Saturday 6 July 2024

Functional value of emotions

We all need to understand the functional value of our emotions. Emotions provide useful information; they are the body and mind jointly telling our consciousness how they perceive certain stimuli and contexts.

People's understanding of emotions and how to manage them has evolved over time, particularly in the modern world. Today, many have learned to underplay their emotions. We tend to feel annoyed instead of angry. We might settle for being mildly amused instead of truly inspired. We often smile at a joke we find funny rather than laughing out loud, to avoid seeming rowdy. We downplay our shock at poor behavior by simply writing it off as mildly surprising. These behaviors stem from social constructs, expectations, and upbringing.

It's important to have a healthy understanding and relationship with our emotions. Underplaying them can lead to repression, which is harmful to both body and mind. Conversely, those who cannot control their reactions to emotions are also at a disadvantage, often finding themselves in a victim mindset.

Anger is an important emotion when you want something to change. I have heard of an interesting cure for writer's block: identify and start writing about what makes you angry, and it will no longer be a blocker. Similarly, surprise can open our minds to new possibilities and break us out of our routines, helping to meet our stimulation needs. Experiencing rejection and despondency builds resilience. Disgust helps protect us from harmful substances and behaviors. Failing to express and feel these emotions, and being politically correct in a ‘cancel culture’ environment, can make us bitter, easily offended, and ultimately fragile.

Sadness arises when we cannot change something that has happened in the past; anger is present; fear pertains to future possibilities and the potential for things to go wrong. Understanding the roles of these emotions and recognizing when we feel them is useful.

The beauty of emotions is that they can be experienced in the past, present, and future. Joy can come from recalling a fond memory, being fully alive and focused in the present moment, or anticipating and imagining a preferred future.

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