Friday, December 9, 2011


It has recently come to my attention that quite a few people think that life would
be better, easier, and what have you without emotions. This topic is particularly
relevant because the topic of my Biological Psychology course for the past week has
been that of emotions (mechanisms, processes, functions, etc).

In the past week, I've heard people say things like "Life would be easier with no
emotions," "Things would be less complicated without emotions," and "If only I did
not have feelings."

I've also noticed that such comments nearly always come from men. Thanks, society,
for socializing males to deny the existence and usefulness of emotions and females
to view emotions as inevitable and reliable. Everybody's wrong.

On a side note, Psychology is to conditioning as Sociology is to socializing.

One of the questions on my Bio Psych take-home final includes a prompt to explain
the value of emotions in decision-making. I will probably post my essay response
here once I complete my exam, but that is not due until Wednesday, so...

So, why are emotions important? Are we better off with or without them? On one
hand, you have the view described by the quoted sentiments above that says that
emotions complicate everything, whether decision-making, relationships, problem-
solving, or something else. On the other hand, you have the view that says that
emotions give meaning, value, and purpose to experiences, relationships, and

Emotions contribute to a sense of worth, which allows self-support. Without emotions,
our accomplishments and relationships would mean little, if anything at all. Instead,
emotions allow us to explain the motivation behind our actions.

Can we explain the motivation behind our actions without incorporating emotion?
Probably, yes, but such motivation will be a robotic series of steps and will not
include true inherent value.

Emotions give us the means to love and be loved. Without emotions, our relationships
become overly-intellectualized and therefore robotic. Instead, emotions foster
commitment to family and non-family connections.

Can we do that without emotions? Maybe. Maybe we can rationalize why we should be
committed to our family without emotions, by giving reasons like financial support
and efficient living (i.e., it's cheaper to cook for four people than for one).
But that seems to take the fun and adventure out of it. In regards to non-family
connections, I would argue that emotionless relationships of any kind do not work.
Even in a non-romantic relationship that is focused on remaining casual instead of
working toward a forever future? I would argue yes. Relationships devoid of all
emotion simply are not enjoyable after a relatively short period of time.

Emotions give us the means to have fun and describe fun. Fun, enjoyment, and
adventure are all emotions. Without emotions, such experiences would lack value
and importance. Instead, emotions help us share in such enjoyable experiences.

Can we have fun without emotions? Probably not. Even if you enjoy something on a
purely intellectual level, that enjoyment is an emotion.

However, emotions are not an all or nothing topic. Both intellect and emotions are
fallible. It is absolutely crucial to realize that, while interpersonal relationships
and emotions are certainly important, people are fallible. Because of this, we must
never fully rely on others and the emotions they inspire in us to satisfy our worth.

And this ties back into all the times I've ever talked about inherent worth and value.
People and relationships with them are absolutely important, as are emotions. But
these are still external stimuli. A majority of the time, emotions are influenced
more by internal states, such as physical exhaustion or hormones. When this happens,
people look for an external source on which to blame their negative emotions, even
though they simply need a nap. Parallel to this is the importance of inherent worth
and value. In my opinion, these are internal states and are therefore generally
more reliable and predictable than external situations. For instance, you know,
acting in such a way that reflects one's core values? Yeah, that sounds right.

Emotions absolutely must be treated with balance and moderation. It is usually
emotions that derail our success, but it is emotions that makes our success worth
something. Whether positive or negative, there are inevitably times when emotions
will interfere. Such times call for a greater focus on intellect. However, even
though there are times emotions should be de-emphasized, this does not mean that
emotions should be entirely eliminated.

Further, I argue that it is impossible for emotions to be entirely eliminated.
However, people still try because they believe that a life devoid of emotions will
be easier, less complicated, and so on. But it can't happen. Emotions are largely
autonomic and are frequently unconscious to a certain extent.

But people still try. They try and they try to suppress their emotions and what
happens? Well, there are a few situations we can hypothesize about. Maybe there
comes a point when all of their repressed and denied emotions become too much to
control and they end up exploding, which may result in increased solitude or
unprovoked aggression.

Or maybe there comes a point when they have gotten so good at suppressing their
emotions that they no longer know how to feel. Or maybe they never gave themselves
an opportunity to learn how to deal with stress.

In sum, if you ignore your emotions, you probably won't know how to effectively
handle them and use them for your benefit (contentedness, satisfaction, etc) because
you never will have allowed yourself to experience any emotions.

Emotions also cause a great deal of interpersonal problems if a person expects
everyone around him or her to be equal in regards to emotions, expression, feelings,
and mood.

Emotions = state of physiological arousal (plus outward expression and subjective feelings)
Emotional expression = outward signs of feelings
Emotional feelings = private emotional experience
Mood = low-intensity, long-lasting emotional state (baseline)

It is also unfair and dishonesty to deny your emotional feelings when they are
obvious to others through your emotional expression.

In regards to the processes of emotion...

emotional stimulus
cognitive appraisal (based on life experiences)
physical arousal (changes in heart rate, breathing rate)
behavioral response (action)
emotional expression
emotional feeling
additional cognitive appraisal that can reinforce or negate the previous four items

Additionally, physical arousal can increase behavioral response, which can increase
emotional expression, which can increase emotional feeling.

I hope I expressed my thoughts effectively.

We also talked about the importance of emotional intelligence, which is the ability
to be able to read people and intuit what they are feeling, even if they are not
explicitly expressing it. Emotional expression tends to become more subtle with age.
I would argue that emotional intelligence also includes the ability to accurately
estimate situations and the emotions involved in order to effectively handle other
people, relationships, decisions, problems, and so on.

Check out Daniel Goleman.

Again, I hope I expressed my thoughts effectively. I hope I effectively expressed my thoughts.

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