Announcing a new and improved Index!

To my Readers:

In order to make it easier for you to access the valuable information on this blog that is most relevant to you, I have revised the Index so that it now reflects specific topics.

These are the topic headings:

Using Emotions as Tools (including facts you didn’t know, your emotional toolkit, and more)

Anger (including anger mastery, you as a target of other’s anger, and more)

Other Emotions (fear, anxiety, empathy, regret, jealousy, regret, stress, and more)

Relationships and Emotions (conflict resolution, empathy, living in an emotional world, and more.)

Words and Emotions (you cannot not communicate, what vs why, atomic power of words, and more)

Here is HOW you can get to the article that interests you:

  • Go to the Index by clicking on the Index tab above.
  • Go the the Specific Topic.
  • Find the Article that addresses the information you want.
  • Note the Date of Publication.
  • Go to the Archives to the right of the page.
  • Click on the Date.
  • Scroll to the article.
  • Enjoy.

I write this blog for you.  Please let me know how I can improve it by sending me an email with “blog” in the subject line.

  • My email address is: TheEmotionsDoctor (at)
  • Please be assured that I do not collect or share email addresses and I will never spam you.

To your continued learning…..

The Emotions Doctor


Physical and Emotional “pain”—The same to the brain.

About a year ago, a column (Ask the Doctors) appeared in my local newspaper written by two medical doctors in which these doctors discussed a study conducted by Naomi Eisenberger, Ph.D. at UCLA. Dr. Eisenberger discovered that the same parts of the brain which react to physical pain also react to emotional pain.

The two doctors concluded from a psycho-evolutionary perspective that “physical pain alerts us to injury (and) emotional pain warns us that we may be drifting too far from our fellow humans.  Both types of pain put us at grave risk (and) we need to take emotional pain just as seriously as we do physical pain. (Emphasis added.)”

I found this article fascinating as it is highly consistent with the Emotions as Tools Model I have written about in this blog and my two Amazon bestselling books.

Pain is a messenger that alerts us to a situation that needs our attention and prepares us to take specific action.

Examples of physical pain include:

You touch the hot handle on a pan, you feel pain, and you remove your hand.

You pick up an object, your back says “ouch”, and you stay away from lifting anything for a while.

If you don’t have pain sensors which give you this kind of feedback, you can find yourself in serious trouble.  I know of a person who was born with no nerves in his legs.  While this is not usually an issue for him as he gets around in his wheel chair, is an athlete, and is “normal” in every way, when he was a young man, some hot grease fell on his legs, he did not know it, and he sustained some nasty burns.

Emotions, in this context, are the same as the pain sensors in your body. And, it is the reason that you want to welcome your emotions eventhough they may sometimes may be experienced as painful or seem to force you to do things you later regret.

By the way, your emotions never force you to do anything.  All your behavior comes from the decisions you make.

The primary emotions (mad, sad, fear, and disgust) evolved as primitive threat detectors.  (The other two primary emotions of glad and surprise have different functions.)

The primitive emotional threat detectors work just like the security detectors (smoke, carbon monoxide, glass break, motion, etc) in your house which constantly scan your surroundings and when they detect a specific threat, they send out an alarm and give you the opportunity to take corrective action.

Each emotion looks for a specific threat.

  • Mad (anger) reacts to a threat you believe you can eliminate by throwing enough force at it and prepares you for battle.
  • Sad reacts to loss and prepares you to retreat and heal.
  • Fear detects a threat that will kill you and motivates you to escape.
  • Disgust detects a distasteful or nauseating situation and leads you to avoid the noxious stimuli.

But, unlike your home detectors, whose only function is to alert you so that you can take action to avoid a potentially life threatening situation, your emotions both alert you to a possible threat and prepare your body to take action.

It is through your body that you become aware of your emotions and the information they are communicating to you about how you perceive your surroundings.

If you get to know your body, you learn to distinguish the pain you need to listen to and heed immediately and the pain you can ignore and work through.

One example those of you who work out in the gym will be able to relate to is the “pain” you feel when you exercise. Your muscles “hurt” but you know the difference between muscle burn and muscle strain.

Burn is good, strain is not.

Years ago, I did something to my back and I was out of work for about 6 months.  I went to my physician, tried OTC pain meds, massage, acupuncture and chiropractic.  I was “confined” to the couch, nothing seemed to work and nothing could be found that was wrong.

When I came across a book suggesting that back pain  could be psychological, I decided the pain was “in my head”.  I then chose to master my pain.  This involved walking, mild exercise, and working through the pain.  The pain eventually went away and has never returned.

Now, I am not a physician and I am not saying you should do as I did.  This was my pain and my “intervention” worked for me. My point is that I learned that this particular pain, while it did hurt, could be ignored.

When it comes to your emotions, people do not know how to interpret, or adequately deal with their “pain”.  They tend to assume that the emotion controls them, and to give in to the emotion by taking an action they later regret.

They do not understand that they can master their emotions and use them as tools to improve their lives.

The Anger Mastery Cycle (AMC), a copy of which you can download by scrolling up to the Welcome Post above and which is specific to anger , presents a model that clearly shows you how to deal with all emotions.

Notice that once you identify (label) the message of the emotion (anger in this case),  you manage the emotion and S.T.O.P. the process.  This involves stopping the reaction (taking a breath),  taking a step back, observing, and practicing emotional intelligence. You then begin to master the emotion by assessing what is going on and choosing a response.

You begin to demystify and master your emotions when you think of them in the same way you think of physical pain. That your brain already does this is a bonus.

An analogy…

There is an electronic perimeter around the US which is constantly monitored.  If a plane, a missile or a flock of geese cross that perimeter, we know about it because an “Alert” is sounded. This alert is a message that must then assessed so that any needed action can be taken.

Do we scramble the jets, arm the nukes, or decide it’s a false alarm?

Pain sensors as messengers…

The pain sensors in your body are tools which give you information you have to assess and evaluate.  The pain message says “danger”.  You have to decide how you want to respond.

Emotions as messengers…

It is the same with your emotions.  They may signal danger or a misunderstanding.

  • In the case of anger, you have to decide  if you will seek more information, go to battle, or just ignore the “false alarm”.
  • In the case of fear, you need to escape and later think about what you can learn.
  • In the case of sadness, you need to find some time to recluse, recover and rebound.
  • In the case of disgust, you need to avoid and protect.

When asked, some people might say that they would like to get rid of their emotions because they are messy, do not feel good, and seem to cause bad behavior.  Yes, they can be messy and not feel good.  No, they do not cause behavior.

If you were to ask someone with chronic pain if they wished there was no such thing as pain, they might, understandably, want to eliminate pain.

But, physical pain and emotional pain protect us.  The goal is knowing how to interpret pain and how to master it.

I welcome your comments.


“Shoulds” are like a bad book cover. We might avoid “content” that could benefit us.

I have written two Amazon bestselling books.  While the cover of my first book is adequate, I went out of my way with my second cover because I learned that people DO judge a book by its cover.

The aphorism “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” is true.

The problem is that we all judge books, people, restaurants etc by their “covers”. And, sometimes, we miss out.

Let me give you one example.

Joshua Bell is a world class violin player.  People pay good money to hear him perform in concert halls all over the world.  A few years ago, in an experiment, Mr. Bell went to a NY subway station, took out his million dollar Stradivarius violin and played several very difficult violin compositions.  For the most part, he was ignored.  Folks did say that he was somewhat better than the average solicitor of pocket change but few recognized the quality of the performance which they were being given. The “cover” or setting in which Mr. Bell was playing clearly impacted how his audience responded to him.  His music was exceptional.  His reception was not.

Not all street musicians are Joshua Bell.  Sometimes, they are just street musicians trying to make a buck.  And, that’s okay.

“Shoulds” are like book covers, or first impressions.  They can be misleading and result in our not responding to an underlying important piece of information.

What are the “shoulds”?

A “should” is any statement or belief that you say to yourself (or, for that matter, that someone else says to you) that goes something like this: ” I should do XYZ.”, “I need to do XYZ.” or “You should (or should not) do XYZ”.

Examples include: You should have known what I meant., How dare you (question me, get angry)., I need to go on a diet. , I must be a better husband (parent, brother, father, employee)., I should exercise more., and so forth.

Other words that might be substituted for “should” include “have to”, “must”, “need to”, etc.

By the way, “How dare you” implies that you should not have done whatever it is that you dared to do.

“Shoulds” are problematic for several reasons:

  1. they imply an absolute which does not necessarily exist.
  2. they tend to elicit an oppositional reaction
  3. they do not address the issue that needs attention


Think about it for a minute.

When you tell yourself, or someone tells you, that you “should” do XYZ, the statement implies:

  • You really have no options other than XYZ
  • The behavior being addressed is the only correct, acceptable, or even viable action that makes any sense
  • You are wrong, misguided, exercising poor judgement or  crazy to have done or to consider doing (or not doing) XYZ.

Oppositional Reaction

When someone tells you that you should do XYZ, your first reaction (before you take the time to think about it) is to resist.

This is true in part because the should is perceived as a command and most of us do not like to be told what to do. A “should” tends to elicit comments such as: “No, I don’t”, or “Who gave you the right to make demands on me?” or “Try and make me.”

OK, I admit that the above comments seem somewhat immature but I am trying to capture the intent of the resistance to a “should”.  The exact words used to express this resistance are less important.

The critical issue here is that this resistance to a “should” happens whether the “should” is directed at you by someone else or is your own assertion directed at yourself.

How many times have you told yourself that you should do XYZ (let’s stipulate that XYZ is indeed something that is in your best interest to pursue like exercise or losing weight or reconciling with an estranged friend) and then resisted, procrastinated, avoided or made excuses for not doing XYZ?

Probably, lots of times.  I know I have.

Sometimes XYZ is something that we would benefit from.  This leads us to the third, and most important reason that “shoulds” can be insidious.

Avoiding the Issue

This is the most important reason for learning how to deal with “shoulds” because it may result in your not responding to an important situation which, if recognized, would be most beneficial to you.

A “should” implies that a critical issue such as weight, health (medical/dental), exercise, doing an important task which you’ve been avoiding, has been recognized, clearly summarized, is beyond question, and will be both prioritzed and completed.

In other words, the “should” is wrongly interpreted as a “marching order” that  you are compelled to carry out.  “Should” implies “Done”.

Except it doesn’t!

The real issue that needs to be addressed is the compulsive reason underlying your actions to avoid XYZ.  If XYZ is so important, and we are assuming it is, how do you justify not doing it?

Not all “shoulds” will lead us to actions that, when taken, prove to be beneficial.

Sometimes, “shoulds” are just unreasonable demands others direct toward us or unreasonable demands we make of ourselves due to a desire to fit in or meet some social or personal expectation.

The goal is to be able to tell the difference. We want to recognize our “Joshua Bells”.

The Antidote to “Shoulds”: Skip the demand and focus on the relevance of the task.

  • Ask yourself a question.

Ask yourself “Why is it in my best interest to do XYZ?”

This may sound silly but your brain is a question answering machine.  It will give you a bunch of reasons why XYZ is good for you.  By the way, if you’ve ever said to yourself, “How could I be so stupid (or similar)?”, you might want to reconsider your words. Do you really want your brain to inform you about how you are stupid?  I don’t think so.

  • Change your approach.

Toward you...

Instead of telling yourself you “should” do XYZ, remind yourself that doing XYZ will benefit you, is important to you, will pay dividends etc.

Instead of “I should exercise.” say “I choose to exercise.”

Toward someone else…

In response to someone else telling you that you should do XYZ, ask them “On what are you basing your comment that I should do XYZ?”  Maybe, you will learn something about XYZ that you didn’t know before and choose to do it.

In summary:

I can just about guarantee that there will be “shoulds” in your life going forward, both from others to you and from you to yourself.

You can’t avoid them.  And, you don’t have to.

You master your emotions as tools by validating them and assessing their message, and choosing your response.

It is the same with “shoulds”.  Accept them, question their message (the value to you of XYZ and choose your response.

I welcome  your comments.