Have you ever tried to see where emotions really originate? As they say, early detection is a big help to the cure. If you catch it at its first stage, perhaps you can get rid of it right there and then. That saves you lots of troubles. Is that right?
Well, let’s see.
First, let’s have a common definition of what emotions are. Let’s make sure we’re talking of the same things.
What Is An Emotion?
An emotion is an inner feeling that reacts to a certain stimulus. A stimulus is something that spurs or prompts your emotion. It is often something that is introduced from the outside. For instance, a car drives past and splashes dirty water on you. The stimulus is the splashing of the water. Then, let’s say you get angry because you’re all wet with dirty water. That’s your reaction. Emotion is a matter of cause and effect. It is how you decide to be after a thing happens.
You cannot have an emotion without any stimulus. You cannot cry over spilled nothing. There has to be spilled milk or something. There has to be a reason for an emotion to show. The basic principle always is, “When you feel an emotion, there is some reason or stimulus.”
What Causes An Emotion?
A stimulus, however, does not cause you to feel an emotion. It merely tempts you to react. How you react is entirely up to you. A stimulus does not and cannot create emotion in you. It can only incite you to act or react. It cannot decide what kind of response you will have. The effect of any stimulus is just to lure you, and its work ends there. You make the decision of how to act or react to a given situation. The emotion you show depends on how practical and mature you are.
Practicality and maturity are all qualities of the mind.
An emotion cannot think for itself. Your mind supplies the thinking. Brain dead patients kept alive by machines cannot feel anymore. Physicians say they are clinically dead. Those in a coma, on the other hand, often have their mind-control over their bodies just slightly weakened for a while. Sometimes, it is said that talking to a patient in a coma may help him recover because his mind still functions.
When this is the case, his mind probably still faintly receives stimuli from his ears or skin. However, the command of the mind over the will is still too weak to get to full consciousness. When the patient’s mind begins to pick up stronger positive stimuli (like encouraging words from love ones), it grows stronger. Soon it is able to command the emotions to respond positively. Then the mind and emotions boost up the will to revive. The patient then recovers.
If a coma patient still has his body functions going without the help of machines, he has a big chance for recovery. Otherwise, it means the mind is failing. The brain is slowly dying.
The mind controls major body functions, among them the emotions and will. Emotions can never act independently of the mind. Whatever emotions we show originate from the mind.
So don’t blame your crabby neighbor or cranky customer whenever you’re having a bad day. Your negative emotion didn’t come from them. They have no power over you. It came from inside of you.
This is worth repeating. Remember:
Do not give any stimulus credit it does not deserve. Stimuli do not put emotions in you. They cannot put anything in you. They merely present themselves to you.
An angry neighbor, boss, or parent does not have power to make you angry against your will. Let’s say the stimulus is a mad dog. How would you react? If your mind opts for life, you’d probably run for your life instead of getting angry. If your mind opts for dignity, then you’d get angry and perhaps look for some object to threaten the dog with. If you see a high wall (stimulus to your eyes), your mind may deem it an immediate protection. It may command your glands to secrete enough adrenalin.
Your legs would suddenly have the super power to run to the wall like a speeding bullet. Then in all likelihood, you’d jump over it with a single bounce! Then you find your heart beats like crazy.
Now, don’t tell me a mad dog has power to put all that in you.
Some people may choose to fight off mad dogs out of fear or anger. When a father sees his dear child being attacked by a dog, he’d surely fight the dog out of rage. A dog pound employee, on the other hand, may go after dogs without fear or anger. It is because he loves his job. Naughty kids may decide to have themselves chased by angry neighborhood dogs, not due to fear, but for fun.
The idea that emotions can be trained says a lot about how important mental command is to regulate emotions.
For instance, emotions play a vital role in training dogs. Trained dogs are made to obey mostly by voice commands. The trainer believes in his mind that he can command the dog to obedience. So his mind tells his voice to give a sharp and authoritative command (backed with emotions). “Fetch!” he commands. As he sees the dog repeatedly obeying him, his mind is encouraged. “It works!” he may tell himself.
The more his mind is empowered by the result he sees, the easier the emotions are made to obey. Soon, confidence is reinforced. The will becomes stronger. We see that positive emotions encourage or reinforce the power of the mind.
When the mind does not see immediate success, the emotions may work negatively. This may cause the mind to give up. The emotions often take over at this point and tell the mind to quit. This is what happens when emotions command.
Emotions are supposed to merely support or encourage the mind, not command it. In anything, supporters must never take over. They must only cheer. Cheering squads perk up the spirits of athletes. They never tell players how the game must be played. They cannot decide who wins.
Politicians have supporters. Politicians are supposed to have the plans that supporters fund and support. When supporters get to push the politicians around, we have corruption and chaos.
In the same way, emotions must always take the back seat and must be contented in supporting the plans of the mind, win or lose.
A mind determined to succeed will try and try again. It will command the emotions to produce courage against all odds. This courage, in turn, feeds the mind to be more determined. This is what we call a positive mind.
Let’s go back to the dog training example. The dog obeys even without being able to define what “fetch” is. You see the power of the human mind to command animals? What makes the dog — or any trained animal for that matter — obey? We again go back to the basics of how the mind commands the emotions and will.
The dog is trained to react to a specific stimulus by a system of rewards or punishments. Rewards and punishments aim at the emotions. When the dog hears the voice or whistle of the trainer, its mind recognizes the stimulus. The dog’s mind, stimulated by repetitive conditioning, remembers the reward for obedience. The mind sends signals to its emotions, and it gets excited to obey. It also fears the punishment for disobedience. The mind and emotions then tell the will to act accordingly.
The stimulus does not produce the emotions. You choose what emotions to have when you see a stimulus.
Let’s say a mad dog is after you and you decide to calm down instead of panicking. Is that possible? You can still run for your life, but not out of fear. Now, let’s say you decide to run due to anger — which though rare, really happens. You are angry because the dog has put you in an awkward situation. Besides, if it bites you, you think of the visits to the doctor for tetanus and anti-rabies shots. What a waste of time and money! Thus, you are angry.
Now, going back to the water-splashing car incident we discussed earlier. In that example, you can get angry if you choose to succumb to anger. You can choose to go on the rest of the day blaming your anger on the dirty water splashed on you. On the other hand, you can choose to think of it as a funny incident and laugh at what happened to you all you want. Better yet, you can just shrug your shoulders and smile. You got wet with dirty water. So what?
An emotion is the result of a process that went on in your nervous system, triggered by a stimulus. Your brain spearheads the nervous system. The brain sends signals through the nerves to a specific body organ relevant to the stimulus. Hence, the brain has the major part in how you react to a stimulus. It is the brain, and not the stimulus, which decides what emotions you show.
In short, it’s all up to you. It depends on how you have trained yourself to respond to stimuli. You are the master of your emotions and no one else.
The Reaction Process
When the stimulus presents itself, the brain examines it through what we call the mind.
The mind is the intangible brain. The brain works in conjunction with your five senses in relation to thoughts, ideas, and imagination. The five senses send to the brain what they receive. Then the brain analyzes and weighs them. When this happens, the mind has functioned.
The brain is the jelly-like substance surgeons see inside the skull. It is the physical form of the mind. In the process of thinking, the brain is the organ while the mind is the function. Like in the process of being alive, the heart is the organ while life is the function. The heart is tangible. Life is intangible.
You cannot see the mind when you open up the skull. You see the brain. The moment you use your brain, as when you think or analyze, that’s the time the mind is “seen.” Then it sends its signals to a specific body organ. The organ reacts in the way the brain tells it to, and thus, the reaction manifests. All these occur in a fraction of a second!
When the skin on the arm receives an attack, the message is sent to the brain. The brain may, for instance, analyze it to be something itchy. Brain waves will immediately be sent to that skin part, saying “itchy.” Then your hand (again commanded by the brain) starts to scratch that part of your arm. Internally, this is how the brain works. Externally, you think of scratching your arm. Your mind works. This is your physical reaction.
Emotion-wise, when you hear someone shout at you, the brain receives it from your ear. It may be analyzed as an offense or a mere emphasis, depending on how your brain examines the tone, pitch, and context of the sound. If the analysis proves it be an offense, the brain sends a “hurt” or “danger” message to your heart and probably also to your endocrine glands.
These glands, probably with the pancreas, would stimulate a process in the adrenalin glands that produce the needed adrenalin to keep you alert and ready for action.
All the above internal processes now manifest externally on you as when you shout back, or when your eyes widen in shock. You may also back away in fear or readiness, or merely grimace. The mind now starts to be “seen.” This is also what people see as your emotional reaction.
The brain depends on senses in analysis (but not in conclusion)
When one sense organ malfunctions, your brain fails to analyze a stimulus correctly. An example of this would be a time when you have a cold and your nose barely catches any scent. Your brain may fail to differentiate what is fragrant from what is not. Yet you know that perfumes smell good. Your nose may tell you differently, but you may conclude anyway, “It smells differently now that I have a cold, but I know that this perfume smells good.”
Likewise, when you are sick, your brain may fail to recognize the intent of an action (like you fail “to see” the motive behind) and you may get angry instead of getting pleased. Thus, people may say you are “narrow-minded” because of such emotional reaction. Yet, you can also conclude that, “I know this guy is good to me. He is doing something I cannot understand now that I am sick. But knowing him to be a good person, I’ll just take it that he is intending to do me good. I’ll probably understand everything he is doing for me later when I feel better.”
Brain, senses, and the emotions
Let’s say a man points a gun to your head. The brain sends distress signals to your nerves that reach your heart and other organs. The message blurted is: “This is a bad situation. This can cost you your life!” Your endocrine systems (which are closely related to the nervous system) and pancreas start to work. They pump adrenalines out of your adrenal glands. These adrenalines stimulate your heart to pump faster. Then you feel nervous.
The signals also reach your muscles, and you may feel tensed. Nevertheless, good doses of adrenalines are always ready to propel you to action. At times, they enable you to do a super act that is not possible in ordinary times. It depends on your brain whether to use this ready power to suit the situation.
The above is the common reaction people have when faced with danger. But a radical change may be introduced at this point. The body organ, made subject to the brain, can be induced to react in a different way. The brain may intercept a negative emotion from manifesting and command a positive emotion to be released instead. Is this possible?
Remember that the brain is the leader in the nervous system. It can decide everything, with a little imagination and training. Thus, instead of eliciting fear and panic, the brain can tell the body organs to keep calm and assess the situation first. Many expert negotiators in hostage situations show a calm attitude in dealing with culprits. The manifestation of calmness is made even on short notice. They command their bodies to relax and treat the situation as an ordinary one.
This shows brain effectiveness focusing on quick and accurate analysis of the hostage takers, the hostages, and the total situation. They can even command their voices not to tremble to show their confidence.
Let’s say somebody proposes that he or she loves you. It’s not your emotion that first gets the message. It’s your brain. Your brain examines everything in an instant — his or her looks, his or her other qualities, what his or her standing has been in relation to you, and perhaps many other considerations. All these occur in the wink of an eye.
The brain is built with a natural super processor that can analyze things in a fraction of a second; more so when it is trained to even hasten its data processing. It sends the processed data to the heart and you feel an emotion. If you choose to, you may command a positive emotion to show.
The mind may decide to tell the emotion to reciprocate or “return the favor.” It may also by-pass the emotion and may decide to give the situation (the love proposal) more time to think about. The mind may decide on a reciprocal love, or a simple rejection. On the other hand, it may decide to just settle on a mere shrug and an “I-see-you-as-a-friend” casual reply.
The stimulus does not go directly to the emotion. It is picked up by the senses (eyes, ears, nose, skin, mouth), which act as a kind of antenna or radar. Then it goes to the brain for processing. The brain decides everything, from analysis to conclusion. It can decide to rule the emotions, or abdicate power to the same. When it abandons power and gives in to the emotions, then you see a person easily swayed by feelings.
The Brain’s Accuracy
If you are slapped on your right cheek, the brain identifies the attack as a slap on the right cheek. It then sends something like an “ouch!” signal to your nervous system and tells it the attack is painful. So you feel pain on your right cheek. The brain performs an analysis on the implications of being slapped on the face, and then sends a final signal to your emotions. This is the time you manifest the emotion; for example, anger.
The brain will never send the signal to your right foot or anywhere else. It will also say the slap is an offensive move, not a favor. It has the capacity to pinpoint the involved part of the body and send relevant messages accordingly.
However, when the part of the brain that controls the right side of the body stops to function (or what they call a stroke), the patient seldom feels anything. He also loses control over the affected part of his body. The affected part of his brain lessens or weakens in its ability to identify stimuli and to influence parts of the body. It stops sending effective signals to the part of the body it controls.