The Power of Emotions Over Happiness

The July 15, 2013 issue of Time Magazine introduced a series of articles on “happiness,” and emphasized a point, which I made in my recent Huffington Post article (excerpt below) : “Being distracted (by emotional charges, thoughts, etc.) blunts responses in the brain (Time,  pp. 30).” That's a pretty radical statement! Your thoughts and emotional charges will blunt responses in the brain? Yes, they will.

20130708_600“Here is a key point that I have learned from devoting much of my professional life to studying the effects of human emotions. The raw, impulsive ones, like fear, excessive worry, and anger will absolutely hi-jack happiness and well being—every single time. And, once these emotions take hold, they can have a fierce grip. So, if we are going to make any progress toward maintaining peace of mind (the foundation for inner joy), we have to be aware of the triggers for “negative emotions.” Once they register in the primal part of your brain, which is where they originate, they will relentlessly travel the highways in your head with a single focus—to snuff out all of the good stuff. Why? Because that is what they have been “wired” to do. Will they be successful? Yes (until you learn to interrupt them), since they have been conditioned to respond this way for a zillion years.  You and I in our current level of evolution are still programmed to react to their messages. We have inherited this phenomenon from our ancestors, who needed to stay alert in order to keep from getting killed (and “alert” did not allow for peace, balance, and joy).

If you don’t believe me (that you are inclined to operate like the clan- of-the- cave-bear-tribe), do a little experiment. I suspect that one of the easiest places to practice is in your car. Any scenario will do, but let’s pick one. You have sat patiently (you think) awaiting a coveted parking space while High Maintenance Molly puts on her lipstick, and checks her iPhone. Finally, she exits the scene. Out of flipping nowhere, Mr. Big Bad Boy suddenly swerves into “your” place in his ridiculously gigantic, SUV, replete with deafening rap music. He then brings his unnecessarily large gas sucking vehicle to a screeching halt (right in front of your blazing eyeballs) and saunters away with a surly swagger never once acknowledging you and your pain. Now then, whether or not you blow your horn and call him a f+#%ing a*&%$#e is not the point. What does matter is that more than likely your red-hot-blood has reached the boiling point. Where is your compassion? Where is your heart? Maybe his need for the space is more urgent than yours—like his throat is closing after eating peanuts or something.  If I am correct in my speculation, you are probably not going to give him the benefit of the doubt here. And if that is the case your heart just got overruled by your emotional brain. There is no reasoning with this region, once it gets its hold on you."

How can you interrupt the tendency for the “emotional hi-jacking phenomenon” to play out in your world? Mental focus (meditation, yoga, a brain break, etc.). More on this next week.  Stay tuned!

Believing in you!




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