dmattwads

What are emotions

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This might sound like a dumb question since everyone has emotions, but what are they really? 

 

As an acupuncturist, I get people all day every day asking me to help them with this or that emotion like stress, anger, anxiety, depression, so on and so on. Yet when you ask various people how they experience these various emotions the descriptions vary greatly. Actually, when I ask a lot of people how they experience their various emotions they don't even know how to answer the question as though they have never thought about it before. 

 

For some people, they describe it as unwanted thoughts or a busy mind.

 

Other people describe it as physical tension or discomfort in a part of the body.

 

I've noticed not infrequently someone comes in for back pain or something like that and after I needle them they start crying or getting very emotional as the acupuncture dislodges somatized emotional energy that was stuck in the body.

 

But what are emotions really? I'm sure there will be as many opinions on this as there are people that respond.  

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I'm looking at emotions as the heart center, in part consisting of the sensitive plexus of nerves in the upper abdomen, reading the messages that hormones carry through the heart, which are then interpreted by the mind. This is part of how the mind assembles it's shaky model of what's going on around it, and a big source of distortion to the parts of this model contributed by the external senses.

 

A book that informed my current understanding is Daniel Keown's "The Spark In the Machine: How the science of acupuncture explains the mysteries of western medicine"

Edited by Sketch

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In a lecture Michael Winn said that in the West they think thoughts come first and lead to emotion, whereas Daoists believe emotions come first, and lead to thoughts. 

 

If my head was full of music then emotion would be the bass line.  The beat that sets the tone of my thoughts.  Both mistaken for I.

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27 minutes ago, thelerner said:

In a lecture Michael Winn said that in the West they think thoughts come first and lead to emotion, whereas Daoists believe emotions come first, and lead to thoughts. 

 

If my head was full of music then emotion would be the bass line.  The beat that sets the tone of my thoughts.  Both mistaken for I.

 

Is that what Taoists think? That is interesting! I wonder where they think emotions come from?

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1 hour ago, thelerner said:

  The beat that sets the tone of my thoughts.  

As stated above, that emotions are a beat, Peter Shea (in his book "Alchemy of the extraordinary:a journey to the heart of the meridian matrix")calls them a frequency of vibration,  a quality of vibration. 

Vibrations carry information in many different ways, from the harmony and rhythm of music (two different types of encoding layered together right there) to the grooves on an old fashioned phonograph which cause the needle to vibrate, encoding the emotional beat in one more layer in this example. 

Edited by Sketch

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Emotions are interpreted by the thoughts, thoughts can give rise to emotions, which came first the melody or the lyrics, well clearly melody, since things that do not speak still sing.

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From my reading I would say that a Taoist perspective is that emotions are classifiable as manifestations of the classical Chinese 5 element theory; which are seen as attributes arising within specific organs. A fancy way of saying "the smart ones agree with me."

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I approach emotions as energetic flow, determined by external circumstances and internal identification. In a way, emotions are to the heart as thoughts are to the mind.

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I would say, from the ever developing area of psychology, that emotions are both top-down and bottom-up. 

 

So if we see emotions as motivational components, aiding behavioural decisons, they can both be based on motor responses that are faster that cognitive awareness, and on situational memories and previous experiences. 

And, just to complicate things, those two tend to mix in real life. 

 

And having one emotional state "active" will distort the interpretations of the incoming information. 

 

Nowadays, the distinction between body and mind is basically gone (for those that are updated). 

 

Even the distinction between western and chinese thought about emotional manifestations have blurred, for example there is hardly any differences between how Larre/Vallee puts things in The seven emotions compared to how movement analysis sees emotional states in human movement patterns. 

 

Just as every (well, most) therapist knows that if you release by talking, the body also releases, and vice versa. 

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Its not a dumb question as most people can not answer it  .    :D 

 

Usually you get a list of them when asking what they are  -     That is , they answer the question  'what are the emotions', not  'what are emotions '  .

 

Emotions are states of feelings  triggered by chemicals  released in response to stimulus .  Mostly they drive behaviour ( which can also result in physical sensation , eg.  fear - cold , anger - heat .)   but can also be not manifested physically and only effect states of consciousness .  They work like a chemical nervous system , relaying input, reaction and response   .   Managing their output is important , eg.   Various types of stimulus  (danger  , excitement ... )   the body may need to function faster or  overcome fatigue  so it produces adrenaline ( which has side effects  as well )  , if the adrenalin isn't 'burnt off'  in output it 'stagnates' and transforms into other substances that cause stress ( mentally and on parts of the physical system ).

 

Emotions are also the 'Second Regulator'    -  1st is  the self having an idea, inspiration, insight ,  2nd is the emotional body , where we run things through to see how we feel about them   ( also in this realm is  dreaming  - we may choose 'to sleep on it'  when making a decision  )  , it is also a gateway into the unconscious  ( so we get messages via it without having to 'think them through' ) .  This can also make emotions 'confusing' as they can message responses in the physical body triggered by the unconscious without the ' conscious mind ' realising it or being able to identify source or reason .  3rd is 'mind' or the intellect where we reason assess practicality and method, etc . 4th is Body and physical where we put all the above together into output .    Without 1 we are uninspired and unoriginal, without 2  our 'heart will not be in it'  , we will not feel an affinity with the thing  or have a deep understanding of it. Without 3 we might be doing something crazy, impossible or harmful and without 4 all the above might be good but its just a pipe dream.

 

Unfortunately, like mind  and intellect, many have confused and unbalanced emotions . Actually,  probably more people have their mind more together than their emotions . Emotional conditioning is more subtle and insidious than mental conditioning. We have seen how smart intelligent people  can get sucked into cults, bad relationships  etc.    I have cited this a few times :  L. Ron Hubbard's son being interviewed and asked why all these smart and intelligent people where in something like Scientology with its crazy beliefs ? He said "They where intellectually smart , but they where not emotionally smart . "

 

And we have also seen that  many practitioners or even 'masters' of various paths  can 'loose it'  or 'revert'   when their emotions are subtly pushed .  

 

I have found I can communicate excellently with very young children and 'special others'  (like my niece who has severe autism )  by communicating emotionally ; using facial expressions, gestures and  ESP .   Especially if I exaggerate it , they seem to love  that .  They will even get a joke communicated this way .

 

images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQFB6yPGaBJO2Sxk0m6lpP

 

Another version of this communication  is with the indigenous , who seem to have made an art of using it in a toned down ,  near invisible manner ... just the slightest hint  of a trace of the expressions .  The more subtle you are at it the better.  Usually sitting  down around the fire at night or relaxing in a group talking  .... there is an element of unspoken communication between some .  It carries over to other activities and is evident in sign language as well ;  hunting sign language (where silence is essential) , casual sign language         ( just because they sometimes don't like to make a lot of 'chatter' , or someone might not have language )  and  secret sign language     ( between brothers of an inner clan , secret initiatory society , etc . )

 

 

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What are emotions?  It all comes down to Good and Evil.  Good is when we are aided or set free to do what we will, not opposed in doing our Will.  Evil is to be opposed, or harmed.  

 

The emotions are based on joy and sorrow, feeling joy when Good happens, sorrow when Evil occurs.  It is about expectation and result.  When we feel joy, it leads us to feelings of love and gratitude.  Sorrow can lead to fear or anger.  The emotions are based on the reaction to our expectations.

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I would recommend you read the topic here: 

 

Very nice topic and discussion. 

 

This post by @freeform was particularly helpful for me. Maybe for you, too. 

 

Quote

How do emotions fit in? They’re the coloured lights - refracted (distorted) from the light of  your original spirit... as refracted light they are not your original self (but very close) and they manifest as the 5 virtues... as they ‘solidify’ (away from light and towards form) more and more - they become the various channels and organ spirits and on the level of your heart-mind, they become the emotions (quite far from your original self).

 

The emotions are the muddied, contrived and convoluted manifestation of the 5 lights or 5 virtues. And the 5 lights are the refracted/distorted light of your original spirit - Yuan Shen. And Shen Ming is the light of the original spirit.
 

The emotions in my tradition are not considered important - we can’t work with them directly because they get you mired in their own drama... So we work on a slightly deeper level - on the level of Qi.

 

You can get a hint of how Asian traditions see emotion by how different their artwork is to Western art... western art is all about drama - the highs and lows of emotion... Eastern art tends to be about calm and equanimity - nature, the divine.

 

Quote

The emotions are known as the 5 poisons.

 

  On 10/19/2020 at 1:51 PM, Apech said:

often what is overlooked is that it is all emotional energy.

 

Well emotions are part of the manifestation of the '5 lights' that make up existence at both the macro and microcosmic level... But they're definitely not at the root - and are considered to be quite a few layers of distortion out from the pure expression of the 5 lights.

 

The 5 lights go through a very specific step by step process of distortion - and emotions are the mental manifestations of that process. They're known as the 5 poisons, because indulging in them is considered to move you further from one's original state of virtue, and it gets you further and further entangled in the Daoist equivalent of Karma.

 

The alchemical process involves 'returning the 5 spirits to their origin' - a kind of reversal from the outward manifestation of the emotions back to the pure virtues and then back to you Yuan Shen...

 

When one's actions originate from the 'emotional' aspect, they are known as the vulgar people... when one's actions originate from the De, the pure undistorted virtues, they are known as Shengren - or sages... when one's actions originate from Yuan Shen or Original Spirit, they are known as Zhenren - or enlightened.

Here's a little sketch of my tradition's understanding of the place that emotions have in our mental makeup.
 

Untitled_Artwork.jpg

 

 

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6 hours ago, helpfuldemon said:

What are emotions?  It all comes down to Good and Evil.  Good is when we are aided or set free to do what we will, not opposed in doing our Will.  Evil is to be opposed, or harmed.  

 

 

What are good and evil?

 

To the farmer the cat is good because it rids him of pests. To the mouse the cat is evil because it seeks to end its life.

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53 minutes ago, Cleansox said:

Interesting view. 

 

"Whatever I do is good, and the one opposing that is evil."

 

Wow. 

 

Is this basically not the view of every one dimensional villain in comic books and superhero movies?

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5 hours ago, anshino23 said:

The emotions in my tradition are not considered important - we can’t work with them directly because they get you mired in their own drama... So we work on a slightly deeper level - on the level of Qi.

 

If find this fascinating and would like to understand it better.

 

Early on in my qigong practice, I would deal with the emotions rather directly by doing practices related to the organ they were associated with. This did NOT make things better. 

Edited by dmattwads
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1 hour ago, Cleansox said:

Interesting view. 

 

"Whatever I do is good, and the one opposing that is evil."

 

Wow. 

its not that.  Whatever I do that does no harm or oppose Will is Good, and those that oppose or harm are Evil

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24 minutes ago, helpfuldemon said:

its not that.  Whatever I do that does no harm or oppose Will is Good, and those that oppose or harm are Evil

 

Is this from the point of view of the farmer or the mouse?

 

But I do agree it is good not to harm others.

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37 minutes ago, helpfuldemon said:

its not that.  Whatever I do that does no harm or oppose Will is Good, and those that oppose or harm are Evil

So if one stand by and watch evil being done, and do nothing, is one than good? 

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1 hour ago, dmattwads said:

 

Is this basically not the view of every one dimensional villain in comic books and superhero movies?

Or my 2 year old daughter... 

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17 hours ago, thelerner said:

In a lecture Michael Winn said that in the West they think thoughts come first and lead to emotion, whereas Daoists believe emotions come first, and lead to thoughts. 

 

Cognitive neuroscientists uniformly agree with taoists on this one. 

 

Emotions absolutely come before thoughts and arise as soon as life itself.  The origin is the simple dual distinction of  stimuli into "pain" and "pleasure."  Without such discernment life is not possible.  Even unicellular organisms exhibit their ability to tell the difference between pain and pleasure.  E.g., if you take a saucer with clean water and introduce some amoebae to this medium, then add a tiny drop of ink, the amoebae will all swim vigorously away from the inked side of the saucer toward the side with clean water.    

 

All subsequent, more and more complex emotions are ultimately traceable to the application of this one criterion -- what supports life vs. what threatens it.  Of course an artificially complicated environment, especially one that demands repression of emotions as a prerequisite for being accepted, creates many artificially complicated emotions, convoluted and thwarted and irrational.  And, ultimately, it creates thoughts, the last  refuge and the last remaining outlet for emotions that haven't found their expression.  Thought is a way for them to get transformed and dissipated.  Thoughts are valves releasing that pressure.  

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25 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

 

Cognitive neuroscientists uniformly agree with taoists on this one. 

 

Emotions absolutely come before thoughts and arise as soon as life itself.  The origin is the simple dual distinction of  stimuli into "pain" and "pleasure."  Without such discernment life is not possible.  Even unicellular organisms exhibit their ability to tell the difference between pain and pleasure.  E.g., if you take a saucer with clean water and introduce some amoebae to this medium, then add a tiny drop of ink, the amoebae will all swim vigorously away from the inked side of the saucer toward the side with clean water.    

 

All subsequent, more and more complex emotions are ultimately traceable to the application of this one criterion -- what supports life vs. what threatens it.  Of course an artificially complicated environment, especially one that demands repression of emotions as a prerequisite for being accepted, creates many artificially complicated emotions, convoluted and thwarted and irrational.  And, ultimately, it creates thoughts, the last  refuge and the last remaining outlet for emotions that haven't found their expression.  Thought is a way for them to get transformed and dissipated.  Thoughts are valves releasing that pressure.  

I had this experience today in church where I am seeing this person sit ahead of me many pews. She looks like someone I want to see.

I know its not the person I want it to be-but I let myself think it was this person. The texture of hair matched, the color of hair matched, slight build..and  then emotion of sadness/tears began briefly. 

So I have to disagree because of my own experience this morning. My thoughts came first then the emotion followed.

 

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6 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

I had this experience today in church where I am seeing this person sit ahead of me many pews. She looks like someone I want to see.

I know its not the person I want it to be-but I let myself think it was this person. The texture of hair matched, the color of hair matched, slight build..and  then emotion of sadness/tears began briefly. 

So I have to disagree because of my own experience this morning. My thoughts came first then the emotion followed.

 


Actually, I would suggest the emotion of longing to see that certain someone arose prior to the recognition of the similarities between the two, and the sadness was already present - although likely unrecognized initially.

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