Jump to the following topics:
- What are emotions?
- The value of emotions.
- There are no "negative" emotions.
- We can define each of the emotions.
- Techniques for managing emotions.
- They are a response which is characterized by the generation of energy within the body and psyche.
- The three emotions are fear, anger, and love. (The word "love" has many meanings; one meaning refers to the emotion of love, but there is also the "unconditional love" which is a trait of spirit.)
- Emotions are not the same as feelings. The differences are explained in the chapter regarding feelings.
- Emotions provide energy for us to confront challenges. The energy is given to us for the specific purpose of gearing us up for action (pleasant or unpleasant), such as fighting, or defending ourselves verbally, or interacting enthusiastically with another person, or running away, or working on a project. Some of this energy is provided physiologically through the release of adrenaline and other substances in the body.
- Emotions help us to communicate. They add force, depth, texture, and greater meaning to whatever we are saying.
There are no "negative" emotions. None of our emotions are "bad." When emotions are understood and used for their intended creative purposes, they all have a potential to be constructive. (In any event, our judgment of a given emotion as positive or negative is subjective, depending on the circumstance and the consequence, and even the culture in which it is expressed.) Two of our emotions -- anger and fear -- are often considered negative because:
- They are usually expressed in ways which are disruptive. For example, anger often results in arguments, fights, and other conflicts. However, the disruptions occur not because the emotions are inherently sinister but because we have not learned to manage them properly.
- They are frequently repressed. Thus they damage our psychological health. Again, the harm occurs because we have not learned how to use the emotions.
- Because they are visceral (i.e., we feel them physically), they cause a turbulence which tends to block out other contributors to our decision-making processes -- our rational thinking, our intuition, our common sense, our focus on the problem itself instead of the turbulence, etc. This is perhaps what former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt implied when he said that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself."
- They push us out of comfortable complacency where we have settled into erroneous views about ourselves. "Negative" emotions force us to question our ego boundaries, our goals, our values, our self-concept, our archetypal-field elements, etc. For example, we might become angry or fearful about circumstances which are not truly dangerous to our well-being but seem to be so only because of incorrectly defined ego boundaries; i.e., we become upset about something which is "none of our business." Instead of viewing these challenges as unpleasant because they propel us out of our comforts (however stagnant they might be), we can choose to see the emotions' energy and demands as an exciting call to a life of vigor, exploration, and growth.
We can define each of the emotions. Because I define emotion primarily as "a generation of energy," the following explanations are presented in terms of that energy, but some of the cognitive aspects -- the associated thought processes -- are also mentioned; in addition to energy and thoughts, our emotions also involve physiological changes and other attributes which are not covered in this brief overview. Many of the following experiences are called "defaults" because they arise out of our refusal to confront challenges (including the challenge of administering the primary emotions of anger, fear, and love); defaults cause discomfort because we did not use the energy in the confrontation, and so that energy festers within us.
- Anger. It is a reaction to a perceived harm to our physical health or our ego boundaries (including everything which we ascribe with our human self -- our family, or home, our plans, our freedoms, etc.) Its purpose: It gives us a heightened sense of individuality and territoriality, and an increase of energy which is given to us specifically to deal with the threat. The defaults include resentment, and bitterness.
- Anxiety. It is not an emotion; it is the default of fear. If we ignore the problem which is evoking fear, the energy remains as a vague anxiety. To resolve the anxiety, we have to backtrack through it to find the original fear and then confront the issue which frightens us.
- Depression. It is not an emotion; it is a default due to a failure to obey our impulses toward life and action. Emotions are characterized by a release of energy, and a drive toward action; depression is characterized by diminished energy and drive, because most of the original energy has already dissipated. (As I said previously, the descriptions in this list deal mostly with energy; obviously, depression and the other conditions also have other aspects, particularly related to our thoughts.)
- Envy. It is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by the festering energy which we are not using in an effort to acquire that which we envy, and it is characterized also by thoughts of hatred toward the owner of the envied object (as though his or her ownership is a threat to our ability to own something similar).
- Fear. Like anger, fear is a reaction to a perceived threat; anger is a response to damage which seems to have occurred already, but fear is a response to the possible damage which might occur. The purpose of fear: to release energy so that we can confront the circumstance; the energy which is associated with fear stimulates our thinking processes (in contrast with anger's stimulation of the body), so that we can think more clearly to analyze the threat and devise a plan. (In practice, however, fear tends to "paralyze" us; the energy is present, but we do not use it, and so this lingering energy becomes an impediment to action and thought.) The default is anxiety.
- Frustration. This can be a blend of anger and sadness; we are angry at the blockage in our movement, and sad that we have not yet achieved our goal.
- Grief. This is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by a gearing-down of a portion of the body's energy system; this gearing-down is a necessary action because the person or activity which was receiving the flow of energy and love is no longer there. The channels are being shut down; the energy which was to be directed is being dissipated.
- Guilt. This is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by the discomfort caused by the festering energy which we are not using in an effort to attain our goals. Aside from the energy aspect of guilt, it is a useful and vital alarm mechanism that informs us that we have violated our values (regardless of what those values might be).
- Happiness. Dynamically, this is the opposite of grief; instead of closing ourselves down, we are opening ourselves so that more energy can flow through us, for a fuller connection to the life around us.
- Jealousy. Jealousy is directed primarily toward a person who owns a coveted object; envy is directed more toward the object itself, but the dynamic is the similar. In both cases, there is a festering energy because we are dwelling on our desire instead of using the energy in an effort to obtain the object which we desire.
- Loneliness. This is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by the discomfort caused by the festering energy which we are not using in an effort to create social contacts.
- Love. The emotion of love is analogous to the "unconditional love" which is a trait of spirit; in both cases, there is an outflow whose nature is to seek a productive connection to something. The emotion of love is "conditional"; it is directed only toward particular people and things.
- Sadness. Sadness is similar to grief; the energy festers because we have lost (or we want) a particular person, object, or activity with which to interact energetically.
- Shame. This is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by the discomfort caused by the festering energy which we are not using in an effort to attain our goals. We have stifled that energy because we have decided that we are unworthy of attaining those goals.
- Shyness. This is not an emotion; it is a default, caused by the festering energy which is intended to be used for the acts of social contact.
- Worry. This is not an emotion; it is a default, characterized by the festering energy which was intended to be used for action to resolve the situation about which we are worrying.
Techniques for managing emotions. If we have had difficulties in knowing and revealing our emotions, we can practice with the following techniques when we are alone.
- Archetypal field-work.
- Self-talk. For example: "I enjoy expressing emotions." "I accept my emotions." "I can express emotions in a manner which is suitable."
- Directed imagination. For example, we can visualize ourselves responding with appropriate emotions. In our imagination, we see ourselves enjoying the emotional expression.
- Energy toning. Emotions are energy tones. The techniques in this list will help us to explore and develop the energy tones of the emotions.
- The "as if" principle. We can act as if we are comfortable in the expression of emotions.