Lesson #9: The 4 Major Emotion Revolutions

Lesson #9: The 4 Major Emotion Revolutions Earth with rising SunWe've gone over a lot of important points in the past eight lessons:
    • Reality is relative.
    • Real life is reality.
    • Your personal narratives co-construct your life.
    • Your cognitive networks co-construct your life.
    • Reality doesn't exist "out there"; it's co-constructed from within you.
    • The best way to be more mindful of how you co-construct your life is to cultivate a healthy, intimate, and loving relationship with yourself.
    • Your emotions are logical.
    • You can trust the logic of your negative emotions and turn them into mindful emotions.
    • Your emotions help you unlock your subconscious -- which gives you greater access to your personal narrative and cognitive networks.
    • You need to trust your emotions in order to accept them, in order to accept yourself.
You can sum up all we've covered so far with one sentence: Your life is your construct. Lots of people are catching on to this idea. They're seeing how clearly life is co-constructed by personal narratives, cognitive networks and emotions. I call these people revolutionaries; they're part of the "emotion revolution." This is a really special revolution where the myth of those "evil emotions" or "illogical emotions" is finally being put to rest, and we can, as a society, take more response ability for our lives and our planet. As I see it, there are four major types of revolutions going on. There are those who are passionate about:
    1. Consciousness,
    2. Neuroplasticity,
    3. Emotional Intelligence, and
    4. Cognitive-Affective Science
I'm going to talk a bit more about each revolution, go over its strengths, highlight what you can gain from it, and also talk about its shortcomings. Are you ready? Emotion Revolution #1: Consciousness the power of consciousnessWe talked about how reality comes from inside you; your brain co-creates the experience. Reality is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. Well, quantum physics is taking this a bit further. Not only does your brain co-create your experience of reality. It literally affects the physical world out there. Or at least that's what a handful of studies suggest -- at the subatomic level -- which is what Einstein called "spooky action at a distance," where photons behave in weird ways. So with these weird observations about matter -- the emotion revolutionaries are taking this and running with it. They're saying that because the universe is not as physically stable as we thought it was, and because human consciousness affects the physical world -- power to the people who can literally change the world with their thoughts! The Institute of HeartMath and The Global Coherence Initiative (GCI) are organizations that take a more practical approach. HeartMath tests products that help people reduce their stress, based on biofeedback technology designed to help the heart's electromagnetic field reach what they call levels of coherence. GCI investigates how consciousness (namely, meditation resulting in "positive" emotional states) interact with earth's magnetic field. The idea is that consciousness impacts emotional states, which impact physiological states and a person's own electromagnetic field (via the heart) -- which influences the greater collective and the planet. And this is treading into Superstring theory, which posits that all physical matter is interconnected via a web of strings. These strings oscillate, and different vibrations lead to different properties of physical matter. Strengths of the Consciousness Revolution The great thing about the Consciousness Revolutionaries is that they're researching what's usually not looked at in mainstream science, and they're creating technologies that have direct application. They're not just interested in selling millions of copies of The Secret or becoming international gurus (as such endeavors aren't revolutionary, but feeding off of insecurities people have about emotional life). They want to help bring world peace, and they realize that the emotions of each individual plays a huge role. Fear feeds fear. Greed feeds greed. Compassion heals. And love moves the world. You can check out the research of HeartMath and GCI. On my to-read list in regards to this revolution is The Purpose-Guided Universe: Believing In Einstein, Darwin, and God," by astrophysicist Dr. Bernard Haisch. On his June 6, 2010 appearance on Coast to Coast AM, he said: "It's becoming more and more evident in quantum physics that consciousness creates reality."

The great thing about Consciousness Revolution is that it's looking deeper into the mysteries of our universe, and investigating the complexities of human consciousness. It's boldly doing a lot of the research that mainstream science won't yet touch!

Shortcomings of the Consciousness Revolution While the Consciousness Revolutionaries make headway with research, their scope is a bit limited. Firstly, when it comes to quantum physics, it's tremendously difficult if not impossible to extrapolate findings to the larger scale of brain activity and even behavior. Thus, it's easy to jump to conclusions that thoughts change the world as you so desire, from research on how consciousness affects the quantum world. However, these conclusions are speculative and not scientifically backed. Secondly, the Consciousness Revolutionaries can make the world out to be black and white (although I wouldn't cast Haisch in this way). And they cast emotions into categories of love (good) and fear (bad). They want to free the world of war and hate by spreading love and good thoughts. They think that enough good thoughts, positive energy, and enough minutes of global meditation will solve all of the world's complex problems. And they'll have you believe that you should never harbor bad or negative thoughts, because they're "bad for your health." Yes, they are bad for you health over the long-term. But in the short-term, you need your negative emotions to serve as your alarm signal to problems in your life that you need to fix, if you are to ever be healthy and happy in the long run.

The main shortcoming of the Consciousness Revolution is that it encourages you to polarize to the good/positive emotions and cast out the bad/negative ones (much like the Law of Attraction). And when you're polarized from within, someone will pull your strings. Meaning, you'll be much more susceptible to the type of manipulation that's gotten our world into a mess in the first place!

So it's good to keep an eye out for the research being done, but healthy to do so with healthy skepticism. With a balanced view of emotions. And a more honest look at the complexity of the world. Emotion Revolution #2: Neuroplasticity active neuronEmotion Revolution #2 is like a spill-over from #1. Many revolutionaries fit into both categories. #2 is different from #1 though because it takes a more grounded approach and makes assumptions that aren't as bold. Where #1 states that consciousness affects the entire world, #2 states that consciousness affects your life. For several reasons:
    • Your thoughts and beliefs shape your emotions, and your emotions directly affect your immune system, i.e. health. This is known as the field of psychoneuroimmunology. I've been told that Dr. Candace Pert's Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine is a good read on this topic, and have yet to find out.
    • Your thoughts and beliefs shape your emotions, and your emotions directly affect the health of your cells. Your cells make up your immune system, i.e. health. This is known as the emerging filed of epigenetics.
    • Your thoughts and beliefs shape your neural pathways, or what you can or can't do in life. So your thoughts and beliefs shape you potential. An inspirational, personal account on neuroplasticity for healing is Joe Dispenza's Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind.
Strengths of the Neuroplasticity Revolution Neuroplasticity is a wonderful "field" because it challenges the old scientific dogma. The old scientific dogma states that your genes determine your fate. And this tight grip of thinking in many ways prevents you from taking response ability for creating your life as a mindful construct. People used to say that your brain doesn't change much in older age. Or that you only use 10% of your brain. Or that your personality is something set in stone. Research in neuroplasticity overturns these old myths, and what you are left with is a more exciting outlook. You're no longer seen as a victim of genes, with little room to grow. You're seen as an individual who is uniquely shaped by life experience, constantly growing and adapting from one moment to the next. And capable of changing with enough commitment and effective practice.

The great thing about Nueroplasticity Revolution is that it looks deeper into the mysteries of the mind, and investigates how it's interconnected with the body. Just like the Consciousness Revolution, it’s boldly doing a lot of the research that mainstream science won’t yet touch!

Shortcomings of the Neuroplasticity Revolution While the revolutionaries make headway with research, their scope is a bit limited. They also focus on polarizing to only the good thoughts and feelings. The idea is that if you can think good thoughts all day -- you can do anything. But we know this just isn't true. Thinking good thoughts and feeling good feelings (which can end up being empty and faked) is superficial. It pays no respect to what's going on deeper in subconsciousness, where the real blocks to success may manifest. For instance, one revolutionary has suggested that in order to remedy your negative emotions, you have to "balance out both sides of your brain." How do you do that? By listening to a special type of audio tape that does all the work for you, apprently. While this particular revolutionary criticizes Big Pharma for prescribing pills to treat symptoms, he's guilty of the very same thing. Listening to an audio tape as a solution to your complex negative emotional states is like popping a pill to make your worries go away! It simply doesn't work, and it can make the problem worse! You can't get by without doing any actual work. The book, The Brain That Changes Itself, by Norman Doidge, M.D., is a fascinating read on the mechanics of neuroplasticity as implicated in several case studies. It serves an example of how unique each person is, and thus how unique neuroplasticity can look on an individual basis. Thus it's hard to say what will help one person change their cognitive networks in a helpful way, without a thorough understanding of their cognitive networks.

The shortcoming of the Neuroplasticity Revolution is that is encourages you to feel good about the fact that you can change your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, habits, behaviors, and effectiveness -- without doing too much about it! And the prescription for making that lasting change is either polarizing to the good/positive emotions (which doesn't work) or relying on some high-tech gizmo to do the trick for you (which also doesn't work).

Emotion Revolution #3: Emotional Intelligence iStock_000008183124XSmallHave you heard about emotional intelligence? It's been getting a lot of buzz, and it's now practically an everyday term. I first learned about emotional intelligence when I read Daniel Goleman's book by the same title shortly after graduating from high school. Goleman popularized (commercialized) the term. To get a more thorough understanding of how the concept came to be, read this article about the original paper that was titled, "Emotional Intelligence." And easy way to think about emotional intelligence is that is fits well in the industrialized world. It's geared toward greater productivity. Schools are adopting it into their curricula because it makes students smarter, more resourceful and caring, and better overall citizens. Businesses may take it up because it makes employees smarter, more resourceful and effective, and better overall workers, team players and leaders. I wrote an article explaining more about why corporate society can't get enough of emotional intelligence here. The bottom line is that major institutions, like schools and large businesses, have realized that we're stuck being human and we're stuck having emotions. So we might as well make the best of it. We might as well use those emotions to enhance thought. Because after all, when you can understand your emotions and the emotions of those around you, you can make more constructive choices in life. Strengths of Emotional Intelligence Revolution What's music to my ears about the Emotional Intelligence Revolution is the language that's being used to describe the work. Language reveals a lot about how people think, and what their agendas are. "Dealing with emotions" means something different than "working with emotions." On May 4-6 2010, the University of Miami held a seminar called "Managing Emotions," offered by the Faculty and Staff Assistance Program. The online description advertised that:
"Managing Emotions [...] provides participants with insight into the nature of human emotions, highlighting how emotions serve to help us while offering useful tips for developing healthy responses for those emotions we feel powerless to control."
Notice how emotions are seen as servants to the participants! (In a good way.) Nowhere is it stated that emotions are in any way the enemy. This outlook alone does wonders for being constructive with emotions. Also, the seminar focuses on healthy responses, rather than controlling or coercing emotions to bend at your will. An even finer note, the description shies away from calling emotions things that you are powerless over. Instead, it refers to emotion that you may feel powerless to control. This type of framing references your response ability, and the fact that your emotions, again, are not your enemy. Workforce Language Services offered a workshop in June of 2010, called "Emotional Intelligence & Diversity." Here's what the online description said:
"This course allows participants to:
  • Gain an understanding of the role of emotional intelligence as an aspect of personal empowerment and professional effectiveness
  • Explore and assess emotional intelligence and diversity competencies
  • Gain insight about one's own values, beliefs and potential biases
  • Learn methods to manage emotions triggered by differences
  • Develop strategies for building harmonious and productive relationships"
This positive language emphasizes personal response ability for developing emotional intelligence skills to improve yourself and your relationships. This is the new language of the Emotion Revolutions.

The great thing about the Emotional Intelligence Revolution is that several different types of professionals are taking emotional health quite seriously, with the goal of utilizing emotions to enhance success in life. This then fuels powerful applications and trainings that schools and businesses are putting into practice!

Shortcomings of the Emotional Intelligence Revolution The Emotional Intelligence Revolution is doing some wonderful stuff. And because it's focused on application, it has more freedom to make progress. This is in contrast to research (see Revolution #4), where you can't make as bold claims (as such is the nature of science) and you have to think before you leap. However, a lot of the revolution can get caught up on the wrong things -- the very word "intelligence" suggests this shortcoming. The focus can be measuring your emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) and maximizing that for greater success in the form of money, influence, or friend count. Relationships in the classroom or workplace are for the most part professional, rather than intimate, so the end goal of emotional intelligence can be greater communication and productivity. But the end goal in closer relationships is validation, mutual happiness, and greater intimacy. A current trend is still to manage anger rather than work with it. This makes perfect sense for what's appropriate in public spaces. But in the school and work setting (where emotional intelligence is mostly applied) -- there's little room for really deep connections, or intimacy, that you'd find in your closest relationships. And this can only go so deep in effectiveness and mobilization.

The shortcoming of the Emotional Intelligence Revolution is that the construct can easily become commercialized. Emotional intelligence is mostly about keeping people functioning and healthy so that organizations can thrive, but it may not pay enough attention to the individual emotional experience (which can often be intense and life-changing) and how you can grow from pain and develop long-lasting emotional resilience.

Emotion Revolution #4: Cognitive-Affective Science Brain MRIOne day as a sophomore in college, I was hanging out in the Biomedical Library at UC San Diego. I was tapping on my keyboard, and somehow ended up on the homepage for the Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences. I think I was searching for research on emotions, because during sophomore year I took Psychology of Emotion -- it must have been fresh on my mind that day. As I glanced over the site, I felt my heart race. It was talking about the "revolution in affective science," and how the centre was one of the first to come on board! A revolution? Could it really be? I was so excited because finally emotions were gaining their rightful place in academia. Finally we were researching what we've desperately needed to all along! All of a sudden I felt permission, confirmation, to stick to my gut feelings and regard emotions as important and so valuable. I was so ecstatic that I rushed to the bathroom and jumped up and down (as no one was there). I wanted to squeal with joy but the Biomedical Library is usually dead silent so I just jumped higher. The revolution was finally here! Later on I emailed one of the contacts I found on the site, asking them to elaborate on this "affective revolution." The person who replied told me that it was mostly marketing language, that there wasn't really a "revolution," but it sounded nice. Even though I was a little disappointed, I wasn't let down. I had already given myself permission to take my passion seriously. And yes, the revolution had already begun. It started slowly during the 1950s when psychologist Magda Arnold developed appraisal theory, which we looked at briefly in some of the earlier lessons. During my junior year in college, I wrote an article for an undergraduate journal called The Triple Helix, highlighting this very revolution in not only science, but education and business. You can check it out here. To see a few university research labs where this type of revolutionary research is being conducted, check out the references for this article (these are the same links that were at the end of Lesson #6). If you'd like to read a short but thorough book overviewing Cognitive-Affective research, I still keep The Science of Emotion: Research and Tradition in the Psychology of Emotion, by Randolph Cornelius, on my bookshelf. It was used for my psychology class and it was a great read. Though now there are tons more textbooks for such psychology classes to choose from -- because it's the revolution! By the way, the reason I use the term Cognitive-Affective instead of just Affective (affective means "emotional") is because there's been this unnatural separation of thought and emotion in science. Cognitive science was supposed to be about how the brain works, and the brain includes both cognitive and emotional processes. But because behaviorists and a lot of "left-brainers" (cognitivists) dominated the field early on, emotion was sort of left out of the picture. And that's why a whole new field, affective science, emerged. But you can't just focus on emotions without also paying attention to thoughts too -- all that cognition that often goes on behind the scenes. So I like to use both terms in this course, as it implies more balance. Strengths of the Cognitive-Affective Science Revolution What's oh so wonderful about this revolution in research is, of course, the research! There's simply too much research to keep up on. Various labs are sinking their teeth into important topics. Some of them focus on more pressing subjects, when there are deficiencies in emotional expression, awareness, and experience. Others focus on my neurotypical subjects, like how people process fear or what what makes them feel safe. There is great research being done, and I encourage you to check out those reference, or simply follow research blogs.

The great thing about the Cognitive-Affective Science Revolution is that researchers can delve really deep into how emotions work, and how we can use them in constructive ways -- both at the individual and group level.

Shortcomings of the Cognitive-Affective Science Revolution While there's a lot of great research being done, every single study has it's limitations, which need to be taken into account. And science in general is limited, by what it can claim, and even investigate. Science isn't perfect or objective, and there are some questions people have that simply can't be tested scientifically. Researchers do have affiliations, orientations, and biases, as well. Since science is a cultural practice, it's always influenced by subjective worldviews and assumptions, whether directly or indirectly. What this means is that you need to view the research within a larger context. What is the political backstory to a certain controversy or debate? Where does funding come from? Are large corporations involved -- and what are their motivations? What is the mental health model being prescribed? How does that fit in with your own views on mental health? I encourage you to read as much as you can about subjects that interest you, and to also do so with a discerning eye. Researchers and clinicians are human too, and they have their own opinions, just as you do. What's missing in academia is a clearer distinction between scientific findings, and the interpretation of those findings.

The shortcoming of the Cognitive-Affective Science Revolution is that at the end of the day, it's still bound by the cultural practice of science. Meaning it can't find all the answers, or give you all the answers to your questions about your life. At the end of the day, you're still on your own for those Big Life Questions.

The 4 Major Emotion Revolutions Whew, we covered a lot! I hope you can see now that there several major movements of thought that are paving a brighter future where we partner with emotions. If you still didn't get your fill from all that we've covered, you can check out the books and articles I linked to. And you can also check out this article, "Humanity Needs Mindful Emotion Regulation." That whole article series is my take on a major crosswords we're at in the field. It's been shared through my comments as breadcrumbs... but if you haven't already figured it out -- I consider myself a part of all four revolutions. My spiritual upbringing warmed me up to revolutions #1 and 2, and my undergraduate training in Cognitive Science indoctrinated me into revolutions #3 and 4. As I see it, each revolution is highly valuable and promising.

What about you?

What do you think about these four major emotion revolutions? Are you part of one or more? I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments below! Also, did you know that just by signing up for this class, you're already part of the Emotion Revolution? In fact, Cory wrote a lovely guest article for the site explaining how "your intelligent emotional being is the revolution." Just by utilizing your inner technology of the natural intelligence of your emotions -- you change the world. You've been great following along with this hefty lesson and I'll catch you next time... All the best, signed, Melissa P.S. Did you get here from a link from a friend? This is Lesson 9 of a 10-part free e-class that shows you how your life is your construct. Learn more about it and sign up here.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

WN July 5, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Oh wow, I’m a revolutionary? Way cool. You’ll be seeing my face on T-shirts soon. :)

This is heavy material, Melissa. Your finale must be MEGATON.

As you say, the convergence of all four of these revolutions will be insane. Darwin talks about random mutations as being the way that species adapt over generations. Maybe we’re going to see willed adaptation within the lifespan of an individual. Ooh, my sci-fi bone is being tickled!

Maybe this is already happening as far as the mind is concerned. That all this personal development is adaptation.

Sometimes, and lately, I don’t know if I want more control over my life, or more acceptance that I’m not really in control. (BTW, just watched Hot Tub Time Machine last night for the second time. John Cusack has a moment where he sees very clearly that no matter what he does to change the past, the outcomes remain the same, to which the girl who randomly comes into his life says: “Sounds like the perfect excuse to do something amazing right now.” Not the most existential movie in the world, but it just came to mind. Did I mention it’s HILARIOUS?)

But seriously, I totally think you’re asking the right questions on this site, and I agree that emotions are the missing link to a brighter future. Lord knows that your ideas have helped me through some very tough times in my life–the toughest. By staying emotionally resilient, I’ve been able to take what could have been a catastrophe, and turn it into the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Actually, I think self-help in general has really helped me through this time, as much as I like to criticize it.

If I was never faced with such epic conflicts, I probably never would have stumbled upon this site. Even if I had a time machine in the form of a hot tub, maybe, just maybe, I’d do it all over again.

Melissa Karnaze July 6, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Thanks WN, one reason why I put this material in the e-class instead of a series of articles is because it is so heavy. I think it’s easier and more helpful to present it in the right sequence (whereas readers can skip through articles more easily on the blog).

“Darwin talks about random mutations as being the way that species adapt over generations… Maybe this is already happening as far as the mind is concerned. That all this personal development is adaptation.”

Given that junk DNA is a mystery, and all that we don’t yet know about consciousness, neuroplasticity, and epigenetics — heck all the revolutions — a lot of change can take place within a lifetime. Especially since we are literally connected real-time via web, and culture is very much the vehicle of modern-day evolution.

“Sometimes, and lately, I don’t know if I want more control over my life, or more acceptance that I’m not really in control.”

It is a pickle. Whole dissertations could be written on the difference between the two, or what that “difference” really means.

“If I was never faced with such epic conflicts, I probably never would have stumbled upon this site. Even if I had a time machine in the form of a hot tub, maybe, just maybe, I’d do it all over again.”

I probably wouldn’t have created this site if it weren’t for my own conflicts. I’m so happy to hear that it’s helped you to develop your emotional resilience, thanks for sharing!

Can you imagine how the human race would evolve if emotional resilience was something everyone would strive for? (I don’t think I can.)

Btw, I had Hot Tub Time Machine on my don’t-watch list, but now I might watch it someday lol.

Cory Chu-Keenan July 7, 2010 at 10:05 am

Watch Hot Tub with a group of the most immature dudes you know after a couple of beers. I watched it with my brother at the movie theater and we just died laughing. It’s one of those movies.

jasray September 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm

. . . was walking around a hardware store looking for some items, and Stevie Nicks came on the radio:

“I took my love and I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow covered hills
Till the landslide brought me down

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Children get older I’m getting older too
Yes I’m getting older too . . .

One of those old songs that was a favorite so many years ago, and all of the people I built my life around are long gone . . . sort of a sadness . . . for whatever reason. Maybe because we build our lives around people so often, have visions of the future when filled with love, and when finally we reach the vision so often the people who inspired it are gone . . . so one feels the loneliness of “the long distance runner.” Maybe a Forest Gump motif.

John May 11, 2012 at 2:28 am

Great work. There is something important in my evolving understanding of this area I’d like to share. The idea is not to create “either or” argument by adding a perspective, but instead to add context.

You wrote:

“The best way to be more mindful of how you co-construct your life is to cultivate a healthy, intimate, and loving relationship with yourself.”

This is almost the top of the mountain. This, in 12 step, means evidence of a restored functioning will ( never perfect, always in progress). But the base is missing. That base is surrender ( poorly understood even in any 12 step group..we are human).

The first three steps available to a broken crack addict in 12 step ( who’s disease is NOT crack taking, but codependency) are: 1. I can’t. 2. Something bigger than me can and I believe “it” is there. 3. I act ( will) by giving up 100% and turn over everything to that “it” in a faith relationship.

The power to act is the base of that mountain. And it is built on I CAN’T. Your material is awesome because it goes after practicality. Emotion. REALITY.

But only relationship of the kind I’m referring to here that can make life work at all (the I CAN’T driven one…shown to be 100% true by our emotions) is the core faith based one.

Just because mere humans fail in understanding the concept of access to power via the door of “give up to win” does not mean the principle is fundamentally flawed. Not at all.

Not understanding “I CAN’T” ( Step 1) means we are not getting the core of the problem, and the root of the solution.

Your material is winning in the sense that it shows cause and effect at some level ( leaving out utter surrender though), and can step a person into action and process. But will is not healed in this way. And broken will is codependency. Faith is the most real aspect of life. The root, because it IS us. It IS power. It’s unity. Everything flows from this.

Morgan June 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I think John has an interesting point about surrender, and it reminds me of some of the things Melissa has said about the hazards of mindful meditation.

Buddhism is all about surrendering, sitting quietly before the infinite and letting go of everything you think you know. There is also a sect of Buddhism (Pure Land) that is all about ‘other-power’, faith in the universe, because you don’t necessarily know how to get from point A to point B, and you can’t necessarily manage it alone. I think that it can be very important to let go of what you think you know, are, and can do. The best way to do this in a positive way is to turn to something loving and transcendent, even if it just silence, through faith and surrender.

At the same time though, as Melissa has said, this can be a form of ‘copping out’. Sitting around being ‘spiritual’ and having faith that someone/thing else will do things is a great excuse for not taking action, not thinking, and not looking at or being responsible for oneself.

Personally, I think we need both. Seeing, thinking about, and working with thought structures so that you can have a healthy relationship with them is part of believing in a good beyond them and letting go of them.

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