In my last post, I spoke about the emotional process and detecting threat.
While your emotions are designed to detect threat, this doesn’t mean that an actual threat exists.
When we were living in caves, all threats were real and would kill us. There was no ambiguity. If it looked like a threat, it was a threat. This type of threat is called a survival threat. Our emotions evolved to protect us from survival threats. Survival threats exist today and include being confronted by someone who wants to physically harm you, seeing a loved one whose life is at risk unless you are able to rescue them and so forth.
Problems arise because, today, most of the threats we face are psychological threats. Psychological threats may hurt us but are not fatal or they may not be threats at all. Threats to your ego, your values or the way you think things “should” be are psychological threats.
The emotional process involves acknowledging your feelings and the possibility that a threat actually exists, taking a deep breath before you react to both physically calm yourself down and to give you some psychological distance between you and the threat, and assessing the nature of the threat before you choose a response.
The same process occurs when you are making breakfast and you burn the toast. Your smoke detector goes off. Rather than call the fire department, you assess the nature of the threat the detector is warning you about, realize that there is no threat and throw the burnt toast away. If the smoke detector went off in the middle of the night, your assessment might be very different.
When I talk about each of the primary emotions, I will tell you what the threat is and the choices you have about responding to the threat.