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Monday, April 28, 2014

Emotions — How to handle?

In common parlance, emotion is the expression of the vibe of ourselves, others and environment around us. Emotion is a complex psychophysical process that arises spontaneously, evokes either a positive or negative psychological response and physical expressions and subjective feeling associated with perceptions. It is defined as a state in which the individual is aroused and is aware of the bodily changes produced by the arousal. Changes associated with emotion are of three categories:
  • overt expressions: Face, eyes, lips, and facial muscles show appropriate changes for anger, happiness, sorrow, etc.,  voice also changes; 
  • physical responses: face turning red; increase in heartbeat, trembling, increased breathing, muscle feels tense; finally feel very tired; and, 
  • psychological changes: internal – involving  feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. 
In 1960 Arnold proposed the theory of emotion based on cognitive appraisal that consists of four steps to explain the experience of emotion: 
Perception – The first step is the perception of the external stimulation, say for instance, of seeing a snake on a road
Appraisal – This perception leads to the next step known as appraisal.  Having seen the snake, the person would then evaluate whether it is harmful/poisonous or harmless/non-poisonous. 
Expression – This appraisal then determines what kind of emotion one should experience. This appraisal results in a sense of safety (if the snake is perceived as non-poisonous and hence not life –threatening) or fear (if it is perceived as poisonous). Next is the expression of this feeling of safety or fear. 
Action – as is appropriate in the form of physiological changes. These bodily changes then prepare one for a definite course of action. Thus the last step in experiencing the emotion is action —action of running away from there fast, if it is a poisonous snake or coolly walking away if it is otherwise.

However, subsequent recent research on the brain and emotion has shown that the relationship of emotion and cognition is not that simple. Cognition is defined as knowing a thing consciously. But we can experience an emotion without being conscious of it. So, many psychologists prefer to accept : one, physiological changes in emotion are a function of the cognitive appraisal that occurs in response to the arousal of the body; and two, cognition can also occur at the unconscious level. 

Antonio Damasio opines that “emotions are complicated collections of chemical and neural responses, forming a pattern; all emotions have a some kind of regulatory role to play, leading in one way or another to the creation of advantageous to the organism exhibiting the phenomenon; emotions are about the life of an organism, its body to be precise, and their role is to assist the organism in maintaining life.”  This group of scientists believes that emotions are critical to the higher reaches of human intelligence. They also argue that contrary to common belief, emotions do not ‘get in the way’ of rational thinking. On the other hand, they aver that emotions are essential to rationality. This group is of the opinion that people with damage to ventro-medial part of the pre-frontal cortex display gross defects of planning, judgment and social appropriateness, though they perform to a high level in most language and intelligence tests. In their opinion this phenomenon is a result of their inability to respond emotionally to the content of their thoughts. 

Emotions play a key role in the organizational life. People working in organizations too experience pleasure, sadness, jealousy, rage, guilt and love and display them to the varying levels of intensity and frequency. Secondly, people, in addition to monetary and social benefits, also work for emotional benefits. In a nutshell, all this cumulatively leads to the conclusion that for an individual to be successful in the society/organizations, it is essential to know one’s own emotions as also the emotions of people around him. 

Emotional wellness is derived through a "conscious choice" for, it is the thought chosen by an individual that ignites an electrochemical process in the brain that releases appropriate chemicals into to the body which ultimately prove to be either helpful or destructive to the body.  As Dalai lama observed, we “can overcome negative emotions like anger and hatred by cultivating counter-forces such as love and compassion.”

Choice is ours!


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