moves from the look of the lemon, to the feel of its skins texture, to the smell, and finally the taste. Eventually the dripping tap will overwhelm us and elicit a physical response in the body.
I have heard many stories about a person who had done or said something that triggered the story teller and cause them to behave a certain way. I even have my own stories. We all get triggered at some stage. And we all trigger someone else at some stage too. Why do we have emotions when they create such havoc?
Men often tell me how their partner had done or said something, and then how they had responded and how it all ended in a huge relationship battle. Guns were loaded, sights were aimed and the triggers were pulled.
Why do they treat me like that?
Why do they make me feel so useless all the time?
Neither of them wanted to fight, so why did it happen in the first place? They fight and then make up and things work out for a while before boom it goes off again.
It's like entering into a peace agreement because you know the other side has just as many nuclear warheads as you. You are not in a relationship for protection from your partner. You are in there to love and be loved.
Instead you become a slave to your emotions, and confused at who you have become and why we have emotions at all.
Trying to communicate becomes strained. Its like walking on thin ice all the time while emotions are firing.
Some studies suggest significant emotional events (cue) can create locked-in automated responses in our unconscious mind. Those events can affect us without conscious thought. At one extreme phobia's are an intense and immediate fear response to a particular stimulus.
Some say that phobia's are an "irrational response" to the stimulus, such as stepping onto an escalator or even looking at pictures of holes. Yet despite the irrational nature of the fear itself, the phobia still exists for a specific purpose of protection. The trouble with a phobia is that it has total control over the persons emotional reaction, whether or not there is an actual benefit by achieving the reward (protection). Some phobia's can be particularly embarrassing, or debilitating, while others have minimal consequences.
Post traumatic stress can occur as a result of intense stressful situation or disturbing events. PTSD linked initially with military conflict situations is now recognised in other "peacetime" situations. Rape, relationship abuse, physical assault, or even witnessing those events can lead to post traumatic stress type issues. As can prolonged exposure to abusive treatment such as bullying or harassment.
As I have already pointed out emotions don’t have to be extreme to create an unconscious reaction that re-surfaces when triggered.
Clients tell me about their spouse, boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, managers, colleagues, shop assistants, or just a random stranger events that get them furious and what they did that caused the in response.
I have experienced similar states with friends, colleagues, bosses, and partners. The problem with that level thinking is that it abstracts us from all responsibility for our own desired emotional state.
When did you last wake up in the morning and actually set the intention to become angry at anything and everything your partner did or said?
In other words, you become the slave to your own emotional responses to these real life situations. If you let them get a grip they won't let go of you.
So to draw this in for now, that's generally why we have emotions.
Now that you have considered why we have emotions you can take the next step for your Emotions Master Class. Coming up in module 2 you will discover the different types of emotion and how they might show up for you in your relationships.
Dive right in here: Different types of emotion
See you on the flip side!
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