This article is about how our emotions influence our cognition (such as our thinking) and biochemistry and why it is important to work specifically on emotions when healing.
The emotional frontier is the next frontier to conquer in human understanding
The word emotions literally means ‘energy in motion’.
Our Emotions And Our Thoughts
Our emotional reactions show up in brain activity before we even have time to think.
It takes more than the mind to manage emotions
This is why so many of us have continual difficulty controlling our thoughts and why we don’t always get long term success with treatments that focus solely on our thoughts – such as cognitive behavioural coaching or therapy.
“The neural connections from the emotional system to the cognitive system are stronger and more numerous than the connections going from the cognitive to the emotional system. At every step of the way, then, conscious thinking can be overcome by powerful, amygdala-driven emotion.”
Looking to control our thoughts then, and holding a beliefs such as ‘we just need to remain positive’ is asking for trouble.
Emotional memories and reactions can operate at a subconscious level and influence our thought processes. Our subconcious emotional system can trigger a feeling faster than the mind can intercept it. That’s why we often experience feelings without knowing why.
Each persons entire emotional history is logged into his or her neural circuitry and imprinted in memory. Thus emotional response in the present can trigger a cascade of associated emotional memories, adding more fuel to the fire. Because of this cascade effect, we’re usually dealing not just with the emotions of the moment, but also with the accumulation of emotional experiences stored in our emotional memory banks.
So our emotional history and reactions can be triggered unconsciously and then bypass the mind’s reasoning process. Thus as we have mentioned, it takes a power stronger then the mind to change emotional patterning.
The Mind-Body Connection
Our biochemistry affects our emotional responses, but our emotions affect our biochemistry in return.
This is why we take the approach we do at Conquering Fatigue Successfully. If we can improve our biochemistry via nutrition, exercise, and other lifestyle factors, such as sleep, we can influence our emotional response.
And by working specifically on our emotions we can support our biochemistry.
Should We Get Bogged Down In Our Past?
Often practitioners talk about the connection between adverse childhood events and disease in adulthood. Essentially research shows a correlation between stressful experiences in our first few years, and disease later on in our lives. While appreciating this may be beneficial, it ultimately doesn’t help us move forward.
In fact, rehashing emotional memories more often than not reinforces those memories in the cells of the brain. Thus that process, instead of bringing us the insights we need to release old memories from our system, often reignites the mind’s justification and hurt, creating more incoherence. When we’re trying to work through a long-standing emotionally charged issue, reinforcing memories isn’t a means of resolution. We need to access the heart’s deeper intelligence.
A benchmark of emotional management and responsibility is the realisation that our past can no longer be blamed for our actions in the present.
While it’s important to acknowledge emotional history, we shouldn’t give in to the tendency to use our past to excuse our current behaviour.
Regulating Our Emotions & Thus Behaviour
It is the ability to adjust and self-regulate one’s responses and behavior that is most important in building and maintaining supportive, loving relationships and effectively meeting life’s demands with composure, consistency and integrity.
Despite the importance of self-directed control, many people’s ability to self-regulate is far less than ideal.
In fact, failures in self-regulation, especially of emotions and attitudes, arguably are central to the vast majority of personal and social problems that plague modern societies.
We are coming to understand health not as the absence of disease, but rather as the process by which individuals maintain their sense of coherence (i.e. sense that life is comprehensible, manageable, and meaningful) and ability to function in the face of changes in themselves and their relationships with their environment
Therefore, we submit the most important skill the majority of people need to learn is how to increase their capacity to self-regulate emotions, attitudes and behaviors.
Self-regulation enables people to mature and meet the challenges and stresses of everyday life with resilience so they can make more intelligent decisions by aligning with their innate higher-order wisdom and expression of care and compassion, elements we often associate with living a more conscientious life.
Our Emotions Influence Our Perception Of The World
As already mentioned the neural connections that transmit information from the emotional centers to the cognitive centers in the brain are stronger and more numerous than those that convey information from the cognitive to the emotional centers.
This fundamental asymmetry accounts for the powerful influence of input from the emotional system on cognitive functions such as attention, perception and memory as well as higher-order thought processes.
Conversely, the comparatively limited influence of input from the cognitive system on emotional processing helps explain why it is generally difficult to willfully modulate emotions through thought alone.
Qualities such as self-awareness, motivation, altruism and compassion, but especially one’s ability to self-regulate and control impulses and self-direct emotions were found to be as important or more important than a high IQ. Those qualities, more so than IQ, enable people to excel in the face of life’s challenges
It is our experience that the degree of alignment between the mind and emotions can vary considerably. When they are out of sync, it can result in radical behavior changes that cause us to feel like there are two different people inside the same body. It can also result in confusion, difficulty in making decisions, anxiety and a lack of alignment with our deeper core values.
Conversely, when the mind and emotions are in sync, we are more self-secure and aligned with our deeper core values and respond to stressful situations with increased resilience and inner balance.
intentional activation of positive emotions plays an important role in increasing cardiac coherence and thus self-regulatory capacity
Viewing Emotions As An Energy Asset or Deficit
Deficit emotions, such as anger, jealousy, hurt, fear, blame, slowly drain our energy reserves. Even if you can rationalise your anger, for example, the negative effects are still occurring.
Deficit emotions throw our mental, immune, hormonal and nervous systems out of balance
This is important to appreciate when suffering with fatigue. Pretending to be in a certain emotional state, can also be draining (did you feel energised after meeting people for the first time where you had to come across a certain way – professional, polite, cheerful? Especially if you weren’t feeling this way at the time?)
So What Do We Do?
Our research [The Institute of HeartMath] demonstrates that the application of emotion self-regulation techniques along with the use of facilitative technology can help people bring the heart, mind and emotions into greater alignment
The first thing is to raise our self-awareness, we need to be aware of our inner dialogue. Then we develop the connection with our heart. These are the exercises we go through with our clients and on our group educational programme.
This article includes large extracts of the below paper:
Rollin McCraty (2105) Science of The Heart, Exploring the Role of the Heart in Human Performance.