Emotions – The Meaning of Life

If the reason you are reading this is that the title of the blog caught your attention or raised your curiosity, keep reading and I will fully explain it.

What do you do when you don’t know what a new word means?

You consult a dictionary.

What do you do if you don’t know what an article or a news story  is trying to convey?

You seek out the opinion of experts to help you make sense of an information source that appears to be ambiguous.

What do you do if you aren’t clear what a situation you find yourself in means?

“Is this a trick question?”, you ask.

Well, not exactly.  In fact, many of the interactions you experience may actually start out being ambiguous in that they can have a different meaning based on how you have chosen to view what is going on.

Let me give you an example.  The phrase “How are you?” is very common.

In most cases, the response you get is “Fine.” or “Good”.  The meaning to the other person of what you have said is that you have acknowledged their presence. Another way to do this is to just say, “Hi.”.

But, suppose, the other person responds with something like, “Let me tell you..yesterday was terrible…”  In this case, he or she heard you ask for a detailed retelling of all the bad things that they experienced.

Same phrase, vastly different interpretations.

So, how can you get some information about how you are interpreting the interactions you have with your surroundings?

The answer is that you become aware of your emotions.

Your emotions are your first window into how you are interpreting what is happening to you.

So, it a very real sense, it is your emotions that inform you about the meaning you have given to the event that you are experiencing.

In other words, your emotions are, at least initially for you, the meaning of life.

Let’s dive into this a bit deeper.

Here is the process you (and everyone else) use to interact with your world.

You are hardwired to scan your surroundings for any threats.  This scanning is a hold-over from when we lived in caves and the threats we faced would, indeed, kill us. Our emotions were survival mechanisms whose function was to keep us alive. These survival mechanisms are reflected in the primary emotions (mad, sad, glad, fear, surprise and disgust).

When you subconsciously perceive a threat, a fast-track message goes to your Amygdala which puts you on alert.  This is the fight/flight/freeze response you are familiar with.  Note: it is actually a reaction in that you don’t really think about it.

This is  you assigning meaning to your life as you have, subconsciously, defined whatever is happening as a threat and your brain has issued an alert.

So, when you become aware of an emotion, you also become alert to the meaning or significance of this event to you.

Or, in a very real sense as I noted above, emotions are the meaning of life.

At the same time, a slower message goes to your cerebral cortex.  This is the thinking part of your brain.

It is here that you have an opportunity to change your perception based on your assessment of what it going on.

You are now moving beyond your initial subconscious emotional reaction to a rational emotional response.

When you change how you view the situation, the meaning of the situation changes to conform to your adjusted perception and the emotion you experience changes to match that perception.

Once again, your emotions reflect the meaning you give to your life.

So, while emotions are not exactly the meaning of life.  They are both a reflection of and a window into the meaning you give to the life experiences you have.

Or, to put it another way, the meaning of life.