Tuesday, January 29, 2013

‎"Emotions, by nature, lose their power when we understand them."

My friend posted the following link and the quote from it:
‎"Emotions, by nature, lose their power when we understand them."
Overcoming a Loss of Motivation

I completely disagree.

Emotions, particularly primary emotions have the same power whether we understand them or not. If and when we understand them, however, we can use our rational abilities to either: diminish and compensate for the negative effects their power, or intensify and apply the positive effects how we wish. Well, to some extent, and most of the time.My own mental scenario would revolve around instances when my son is hurt or successful. Regardless of what I understand about my emotions, I will not feel less worried/joyful, just because I know why I feel that way. Indeed in both cases, I will try to channel that emotional energy in a positive way -- by running him to the hospital, or encouraging him to more successes with my positive emotional display. Which I think is what the article is trying to say, but in a way that pretends that we can eliminate negative emotions (and seems to ignore positive ones). The fact is these "primary/primal" emotions are to a large extent automatic, and what we feel is our autonomic nervous system kicking into action--for example, "fight or flight" impulses.

Funny, the specific examples of negative emotions, e.g. depression, that he gives are actually cases of a perfectly predictable "rational" response to not meeting a goal. The problem was that the goals were set unrealistically high: becoming a famous blogger in 6 months, losing 20 pounds in a month. To a large extent the author is getting the cart before the horse. The unrealistic expectations caused the normal emotions, and the solution would be to start with more realistic expectations, which theoretically would have prevented the negative emotions and likely generated positive emotions.

Ultimately, I find myself agreeing with the deep principle of the argument in the article, but quibbling extensively over the details. This seems to be a case where the details do matter.

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