Emotional reactions – The true nature of emotions and how they work.
The action-reaction pattern starts when we are still in our mother’s womb. We react to the noises of the outside world. Not only can a baby hear the sounds of his mother body, her stomach growling, her heart beating, the occasional hiccup or burn but he can also hear noises from beyond. Of course, not all sounds are the same. Perhaps the most significant one a baby hears in utero is his mother’s voice.
Around the seventh and eighth month, a fetus heart rate slows down slightly whenever his mother is speaking, indicated that mom’s voice has a calming effect. The same way we react to the light when we come out to the world and to our mother’s first hug. And that continues as we grow up until our last living second. The reaction is something that happens and we can’t control it. The way we react is something that we can manage when it comes to emotions.
Now, what is emotion? Emotion, in everyday speech, is any relatively brief conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a high degree of pleasure or displeasure. Emotion is often intertwined with mood, temperament, personality, disposition, and motivation. In some theories, cognition is an important aspect of emotion. Those acting primarily on emotion may seem as if they are not thinking, but mental processes are still essential, particularly in the interpretation of events. For example, the realization of danger and subsequent arousal of the nervous system (e.g. rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweating, muscle tension) is integral to the experience of fear.
Emotions are complex. They are a state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence our behaviour.
But are the emotions really complex as we think? Research on emotion has increased significantly over the past two decades with many fields contributing including psychology, neuroscience, endocrinology, medicine, history, sociology, and even computer science. The numerous theories that attempt to explain the origin, neurobiology, experience and function of emotions have only fostered more intense research on this topic.
The truth is that emotions are not that complex. Actually, they are much simpler than we think. They are so simple to understand that even a child could identify and interpret them exactly the way they are because he has the experience of that, he is living it in real time. He is feeling it, he knows how it feels to be in that state of fear or being angry or sad. What he doesn’t know is why is feeling like that. As we grow up we are getting more familiar with our feelings and it is easier to manage them. That’s why the most of the psychological traumas we have are responses to chronic or repetitive experiences such as child abuse, neglect, combat, urban violence, concentration camps, battering relationships, and enduring deprivation.
A traumatic event or situation creates psychological trauma when it overwhelms the individual’s ability to cope, and leaves that person fearing death, annihilation, mutilation, or psychosis. The individual may feel emotional, cognitively, and physically overwhelmed. The circumstances of the event commonly include abuse of power,
betrayal of trust, entrapment, helplessness, pain, confusion, and/or loss. And that is the key to understanding traumatic events. Is that it refers to extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. And what is that age we don’t have the ability to cope? When we are still very young of course and we depend on others and our perception of life is still under construction.
The way our body biological response to a virus, the same way our body response to a feeling. For example, what is inflammation? Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection. The aim being to remove harmful stimuli, including damaged cells, irritants, or pathogens and begin the healing process. When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it, the signs and symptoms of inflammation, specifically acute inflammation, show that the body is trying to heal itself.
Inflammation does not mean infection, even when an infection causes inflammation. Infection is caused by a bacterium, virus or fungus while
inflammation is the body’s response to it. Emotions are based on a psychological aspect of feeling and a physical or physiological aspect of bodily reaction.
Emotions based on internal stimuli could first involve a feeling or a psychological condition and this would, in turn, cause a bodily reaction. Depression, for instance, could cause sleeplessness and other physical reactions. Emotions based on external stimuli as in anger could first involve a bodily reaction as when there is a heated argument we feel a faster heartbeat and other bodily reactions. These bodily changes then produce the psychological aspect of anger.
Our body is actually trying to protect itself responding to a feeling, the same way it would
respond to a virus which causes the infection.
What is coming out of us is infecting us and slowly killing us and not what is coming in. While we can’t control our body’s reaction in that case of a heated argument, which makes us feel angry, the way we, in turn, react to anger is something we can manage. Is our choice to react back with anger or we can choose calmness. If we decided to cool down ourselves, what we have actually chosen is to consciously protect ourselves and instantly our body is starting the inflammation process removing that feeling of anger and trying to heal itself. If we let that feeling take control, is like giving up to the enemy, is like consciously
letting the virus do its work. It’s like suicide. We have chosen to harm ourselves and threatening the lives of the people around us. It sounds really bad, but it’s true. We can’t choose how the other people live and behave, we can choose only how we live and behave.
Ourselves, our bodies are designed and always prepared to fight back anything that would try to do harm and destroy us. The only thing we have to do is to choose on which side we want to be. On our side or against us?
We are only responsible for what turn our lives would take and unfortunately while taking the wrong turn we do harm to others as well.
We are our emotions. Is absolutely normal to feel bad at times, to feel angry, stressed, confusing. Depression and fear are taking over us sometimes and we feel lost and abandoned and unable to deal with life. But that’s normal as normal it is to feel good and happy. Emotions, negative or positive are a big part of what we are. We need to accept and make peace with any kind of emotion we might experience. We need to make peace with ourselves. And then, only then we could be able to understand the true nature of what we are and why we feel the way we feel and how to deal with life and what life has to offer us. We need to fight in cooperation with ourselves and not against us. We need to react the way we already know is the best for us. And learning to put the right value on things will
always keep us in line with reality, which in turn, will keep the balance we really need and want inside us. So instead of backing away from negative emotions, we should accept them. Acknowledge how we are feeling without rushing to change our emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. And surely they will, is just a matter of
time. A thought is a thought and a feeling is just a feeling, nothing more. We put great value on our negative feelings. We often see them as huge mountains we have to climb in order to overcome them when what we really have to deal with is just a small hill. And having that perception of our problems and our feelings leads us to avoid life itself and all kind of feelings, positive or negative. In order to protect ourselves from the negative feelings, we sacrifice the positive ones as well. We sacrifice good relationships and good times. We choose the apathy as the way out. We choose not to empathize with other people because we afraid of being hurt when empathy as emotion is a positive emotion and it would make us feel good. What we actually do is overthinking and overreacting.
Our way of thinking and reacting doesn’t always correspond to reality. And that’s the problem. It’s like an illusion we create in our minds which constantly trying to avoid. We live in our own reality. That’s why we need to put the right value on our
problems, to our feelings, to everything and face reality as it is and not as we think it is. We are suffering from a false realization of what life is given in desperation. Reality itself and only its truth are going to set us free.
We slowly become the emotions we feed the most. Emotions could be positive and negative as we know as the positive emotions are love and happiness, empathy, affection, curiosity, ecstasy and the negative emotions are jealousy, hatred, grief, anxiety, frustration etc. We need to choose love even when love is not there and is hard for us to find it. We are looking desperately to find love outside in the world. We must know that love exists inside all of us. The only thing we have to do is just letting it out. It doesn’t matter how the other people treat us.
We are not the other people, we are our unique selves. We should treat everybody the way we would like to treat us. The way we react to everything determines the kind of life we are going to have and the way the other people are going to treat us. If we feed our anger reacting with anger we slowly become that feeling.
At the end of the day, we choose what emotions we would like to become and that’s the good news! We can have our emotions under control. We are driving ourselves to that race is called life, having already the map that shows us the way. Life itself is our guide. Experience is our teacher. Even when we are living a true nightmare remember that we are still alive. And what does that mean? It means that we still have the chance to become what exactly we want and live the life the way that makes us feel good and strong and happy. We still have the chance to choose life over death, love over hate. We still have the chance to become the positive emotions we need to become. The ones that would make the difference and positively influence others on our way to happiness.