PURPOSE of Emotions : Motivation (Part 1)

music 5

how much my feelings make me do things!

Previous: For Decisions #2



– Cont.

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

In all motivation theories, ‘goals’ are very important. One of the theories is concerned with how people self-regulate in pursuit of their goals, which includes the feedback loop, with 4 sub-functions:
A = an input , D = a reference value , C = a comparison , & B = an output. The reference value D is a goal or standard you want, OR alternately, an undesired state to avoid, to move away from as far as possible. (“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.
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’d probably avoid situations that could lead to boredom, sadness, or anxiety.

OBSTACLES: Emotions can help us overcome obstacles in our life. EXP:Es for solutions
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

COOPERATION: In spite of the many factors that discourage cooperation & maintaining social relationships (self-interest, greed, instant gratification….) people do manage to get together & stay together.
• Wanting to be emotionally connected to others can motivate us to make the effort to understand where others are coming from
• Needing to be seen & heard, emotionally & intellectually, can motivate us to put ourselves ‘out there’, not only to to express our needs but also knowledge & talents

Emotions allow us the benefits of long-term relationships with people or groups that are important to us, because they provide the reason for self-control which helps us resist temptations to act irresponsibly or to run away.
✶ This is another reason it’s imperative to have access to a wide range of Es, and that they be as cleared of damage as possible.

QUICK RESPONSE:  Because Es reflect back to us reactions to our environment, they can also guide us to act in ways that are useful & appropriate to situations we run into & then have to deal with
• when you experience pleasure, excitement, joy – you can respond by coming back for more, once or as many times as possible
• if you see your two-year-old in the middle of the street with a car coming, you feel intense fear. This automatically prompts you to rush out to save him/her without having to think

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”  



• 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 prefrontal cortex (the whole section normally associated with rationally thinking).

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 )

CHOOSING – When figuring out something or make 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 : also react from our emotions, especially under stress, such as in heated arguments 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

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

Indirectly : observing ourselves react 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 love for 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 connections 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!

Some influences on Decision Making (DM)
Anticipatory Emotions (before an event):
Neg: E. anxiety & mental worry about not knowing how to decide, making the wrong choice, not having enough info…. OR
Pos: pleasure & excitement about having attractive options, not knowing for sure but willing to take a chance/ 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: relief, wonder, excitement about the potential benefits of the choice made – leaving a bad relationship, going to a longed-for event, choosing between desirable job offers….

NEXT: Decisions #2

PURPOSE of Emotions : Prediction

musical notes 3 

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 the Unhappiness Domain to -4.0- at the top of the Happiness Domain. While no chart can ever be complete, this type 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 uncontrollable. 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 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 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 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

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.

Without Es we would be like robots (Computer Role). 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 routines. When an emotion is experienced to the fullest & allowed to run its course, it dissolves like smoke & can be remembered with a smile – even if it was unpleasant !

• DAMAGE: Anyone who is physically healthy but emotionally cut off (‘average’ narcissists & secretly angry ‘nice’ people) has trouble identifying with other people’s feelings, & so can do a lot of harm – often without realizing.
If someone’s damage isn’t too severe (as in NPDs & psychopaths) their emotional numbness can be modified, if they’re willing to do the ‘thawing out’ work.

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 to make ‘normal’ emotional attachments & social connections. However, autistic people do have feelings, & if taught early ipositive psychn life to identify physical cues, they can lead more satisfying lives

Positive Psychology tells us that psychological life-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 help enhance these Es, in order to experience happiness more often:
Of joy & pleasure, Of love & relationships, Of peace & tranquility, Of hope & resilience

“Self-Perception Theory” & “Cognitive Appraisal Theories of Emotion” suggest that we figure out our Es – by staying awake & observing ourselves. They provide us with inner guidance, internal indicators of what’s good & bad for us, & what our needs are

But each person differs in the amount that suits them best, just as some people require more water, food or sleep 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 something appropriate & empowering. So, when we feel: 3 Es
lonely, we know we’re not connected (enough) with others
• afraid, we know we don’t feel safe, for self or loved ones
 rejected, we know we aren’t being accepted, respected, valued….
We couldn’t appreciate life if our emotions disappeared:
– How long could we physically survive if we never felt fear?
– Why would we want to apologize if guilt was not available?
– How could we miss the company of others if we couldn’t feel loneliness?

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, but it didn’t take away those original needs!
In reaction, some of us increased the intensity of our Es & how we expressed them (dramatic – but 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, 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, creating the psychological space & safety to explore & learn, which build inner resources for inevitable times of difficulty. AND 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) 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, to active participation in groups & organizations providing relief for the needy & suffering

3. For UNITY
• Because Emotions are universal, the ‘positive’ ones may help overcome prejudice & divisions. Many cultural, religious & political beliefs tragically, even fatally, 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