The Emotional Process

In one sense, you are a threat detecting “machine”.  No offense, here, as I am not saying that you are not human.

When it comes to your emotions, however, your brain is hard-wired to scan, detect, prepare you to deal with, and warn you about a possible threat that may harm you.

You might find it interesting to know that the threat detectors (primary emotions) that exist in you today have been around in humans since we lived in caves.  These threat detectors are the primary emotions I mentioned in an earlier post and helped us survive as a species.

This is how the process works.

Your senses (eyes, ears, nose, mouth and skin) are constantly scanning your surroundings.  When a threat is detected, a fast track message goes to the amygdala in your brain and to the thalamus. This message is unconscious and very fast.  The function of this message is to prepare your body to fight, run, or freeze in place.  This is the fight/flight/freeze reaction Hans Selye wrote about.  It is automatic.  If you are a gazelle on the Savannah being chased by a cheetah or a caveman with an intruder outside your cave, you want this reaction to be fast and automatic.  Your  life may depend on it.

At the same time, a slower message goes to your cerebral cortex.  This is the thinking part of your brain that has developed over time as we evolved as a species.  The cerebral cortex enables you to assess the nature of the threat and choose a response to fit the situation.

Mastering your emotions involves being aware of the emotion and learning how to respond, rather than react, to the situation.

More on this later.

Thanks for reading and I encourage you to leave a comment.

The Emotions as Tools Model

If you ask people what feelings, or emotions, are, they probably will have difficulty answering your question.  The reason for this is that, while we all have feelings, we do not receive much information or training about what feelings are, why we have them, or how to strategically use them.

To start this conversation, let me point out the words “feeling” and “emotion” are basically the same and can be used interchangeably.

That being said, the best way to think of your feelings is to view them as tools.  While you may not realize it, you are surrounded by tools. The tweezers or needle you used to remove a splinter are both tools.  Your car is a tool as are the computer you may be using to read this post or your cell phone, or your TV remote.

A tool is something that has a specific function (or multiple functions) and can be used to perform a task. The nice thing about tools is that you can learn how to use them by getting some help, reading a manual, or just using it and learning by trial and error, although this may result in wasting  a lot of time, getting hurt by misusing the tool, or getting frustrated.

While you have many emotions, there are 6 primary emotions that humans have had since we lived in caves and which helped us survive as a species.  The 6 primary emotions are: mad (anger), sad, glad (happy), fear, disgust, and surprise. With the exception of glad and surprise, all the primary emotions are primitive threat detectors and work just like your smoke detector to alert you to a perceived threat and prepare you to deal with that threat.

In my next post, I will discuss how the emotional process works.

Thanks for reading.  If you found this information helpful, please leave a comment below.