Emotion- Revisited


Emotion is defined as a conscious feeling due to a state of physiological change. It is very hard to feel emotions if there is no physical sensation. The 6 senses- vision, audition, gustation, olfaction, sensation and vestibular sense and each of their modalites serve as physical cues to a certain emotion. The Two factor theory of emotion suggests that a general physiological arousal leads to a conscious experience of emotion. According to our evolutionary biology, our senses have already interpreted some physical senses as more rewarding than others. A physiological sensation is sometimes noticed, other times not. There are many chemical and hormonal changes happening in the brain and body which you experience stress. However the only thing you feel is the galvanic skin response and the fast heart beat. This is because there are only certain modalities of each sense that you can perceive clearly. Other physiological sensations are swept under the rug, yet they serve as an internal cue for the brain to respond in a specific way. This cascade of internal changes then arises from a conscious experience of the emotion. It is important to understand that even a general arousal in the physiological modalities can lead to feeling an emotion. Thus, sometimes you can incorrectly feel an emotion simply due to the way your senses have been aroused. Sensation is just one part of the picture when it comes to pain and pleasure. Perception of the sensation is far more important in creating the conscious feeling of our emotion. 

First, let's talk about pain. Most common type of pain is the physical pain one gets due to a cut or some stomach ache. Getting a cut results in blood loss, which in itself doesn't create the feeling of pain. But the pain receptors in skin feel the pressure and temperature change, thus they signal the brain that the body is feeling 'pain.' When it comes to stomach ache, it could be due to tissue damage or small bleed. Or it could be due to involuntary bowel movement. Regardless of what it is exactly, the pain felt during the stomach ache is not due to the aching itself, but the irritation and stress that comes with it. Nerve signals connecting to muscles and soft tissue connect back to the spinal cord which then relays the information to the brain and thus we get the conscious feeling of pain and agony. In other words, pain and pleasure are not products of sensation, but rather products of perception of the brain. The brain gets signals from all senses, but the conscious feeling of pain and pleasure are perceived by the brain. However, the brain is also driven by evolutionary biology. The autonomic nervous system for example starts its own internal reaction to stress and anxiety without conscious thought. Even a smart individual has a brain that kick starts processes without conscious thought. So it is important to train the brain and the mind to take proper actions when strong arousal is sensed. In reality, pleasure cannot be sought for through gaining worldly objects. They may provide a sensational cue that will be perceived as pleasure but in reality they are only temporary illusions the brain has created. Instinctual drives such as hunger, thirst, warmth and sex are perceived as pleasure to provide motivation for the individual to thrive, survive and the reproduce to continue the cycle of life. It is very hard to control these drives, but we can condition ourselves to perceive the cues differently so the drive becomes less powerful and less automatic. The goal is to be master of the mind, not be a slave of it. In order to the master, you must control the senses. The senses will seek for sensation that provides temporary pleasure, but the more you listen to them the more wild they become. Thus, you get stuck in a cycle of maintaining homeostasis by seeking more and more pleasure. But life isn't all pleasure, and the same sensation that once gave pleasure can give pain if the cue is represented differently. Thus, knowing how to react neutrally to all cues is the only way to master your senses. 

When a physiological arousal happens, a drive or an urge takes place, be mindful of it and try your best to use conscious effort to stay balanced and not let the autonomic nervous system kickstart its sympathetic response. True pleasure lies in perceiving all physiological cues are neutral. When there is strong conviction that all cues are neutral, the senses will soon lose their drive to seek pleasure, because everything is perceived as nor pleasure nor pain. Thus, at last the senses, the brain and the spinal cord will remain neutral regardless of what cue is presented. By changing your perception towards the outer world, you can change the way your sensation is felt, thus changing the emotion all together and feeling