What have these guys seen?
Maybe something dangerous or tempting?
Another shot at discovering what it is to be human? Our long-standing genetic story includes survival on the plains of Africa as a result of cooperation, collaboration, community, planning and looking out for each other. In very simple terms, the four 'Fs' - fight, flight, food and finding a mate - helping to keep our genes circulating through the generations. And our alarm system - emotions. Psychology Today tells us that emotions are physiological, triggered by 'disruption of familiar' during our continuous sensory surveillance of the world around us and within us.
I was confused when I first came across this. I thought emotions were crying and laughing and all the feelings in between. Yet they are actually triggers for behaviour which ensure that genes survive. Behaviour that needs preparation - arousal for example produces changes in muscle tone, heart rate and energy levels. Resulting behaviour could be avoid/attack from danger or approach with interest. It all originates in the limbic system - a deep seated set of brain structures common to all mammals.
Adult human emotions also result from thinking and imagination, part of the function of the cortical sections of the brain that sit on top of the limbic system 'like a helmet'. The mix of emotion and reason helps us make sense of our world.
Steven Stosny then tells us that most emotions serve a useful purpose, 'foster growth and empowerment' - interest, compassion, enjoyment, conviction, shame, guilt, distress - again to protect the genes. We have all come across the less than helpful emotions however such as fear, anger and hatred. Good on the plains of Africa, but not much help in our modern world.
Where do feelings come in? Apart from disclosure in psychotherapy? They are our subjective experience of emotion. Our spin on what is happening to our bodies, different in different people and influenced by our histories. We attribute meanings but they are arbitrary and inconsistent. And then I read someone else and feelings/emotions get all muddled up again.
We continuously scan our external and internal environments. We might detect a problem - as Luther would say at a crime scene 'It's not right'. We react, sometimes inappropriately, apparently helping our genes survive. Something triggered the behaviour. Does it matter? Well I guess it does or you spend half your life in complete ignorance of consequences and the other half saying sorry. Thankfully I think there are more of the positive nurturing feelings/emotions.
Just where listening to a concert or reading a book fits in? They are behaviours ? survival of something.
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