Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My own lingo - Emotional Programming (EP)

Emotional programming is how our feelings guide how we act.  This includes if we are constantly struggling to ignore, suppress, or avoid acting upon our feelings.  Whether we realize and admit it or not though how we act is primarily driven by how we feel.  This often occurs in subtle, hidden, and round about ways, which makes it hard to see or grasp.  Nonetheless it does happens.

Most people seem to successfully avoid realizing that their feelings are guiding their behavior.  They seem to believe that their cognitive mind has considered the alternatives and determined the best way to act.  If they really considered the question of why they do a particular thing for a long period of time, they might realize that in one way or another they seemed to have picked it up as the best way from observing and interacting with others, especially caregivers or other leaders of some sort.  Likely though they would still ascribe it to a decision their cognitive mind made as opposed to being guided by their feelings or emotions.

It is true that most of what we do comes from our interactions with others, especially caregivers or other leaders during our formative years, whether we act in accordance or contrary to how those leaders acted.  However, most of this occurs at a level much deeper than our cognitive minds.  It occurs at the level of feelings.  Not necessarily at the level of simple reactionary feelings, like being happy or sad, but on the level of our conscience, where things feel right and wrong, safe or dangerous, smart or dumb, etc.  And often at this level these emotions feel important to our very identity and security.

Generally our feelings and emotional programming are determined by an interplay of our felt needs, inherent tendencies*, visceral beliefs, and the environment we find ourselves in.

If you do not believe me that what we do is guided by our deep emotions, try to think of a really important decision you made and how you made it.  Was it done by trying to play out the most likely outcomes of each decision and deciding which was best.  If this is the case you probably used your cognitive mind more than most, but even then wasn't the judging of which outcome would be preferred done at a deeper level of what would make you feel preferred feelings.  Even if it was a "selfless" act, wasn't it because that is what makes you feel the way you want to feel.

If you still do not believe we are primarily driven by our feelings whether we realize it or not, here are a few ways it happens in a less that straight forward manner:

When we are fighting ourselves and acting against how our feelings tell us to act.  (Our feelings are still driving our actions if they are the reason we are acting, whether or not we are acting the way the feelings might suggest we should act.)  

When we stay busy enough that we do not have time to be still because then we would experience our feelings and not know what to do with them.  This might seem like or even be the ideal from a societal perspective, and this being busy and productive often makes us feel good.  So if it does not get out of hand it may be good for all involved.

Maybe we are not busy or productive, but still find ways to distract ourselves from our own feelings with things like facebook, browsing the internet, watching TV, etc.  Again here it might seem like we are not acting upon our feelings since we are fairly successfully avoiding them, but the fact is that if we are being driven to avoid them we are being driven by them.  And generally each of these things, and lots of others like them do give us tiny little hits of desirable feelings of some sort.

Of course there are plenty more examples of ways people are driven to act by their feelings even if they are not acting with immediate obedience to their feelings, and I would imagine I will explore a variety of them at a later time.  

There are also plenty of examples of people acting more directly on their feelings with anger, withdrawal, fear, joy, etc; or more directly to modify or augment their feelings with drugs, exercise, altruism, gambling, thrill seeking, etc. 

Finally, please note I am not saying the cognitive mind does not have an important role to play.  However, when we deny or do not realize what is going on at a deeper level we often end up with only bad and worse solutions, which often leads to harmful behavior and/or misery.

*(By inherent tendencies I mean our predisposition to fight or withdrawal, process inwardly (introvert) or outwardly (extrovert), blame ourselves or others, be guided by our emotions or try to suppress them, etc, etc)