Emotion is a biopsychosocial phenomenon


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When you think, your thoughts initiate a corresponding neuro-biological return on that effort. For example, when you are at rest, calm and balanced, your body produces endorphins (opiods), dopamine, acetylcholine, phenylethylmine and norepinephrine each supplying fuel for your elevated mood (homeostasis). When you are busy with your favorite hobby or playing with your children, feel good chemicals are very much present in your bloodstream.  These naturally-produced substances are products of thought and serve many functions including controlling appetite, providing energy, instigating sexual arousal – acting much like Nature’s own anti-depressant – making you more open to behaviors related to attachment with others.

In the same way that thought enables balance, thought also sets off imbalance. Anger– and fear-producing thoughts are interpreted by the brain (the limbic area) as imbalance – a call to arms.  Anger- and fear-producing thoughts communicate to certain structures of your brain that threat and danger are approaching.  (Anger is a manifestation of fear and is a response to threat.  If you ever want to know what you are angry about, ask yourself what you fear.)

Some anger (fear) – producing thoughts might include, “You SHOULD behave the way I demand you SHOULD behave,” “You shouldn’t be sick.  You SHOULD be more considerate of me and stay healthy!” “You NEED to behave the way I NEED you to behave,” “I MUST be perfect and I MUST NEVER be judged as anything but perfect,” “I NEED that to happen. It isn’t happening and it MUST change!”

Fear- and anger-producing thought activates a sequence of nerve cell firings (much like when you are in balance and initiate an opposite response) which prompts the release of adrenaline, nor-adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream (hyper-altertness).  Your respiratory rate increases.  Blood is shunted away from your digestive tract, directed, instead, to your muscles and limbs. Your pupils dilate; your awareness intensifies; and your sight sharpens. You become more focused on personal protection than on reasoning.

Your fight, flight or freeze response is properly activated and overrides your balanced state.

Once in protective mode, you will perceive everything in your environment as a possible threat. A simple, unfortunate occurrence in traffic or an argument with your partner isn’t often a true threat to your survival; your protective response, however, cannot discern an argument over a parking space and an all out animal attack. Regardless of the threat, your bloodstream is teaming with a proper mix of neurochemicals and hormones to protect you from ANY KIND of harm, regardless of its size or magnitude.

No matter how hard you would like these agitating substances to dissipate, to dissolve and dilute, you will remain in a defensive state as long as they are present. It is much like over-drinking.  Once the alcohol is in your system, you cannot wish it away.  Your body and mind will work against your best judgment, until it is gone – processed through your liver and expelled.  The same process is necessary for the chemicals you send into your nervous system.  They will be there until your body processes them.  You can stop their production, however, by breathing and making an attempt to think more rationally.

Stop, become aware of what is happening and acknowledge the stress response.

Know what is happening in your body.

We can begin to see how difficult it is to cultivate positive attitudes and beliefs when we are stuck in survival mode. That is why it is best to prepare for adversity, rather than finding yourself in it and unprepared. Making ourselves aware of our unique cognitive, behavioral and biological phenomenon will be a good start to improving our emotional intelligence.

Be aware of when your rational mind is disengaged and your stress response is in full effect.

Imagine greater.

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9 responses

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