Feelings are Fickle!
In today’s world, we are often run by our feelings. How are you feeling? I feel as though… What do your feelings say about..? Does any of that sound familiar? In the course of a day, we encounter and experience a barge of varying emotions from ourselves and others. Feelings serve as our primary motivators in life. From whether or not to get out of bed, taking a business risk, or to decide if we will befriend someone we were just introduced to. What if I told you your feelings are fickle; how would that make you feel? ( no pun intended) Would that challenge or affirm your current beliefs?
The Origin of our Feelings
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, feelings are defined as an often unreasoned opinion or belief. Since the origin of feelings is in our amygdala, you might find Merriam Webster’s definition, ironic. The amygdala is a tiny almond-shaped structure located in our brain stem which is a part of our limbic system. The brain stem is a section of our brain that is highly involved with our emotions. Specifically, the amygdala is responsible for the processing of our emotions, memories, and motivation. So, when I say our feelings, aka our motivators, are triggered by our past, it all comes together, right! If not, let me breakdown the origin of our feelings down a little further.
What are Feelings
Feelings are your body’s automatic response to a past memory. Our amygdala is responsible for processing memories and stimuli appropriately, so when a present situation triggers a past memory, your amygdala is already directing its response. No matter if the stimulus is real or perceived, your amygdala will set into motion a program response. Events of the past, condition your response in a specific way. This response could be rapid heartbeats and perceptions of love or a stream of tears and perceptions of anger.
Additionally, stimuli or events could trigger the amygdala to simultaneously express both negative and positive emotions. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, they classified 27 different emotions could show. The feelings that are perceived the most are joy, followed by love, and then anxiety. Highlighted in another study, “Everyday Life” published in PLOS, the average a person perceives feelings 90% of the day, which means your past essentially directs 90% of your life, if your primary motivator is emotion. Yeah, I’ll let that set in a bit. This evolutionary behavior was vital to our survival thousands of years ago when deadly threats were more prevalent. However, in today’s current climate repeating the cycles of our past only keeps us in patterns that constrain our growth. We’ve all had that moment when we’ve realized that we’ve repeated the same pattern but expected a different outcome. Once we changed our action then the outcome we wanted soon followed.
Awareness is Key
Now, our evolution as a society is limited by our lack of awareness. Knowing the source of emotions is the key to empowering our choice in reaction. If you are a Mel Robbins fan, like I am, she talks about using metacognition to help you push through the prison of your emotions, and live an authentic life. According to Meichenbaum, metacognition refers to awareness of one’s own knowledge. What one does and doesn’t know and one’s ability to understand, control, and manipulate one’s cognitive processes. This concept is the unveiling of emotions being accurate. So now when I say your feelings are fickle, how do you feel?
Knowing that your feelings are rooted in old data, you can use metacognition or any other tool and start to create new patterns. When a new opportunity comes into your life and you feel fear, remember that it’s just old conditioning from a previous life event. This awareness will give you the power to choose the opportunity for yourself instead of automatically repeating the same fear pattern from your past. Creating new patterns will consequently birth new neuropathways, which will permit you to grow beyond your current conditioning and shatter limiting patterns.
Gain awareness to areas of your life that might need attention.
Meichenbaum, D. (1985). Teaching thinking: A cognitive-behavioral perspective. In S. F., Chipman, J. W. Segal, & R. Glaser (Eds.), Thinking and learning skills, Vol. 2: Research and open questions. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Trampe, Debra “ Emotions in Everyday Life” PLOS: December 23, 2015 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0145450
Goldsmith, Barton. “Feelings Aren’t Facts: Sometimes our emotions are difficult to understand and trust.” Psychology Today Oct 16, 2013 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201310/feelings-aren-t-facts
Cowen, Alan and Keltner, Dachner “Self-report captures 27 distinct categories of emotion bridged by continuous gradients” PNAS published September 5, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1702247114