Emotions: Do we make them?

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Emotions: Do we make them?
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Thu, 05-06-2010 - 12:41pm

I heard an interesting conversation this morning on the Diane Rehm Show on the radio. Richard Gere was the guest. (I'm not a big fan of Diane Rehm, her guest host, her show, Richard Gere or any of his movies, but the conversation was fascinating.)


He related a story about meeting the Dalai Lama.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-04-2006
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 1:47pm

This flies directly in the face of everything I learned in therapy. I had to have a LOT of therapy because I refused to have negative feelings, I stuffed it all down inside and just didn't even acknowledge it was possible. I had to LEARN how to have real feelings. My therapist worked for weeks getting me to "sit with my feelings" which sounds utterly ridiculous, but what it means is that I was supposed to just feel my feelings, acknowledge them, not judge them, and just let them be what they were. You don't have to act on feelings, but if you don't even allow yourself to have them, you will go nuts, I believe that, because I almost did.

roo and snowy siggie
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 1:57pm

Do you think it's possible that you were "making" your own negative feelings but then not subsquently acknowledging them, as opposed to "making" them and acknowledging them or not "making" them in the first place? Or is it possible that you "made" your feelings in response to a therapist's prompting and something else was "wrong" with you when you went in?


(I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm really interested in knowing what the highly intelligent people on this forum think about this stuff."


iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2004
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 2:02pm
I agree with miranda. For the most part, emotions come from the lizard part of our brain ("amygdala"). Though our reactions can mute or amplify those emotions, we must acknowledge those emotions.
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 2:08pm
But can we discipline the amygdala or are we forever destined to react rather than to act? If I can teach myself not to pull my hand away from the hot surface when I feel a burning sensation or to not flinch when something flies at my head unexpectedly, can I teach myself to not feel sad and lonely when someone treats me in an unaccepting way? I've had rocks, threats and insults thrown at me; I've looked down the barrel of a loaded, cocked weapon; but I wasn't afraid and didn't feel alone or unappreciated. Why can't I do that when it comes to sexual rejection? Don't the emotions originate in the same organ?
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-04-2006
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 2:09pm

No, I do not believe I was "making" the negative emotions and then not acknowledging them. It took me weeks to even begin to identify what feelings I was having. The process I went through convinces me thoroughly that emotions happen organically. Now, having said that, your expectations and baggage, to a large degree, influence what emotions you will have.

You can control your expectations and do what you can to minimize your baggage, but I do believe that feeling sad, angry, hurt, happy, etc are natural occurrences. I also believe that you can change your outlook on a situation and it will affect how you feel about that situation, but I do not believe that constitutes creating your emotions.

I'll give an example. When the white dog in my signature was very ill, we took him to the vet and had bloodwork done. The bloodwork came back very bad. His kidneys basically weren't doing anything anymore. We knew we had to let him go. I loved this dog in a way that's hard to describe. He brought me much joy. I chose to stay with him while the vet gave him his final injection. It caused me a lot of pain and grief, but eventually, when I was able to think a little bit, I realized that I could view it differently. That dog and I were there for each other, until the very end for him. I did what I could to bring him peace, and to end his suffering. Thinking about it in this way brought ME peace, and eased MY suffering. Did it make me joyful? No. Did it erase my grief? No. I still grieve for that damn dog (I'm such an idiot, I know.) I didn't create my emotions, I just dealt with them and did what I could with my baggage, to manage them.

roo and snowy siggie
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-17-2008
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 3:17pm

You've raised two excellent points:
*Self-awareness. Becoming conscious of our thoughts, emotions, actions and reactions is paramount to personal happiness and self-control.
*Many researchers say our lizard brain only knows three responses: TOWARD, AWAY, AGAINST.

So, how do your daily interactions with your spouse make you "feel"? What are you giving to -- and receiving from -- each other? When you climb into bed at night, do you want to reach toward her? Roll away from her in resentment? Or dream about running away and starting over with someone else?

The conflict arises because you're staying to nurture your children, but YOU are neither being nurtured by nor having (enthusiastic) sex with your spouse.

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-21-2003
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 4:55pm

<>

I don't think it's an emotion as much as a biological appetite or drive (like hunger or fatigue). There's some choice about how it's channeled, but not much choice, IMO, about when it comes knocking at the body's door. Exercising or "waiting it out" can work, though, just as they can with hunger and fatigue.

OTOH, how we react to sexual rejection is very much an emotion and, I believe, largely under our control (though I concede that sexual rejection is a much bigger blow for some than for others).

Freelance




Edited 5/6/2010 4:59 pm ET by freelancemomma
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-06-2007
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 5:35pm

OTOH, how we react to sexual rejection is very much an emotion and, I believe, largely under our control (though I concede that sexual rejection is a much bigger blow for some than for others).


My youngest daughter has spent the last hour crying inconsolably. Her cousin untied her tied-balloon bunny. During the Civil War, General Stonewall Jackson looked around in vain for a close aide. When he was told the man had died during the battle, his response was, "Very commendable, very commendable," and he went about his business. From culture to culture and from generation to generation, there's a great variety in the way people respond to death, rejection, and good news. Do those who respond in a lower-key way experience these events with lower-key emotions or are they suppressing the same emotions in an unhealthy way? Was the 19th century one of unhealthy emotional suppression and the 21st century one of more healthy emotional expression? Is Minnesota, England or Japan less healthy because of their emotional restraint? Is Brazil or Mexico more emotionally healthy because of the breadth of public emotional expression?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-21-2003
Thu, 05-06-2010 - 7:09pm

All very interesting questions, though I'm not sure how they relate to the point I was making.

In general I tend to believe that people who show less emotion actually feel less emotion. As always, there are exceptions, but I think intense emotion is bound to spill out in some way.

Perhaps some of the "cultures of restraint," like Japan, actually train people to experience fewer emotional storms, rather than simply weather them better.

<>

I suspect it's because sexual rejection is one of your hot buttons and you've laid down some pretty deep neural grooves in response to it. Whenever you experience sexual rejection afresh, the whole neural pathway is activated. It's probably close to automatic at this point (though it could change with therapy or intense self-work). I have a similarly automatic response to rejection by friends/colleagues, especially for "not being in the know" about something. Fortunately it doesn't happen often, but when it does I get extremely anxious and find it very hard to shake off the emotion.

F.




Edited 5/6/2010 7:19 pm ET by freelancemomma
iVillage Member
Registered: 12-10-2009
Fri, 05-07-2010 - 4:30am

I'm quite a fan of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (e.g. CBT for Dummies) - which makes a distinction between emotions, meanings and actions (and whatever triggers them);

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