PURPOSE of Emotions : Motivation (Part 1)

music 5

how much my feelings make me do things

Previous: For Decisions #2



f. To MOTIVATE Actions
DEF: MOTIVATION is the driving force behind the push to achieve goals (internal & external factors that cause & direct behavior), and it’s our emotions (Es) that prepare us to take those actions.
The urge to act is hardwired to specific emotions, which are automatically built in & produce physical sensations – muscles tensed or relaxed, blood vessels dilated or contracted…. These sensations signal us either to urgently do something or stay in a comfortable state

ACTIVE : In all motivation theories, ‘goals’ are very important. One form of goal setting is expressed in a Feedback Loop concerned with how people self-regulate in pursuit of their goals. A Self-regulation System tries to keep some condition fixed, even in the face of various kinds of disturbances from outside.
D = a Reference Value, either as a goal or standard you want & an undesired state to avoid, OR where behavior is adjusted so that discrepancy between input & goal is reduced.
A = an input sensations coming in, to tell you how far you are from achieving the goal or avoiding the anti-goal.
B = an output, behavioral or motor activity to move closer to the goal
C = a mental comparison, the conscious or unconscious appraisal of how near you are to the goal (MORE…. Emotions & Motivation“)

AVOIDANCE: By nature we’re motivated to take specific actions in order to experience pleasant emotions & minimize the probability of feeling unpleasant ones. (7 Negative feedback loops)
EXP: As a kid in school, what made you decide to raised a hand to answer a question? It depended on which felt safer / better: the pleasure & recognition of answering it right, or avoiding the embarrassment of getting it wrong
EXP: You might participate in social activities or hobbies that provide a sense of happiness, contentment, or excitement. On the other hand, you’ll probably avoid situations that could lead to boredom, sadness, or anxiety.

RISK: Action requires risk, & the willingness to take risks is rooted in our Es, which are themselves based on moral convictions – those values that do move us, not those that ought to move us.
When confronted with a new experience, opportunity or danger – we wonder: Should I be courageous? withdraw? hedge my bets? What’s an appropriate risk?
To make sense of an unexpected experience we need to interpret what it means:
Is it good for us, bad for us or irrelevant?  Our values —-> generate —-> the emotions that inspire up to act.

Es for solutionsOBSTACLES: Emotions can help us overcome obstacles in our life. EXP:
anxiety when you’re about to take a test – although uncomfortable – helps motivate you to study to do your best
• anger can motivate you to protest injustices,  & help override the fear you might feel at a demonstration or rally
• guilt may keep you sticking to a diet or finishing a work assignment.
It’s not to say that we should feel guilty, just that it’s what prompts some to follow through with a difficult project or goal

LIMITATIONS:  Es cannot fix problems – we can’t ‘anger’ something into a solution. We also need free will. Sometimes we can have a strong desire for something but then don’t create an action-plan to go after it. Es may be a driving factor in wanting to change, but they have to be combined with a desire to act, in order to become motivation.
And once we have the motivation, there has to be actual carry-through, the signals sent to our muscles that allow us to move. However, if Es are too overwhelming, they will prevent us from taking any action at all.

NEXT: Motivation #2

PURPOSE of Emotions : Decisions (Part 1)

Smusical notes 4
– what if it’s the wrong choice?

PREVIOUS: For Prediction

Article: The Role of Emotion”  

– cont.

• Decision-making is about evaluating & achieving goals, & the most meaningful ones are combined with strong emotional tags. Scientific studies have established that the role of Emotion in DM is biologically extensive & complex, & therefore indispensable.

Areas of the brain used for thinking are also thoroughly connected to emotions, as can be seen in people with severe frontal lobe damage. They are left with an inability to make practical & social choices, even though they still have all the information & skills need. Their damage isn’t in memory or intelligence, but rather the neural connections between emotional & cognitive centers of the brain.

• Antonio Damasio (Prof of Neuroscience, CA) suggests we have emotional processes called “somatic markers” made by strong chemical connections between events that are important to us and the emotions they induce.
These markers are stored in a section of the large brain area normally associated with rationally thinking – the prefrontal cortex

When facing complex or conflicting choices, we may become overwhelmed by too many options & not be able to decide using logic alone. Somatic markers can then simplify things by focusing our attention on specifically useful & desirable options. (Emotional DecisionsSomatic Markers Hypothesis )

CHOICES – When figuring out something or making a decision, WE:
Consciously : use cognitive functions (thinking) via the rational cortex, which takes at least 0.1 seconds to get going. This level of DM is based on the principle of utility, where the value of each option is assessed by its cost-benefit to us or a loved one.
EXP : Stopping oneself from crossing a busy street when the light is yellow

Unconsciously : automatically responding from emotions, especially when under stress, such as in a heated argument or when in immediate danger. Es happen almost instantly, so it’s much harder to notice & be in charge of them!
EXP : Saying something inappropriate to the boss as a knee jerk reaction

Indirectly : Es stimulate our brains to deal with input very quickly & in specific ways. If we react to input by disregarding facts, common-sense or circumstances, we can easily end up coming to a wrong conclusion, & therefore take inappropriate actions
EXP : Callingimages-4 an old lover who’s made it clear she/he’s not interested

Directly : observing ourselves respond emotionally to unpleasant encounters, noticing what we think about doing, & remember what has happened before. We learn from experience & adapt our actions accordingly.
EXP : Feeling a strong attraction to an abusive ex, but knowing it’s not safe to reconnect. Wanting to hit someone who insulted us, but don’t

• If we do something that harms us or contradicts our values, our Es will let us know – so we need to pay attention. Even when we’re just imagining what might happen, our Es are still triggered, & hopefully we always use them as a guide in picking the best options available.

Studies show that when people’s emotional pathways are severed in the brain, they can’t make even simple decisions, because they don’t know how they feel about the possibilities they have to choose from. SO don’t complain about having Es!

Influences on Decision Making (DM)
Anticipatory Emotions (before an event):
Neg: Emotional anxiety & mental worry about not knowing how to decide, making the wrong choice, not having enough info…. OR
Pos: pleasure & excitement about having interesting & attractive options, not knowing for sure but willing to take a reasonable risk, hoping to learn or experience something new….

Anticipated Emotions (after an event):
Neg: fear, guilt, anxiety about what will happen as a result of our decision – being rejected, causing more problems, not getting what we want….. OR
Pos: excitement, relief, wonder – about the potential benefits of the choice made – having left a bad relationship, gone to a longed-for event, chosen between desirable job offers….

NEXT: Decisions #2

PURPOSE of Emotions : PREdiction

helps me know what to expect

PREVIOUS: For Protection

REMINDER: Use Acronyms Page for abbrevs.



• Psychological research has shown that Emotion shapes behavior, perhaps because strong Es reinforce experiences. Knowing how someone feels will help us evaluate how they will act.

From AREK: We all have a chronic or habitual emotional state that determines our fundamental & relatively constant behavior patterns. When we experience success or failure in our activities, emotional levels move up or down accordingly, but eventually re-balance, returning to our personal base line

AREK’s site includes an emotions chart reflecting the same viewpoint as in ‘What about Emotions, #2’.  Here he numerically grades each E. by intensity, from -0- at the bottom of Unhappiness to -4.0- at the top of the Happiness Domain. While no chart can ever be complete, this one can be used as a general guide to understand & predict human behavior in all it’s complexity, so we can make better choices in our relationships

ATTITUDES (Att) are someone’s consistent evaluation of people, objects, & ideas, based on TEA: T – cognitive, E – affective or A – behavioral. Explicit Att are opinions that people consciously endorse & can be easily described, whereas implicit Att are involuntary, usually unconscious & so uncontrolled. Att can predict behavior if we know which of these 2 categories someone is coming from in a given situation

T.O.M. Theory of Mind acknowledges our natural capacity to understand internal states such as beliefs, feelings, desires, hope & intentions. We’re able to create a mental picture of our own Es & reactions, which helps us understand that other people’s behavior is caused by their inner experience. This allows us to anticipate & predict some of what to expect from them

• We know that whatever goes on in the mind of others is not visible to us, so the images remain a “theory” we create.  T.O.M. is not a form of mind-reading but but rather paying attention to patterns & more like putting oneself in someone else’s shoes.
EXP: Even as a kid, you ‘understood’ that your sister would be sad, furious & frustrated with you IF you tore up her favorite dress! And you could also predict how she’d react – yell, hit you, tell your parents, get back at you later – depending on her personalityin your shoes

CHILDREN: A group of Child Psychologists made a systematic examination of emotions & story themes in children’s play time, to see if the combination could provide useful information about their bad behavior (acting-out).
In scenarios made up by 4 & 5-year-olds, images of emotional distress & destruction (aggression, personal injury, unusually negative responses for their age…) correlated with their actual behavior problems, as rated by parents & teachers.

SALES: Marketing studies have used emotional measurements to see if they could link people’s capacity for persuasion & therefore purchasing decisions with emotional feelings. They’ve concluded that combining emotional responses with other key factors indicate consumers’ true basis for choices, giving companies an effectively tool for reaching their audience, since Es accounted for 70% of the respondents’ purchasing intentions

ACoAs: Again, the type of Predicting referred to here is NOT mind-reading, which is based on our assumptions, projections & wishes. Rather, it’s the ability to observe what others are telling us about themselves – which they do all the time – AND recognizing what our emotions are telling us about them.

• As we get to know someone we can make general but legitimate assumptions about how they’re going to react in pay attentionvarious emotional states & social situations. It’s up to us to stay awake.
Children figure out how to do this at an early age by watching their parents & others around them, so they know what’s expected of them, how to respond & how to protect themselves. BUT we were taught to not trust those observations – so we ignore what we know, to our detriment!

• Not only do ACoAs try to mind-read, but we also make the mistake of ‘predicting behavior’ based mainly on the way our parents treated us & each other – instead of responding to who someone actually is in the presentEXP:
— If we were constantly neglected as kids we expect everyone will ignore us now
— If we were always scapegoated in the family, we keep ‘seeing’ ways others marginalize or blame us
— If we were usually punished for getting angry, we assume everyone else will also reject us if we express anger….

➼ Yes, we can easily fimind-readingnd people who are just like our family, often choosing & then staying with them because we can act out the Negative Prediction of always & inevitably being abandoned.
However, these are not the only possibilities.  There are respectful, caring people in the world as well. We have a right to find & be with them – so believe in that right & keep looking!
Relations are like fish – it’s up to us to pick the ones with the least bones!

NEXT: Purpose – Decisions

PURPOSE of Emotions : Awareness (Part 1)

how I feel & respond to the world

PREVIOUS: Communication #2

Review post :Getting to our Es – Over

SEE Acronyms Page for abbrev.



a. To Feel ALIVE
The over-all purpose of Es is to experience & get the most out of life.
They are spontaneous responses to everything inside & outside of ourselves. They’re what make us feel alive – both the thrills & chills – telling us who we are BY how we feel about our experiences. The more an event or person means to us, the more intense our emotional response to them.

“NORMAL”:  A healthy, integrated life includes having access to a full range of Es. They are meant to surface temporarily & then pass thru us, so we can feel other ones as we go thru our daily routine. When an emotion is experienced to the fullest & allowed to run its course, it dissolves like smoke but remembered with a smile – even if it was unpleasant !

positive psychPositive Psychology tells us that psychological satisfaction & well-being come from participating in activities that boost pleasant Es, which then allow us to discover & use our character strengths & virtues.
It offers 4 broad pathways that can enhance these Es, in order to experience happiness more often – PATH OF : joy & pleasure, love & relationships, peace & tranquility, hope & resilience

DAMAGE: Without Es we would be like robots (Computer Role). Anyone who is physically healthy but emotionally cut off has trouble identifying with other people’s feelings, & so can do a lot of harm – usually unaware.
If someone’s damage isn’t too severe (like NPDs & psychopaths) their emotional numbness can be modified, if they’re willing to do the ‘thawing out’ work.(Secretly angry ‘nice’ people)

A medical parallel can be made with autistic people, who have a disability in recognizing facial & body cues. (“The Body & Es, Part 2) This limits their capacity to identify Es in others & therefore hard to make ‘normal’ emotional attachments & social connections.
However, autistic people do have feelings, & if taught early in life to identify physical cues, they can lead more satisfying lives, & others will be more comfortable around them.

The “Self-Perception Theory” & “Cognitive Appraisal Theories of Emotion” suggest that we figure out how we feel about things, by staying awake & observing ourselves. This allows us to access Inner Guidance, using Es as indicators of what’s good & bad for us, & therefore what our needs are

But each person differs in the amount of the ‘things’ that suit us, so that some people require more sleep, stimulation, space…. than others. One person may need freedom & independence while another security & continual social connections. Some may have a need to ‘understand’ life & satisfy a great curiosity, while others are content to accept whatever they’ve been taught

Es also alert us when any natural, normal need is not being met. They are a signal for us to pay attention & deal with the lack – hopefully by doing something appropriate & empowering. So, when we feel:
lonely – we’re not connected (enough) with others
• afraid – we don’t feel safe, for self or loved ones
 rejected – we aren’t being accepted, respected, valued….

REALISTICALLY, we would’t fare well in life without any Es
– How long could we physically survive if we never felt fear?
– Why would we want to apologize for hurting someone if guilt was not available?
– How could we miss the company of others if we couldn’t feel loneliness?
– Why would we want to help someone in dire need, 3 Eswithout empathy?

ACoAs grew up in environments where our Es were constantly minimized, invalidated & punished, making is very hard to get our legitimate human needs & distresses taken seriously.
It taught us to not trust our feelings, nor believe in the right to have needs, even though they never go away – until met. (EXP: You’ll feel hungry until you eat, be tired until you sleep, scared until comforted…)

🔸In reaction, some of us increased the intensity of our Es & how we express them (dramatically, which is not crazy), desperately trying to be heard.
🔹Others decreased the strength & expression of most or all Es (withdrawn & invisible), making it hard to be seen & appreciated, leaving us even more emotionally ‘starved’!

NEXT: Awareness #2



– so now I welcome & work with them!

PREVIOUS: Repressing Emotions #2

Review post : “Getting to our Es – Under


✥ Do you know what to say when you hear someone insist that emotions are a waste of time, unreliable, too much trouble? The next several posts will give important reasons – biological, personal & social – why we have them!

• That’s the evolutionists’ answer. According to their theory, animals are aggressive & self-conscious (compared to rivers, mountains, plants….which have also survived) & humans are the most self-conscious, making us increasingly invested & crafty in our efforts to endure.
Over time we developed a wide range of Es & a complex rational thinking system, which allowed us to imagine our own past & future selves, giving us preeminence over fauna & flora. ‘”If you want to create a system that works hard to survive, make it be conscious and emotional. It will want to keep itself around!’”Es for survival

• Researchers believe that Emotion, rather than logic, is the driving force in the human brain. Studies show that Es are responsible for neural integration – linking various brain functions (talking to each other) by tying together physical, cognitive, sensory & social processes, keeping us sane, healthy & functioning effectively

• Robert Plutchik, of the Emotion Wheel, wrote that the purpose of emotions is to form behavioral interactions between a person & a stimulus – event, thing or another person – so that when Es are acted on (correctly, of course) it brings the person back to a state of equilibrium — feeling ok / safe
EXP: You’re in the woods & see a bear loping towards you. You’re very afraid. The fear makes you run away, so the emotion served to produce an action that saves your life. You’re then returned to a calm state (eventually).

• Humans are fundamentally social animals, needing to rely on each other for survival. So we not only have personal feelings, but also social Es deeply embedded in our nature for connection.  Es motivate & organize individual behavior & social interactions, as well as facilitate communication.  Social needs include acceptance, prestige & access to certain people, events or resources, & provide a mirror for our feelings, attitudes & realitybelonging

• Belonging to a group or community gives us a sense of identity.
Researchers found that people are happier when they’re with others rather than too much alone – & the “boost” is the same for Introverts & Extroverts.

✶ Loving relationships are important to our well-being & happiness because they’re comforting It creates the psychological space & safety to explore & learn, which builds inner resources for inevitable times of difficulty.
AND the positive effects are long-lasting. Strong emotional support also reduces immune system abnormalities that contribute to various stress-related disorders.

EXP: The success of the many 12-step Programs (AA, GA, OA / Al-anon, Gamanon, Oanon….). The Al-Anon closing says: “The welcome we give you may not show the warmth we have in our hearts for you. After a while, you’ll discover that though you may not like all of us, you’ll love us in a very special way—the same way we already love you.”

Emotions that serve social functions:
Guilt (not the ACoA type) is appropriate when we’ve done something social Esinappropriate or hurtful, to motivate us to make amends (AA’s 8th & 9th Step)
Responsibility (not co-dependence) to keep us from harming others, or to help where needed….
Altruism, going beyond passively ‘behaving’ oneself to not cause social problems, but rather to actively participate in groups & organizations that provide relief for the needy & suffering

3. For UNITY
• Because Emotions are universal, the ‘positive’ ones may help overcome prejudice & divisions. Tragically, even fatally, many cultural, religious & political beliefs separate us. But Es – such as empathy, cooperation, forgiveness & heroism – can help.
Unifying Emotions:
Caring: listening to concerns of others helps them feel understood & valued
Faith: a Spiritufun singingal belief providing wise rules (of right & wrong) can connect us to like-mined people
Music (& other art forms) emotionally link artist & a wide public
Laughter: a universal language that makes people feel good
Love: fostering acceptance, compassion, education, responsibility, understanding, & spiritual growth.

NEXT: For survival #2