Why Do We Need Emotions?

Most of us perceive the brain as serving “thinking” or intellectual functions. A person often thinks of his or her personality as what is going on “from the neck up.” In fact, several parts of the brain — not just the thinking cortex — contribute to who a person is and how their personality is formed. 

The Cortex Of Survival

The cortex is what we refer to as the smart brain. Most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually, yet they are emotionally dysfunctional almost in the extreme. We often presume erroneously that the thinking brain should be “smart” enough to exercise dominion over emotions.

However, the missing piece of information here is that emotions actually are a survival-adaptation mechanism that each of us develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning. Some of us learn to be assertive or aggressive in our environments. Others may learn to become passive or try to become invisible to stay safe and secure.

Nothing is more powerful in a human being than the drive to survive. Hence, emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling. It is helpful to understand that emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first five years of development.

More Input

Our familial input taught us, as Ivan Pavlov taught his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers. This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process; the thought process for humans is the newest component to the primordial brain. The survival adaptive portion of the brain is where the personality forms and where people become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

Relationships And Conditioning

Frustrating interpersonal issues may come from the drive to survive and the interpretation of the stimulation and environment that conditioned us, rather than from being difficult or having bad intent. Understanding that can allow a person to begin to be “kinder and gentler” toward himself and others.

In summary, emotions enable us to live and survive in our world. We cannot think them into changing. However, we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives. We can also explore techniques that allow us to have greater control over our emotions.

For a free chapter download of the award-winning bestselling book Changing Behavior: Immediately Transform Your Relationships with Easy to Learn, Proven Communication Skills, visit: http://www.changingbehavior.org

Forgive For Your Own Good

pexels-photo-24592-large

We read and hear that forgiving is something we need to do for others, and that when we forgive others it allows us to let go of feelings of anger and resentment. There are now numerous studies that show when we forgive others, the biochemistry of letting go of the negative feelings we have carried around with us has the power to transform our own health and sense of inner peace.

In the daily news, we see the most unthinkable and unimaginable events occurring. We see people who harm and kill others, parents who violate and abuse their own children, and even children that murder their own parents. For most of us it is difficult to forgive even benign insults and events in our relationships (such as a rejection or slight), let alone something of horrible tragedy. The thought that a victim of such cruel violence could let go of a grievance against another person who has perpetrated such acts seems impossible.

The Danger Of Holding A Grudge

However, what science is now demonstrating is that the simple act of “holding a grudge” against another person can create chronic long term stress with accompanying feelings of anger and frustration. This chronic emotional and physical response to a perceived hurt or insult can lead us to become sick and even develop ongoing, chronic disease states such as hypertension, asthma or digestive problems.

The use of the term “perceived insults” or wounding is intentional. This is because while there are people in the world who do unimaginably horrible things to others, much of what we experience in our lives is a perceived hurt of rejection that causes us not to forgive another.

What Is Forgiveness?

In 2000, as a result of a lecture arranged at a hospital I worked at, I had the privilege to meet Fred Luskin, PhD, founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, and hear him present his work and research on the subject of forgiveness. Dr. Luskin is the author of the book Forgive for Good, and a world renowned researcher on the subject of forgiveness. His scientific studies demonstrate the healing power and health benefits from the process of forgiving others for either actual or perceived transgressions against ourselves, or to those we love.

Dr. Luskin was the lead researcher on a study in Ireland, which included individuals from both sides of Northern Ireland’s civil war. These individuals had all lost a loved one due to the country's civil conflict. In his groundbreaking book, Forgive for Good, he outlines what forgiveness is—and, what it is not:

“Forgiveness is for you and not the offender”
“Forgiveness is about your healing and not about the people who hurt you”
“Forgiveness is taking responsibility for how you feel”

“Forgiveness is a trainable skill – just like learning to throw a ball”
“Forgiveness is a choice”

“Forgiveness is not condoning unkindness or poor behavior”
“Forgiveness is not forgetting that something painful has happened”

“Forgiveness does not mean reconciling with the offender”
“Forgiveness does not mean giving up your feelings”

So then what does forgiveness mean? Forgiveness means being willing to find new ways to experience “justice” and to choose not to be victimized by other’s choices or actions. It can also mean experiencing an event from a different perspective, which allows us to reclaim our life even from the depths of our suffering, loss or despair.

The Benefits

Forgiveness has been scientifically proven to decrease depression, increase hopefulness, decrease anger, increase self-confidence, enhance relationships, decrease stress and physical symptoms of illness, decrease heart disease and increase immune function. Forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves that helps us live more peace-filled, healthier lives. There are many excellent books on the subject to assist with and facilitate the process of forgiving what seems to be the unforgiveable.

The Nourishment Of Our Relationships

couple-bride-love-wedding-60559-large-jpeg

We don’t often think of relationships as nutritious, but indeed they are. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, made a statement about the power of love and relationships and their importance to our happiness: “We are never so helplessly unhappy as when we lose love.”

A Little Knowledge

Freud knew something from his experience about the human condition because of his many years treating patients who experienced difficult, unfulfilling and loveless relationships. We often forget that those who love us and those we love fulfill our basic human need to be known, valued and wanted. All healthy human beings want to be valued and want to experience being cared for and treated respectfully. We want to receive affection from those we care about.

As an older adult who, like Freud, has seen the ravages of love’s loss, I have come to appreciate and cherish those in my life who fulfill my need to be valued and wanted, my need to be loved.

Perfect Memories

It is important for each of us to remember that no one is perfect and that if we expect perfection in love, we will surely be disappointed. One of the gifts of age and experience is the relief of realizing that each act of love we give from our imperfect self to another and the love given to us by imperfect others is the most important wealth we possess.

At the end of the day, when all else is stilled and the distractions of work, ambition, success and achievement are put aside, those we “go home to” and the nourishment they provide us are our real treasures.

May we take a moment each day to appreciate how profound a blessing the gift of relationship is in our lives. For a free download on enhancing your relationship through communication skills, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/.

 

What Happens to Relationships When We Don’t Feel Understood


When couples are asked what it is in their relationship that makes them feel fulfilled, the answer is inevitably that they feel “understood and cared about”. Contrary to what many of us believe, having misunderstandings is not the problem in our relationships. It is not having a misunderstanding that is what creates bad feelings and unhappiness in relationships, but rather not feeling that the person we are most intimate with and care most deeply about doesn’t understand who we are and what we are feeling.

In order to feel loved we must first experience that others understand us and regard us as good and valuable human beings. If our significant others do not understand or get who we are and how we feel, that leaves us with a feeling of being misunderstood. It can also lead to our feeling alone because only someone who truly knows us, rather than just thinking they know us, can truly love us for who we actually are.

When we are in a relationship we do not want to continually explain ourselves to another person, or justify our values, beliefs or the choices we make in our lives. If after a time, that person cannot be really present to us, listening to what we have to share and sharing their own thoughts and feelings, the relationship quickly deteriorates. This is why one of the important focal points in good couples counseling is learning what is called “active listening.”

The main purpose of active listening is to let your partner know that you are truly listening to them and that you are really “present” to them as well – that means they have our full attention.  And by giving them our full attention, we can more authentically understand how they feel and what their point of view and opinions are about the important discussions that make up all relationships.

A key component of active listening is when we reflect back to the other person what we understand they were communicating to us so that we can be sure that we understand and not mis-interpret their communication. When we do this, we ask questions to clarify, such as “Are you saying that you were upset that I did not go to your aunt’s house for dinner on Sunday, even though you had said it didn’t matter if I went or not?

By working together so that the listening partner and the speaking partner both understand that clarifying their understanding of what is being communicated and also participating in active communication as well as active listening, the relationship can take on a greater depth, intimacy and fulfillment. Effective communication is always the key to any good relationship. For a free chapter download from the award winning, Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.

Relationships as Nourishment

We don't often think of relationships as nutrient, but indeed they are. Freud made a statement about the power of love and relationships and their importance to our happiness when he said: "We are never so hopelessly unhappy as when we lose love."

Freud knew something from his experience about the human condition from his many years treating patients who experienced difficult, unfulfilling and loveless relationships. We often forget that those who love us and those we love fulfill our basic human need to be known, valued and wanted. All healthy human beings want to be valued and experience being cared for, treated respectfully and receive affection from those we care about.

As an older adult who, like Freud, has seen the ravages of loves loss, I have come to appreciate and cherish those in my life who fulfill my need to be valued and wanted – my need to be loved.

It is important for each of us to remember that no one is perfect and that if we expect perfection in love we will surely be disappointed. One of the gifts of age and experience is the relief of realizing that each act of love we give from our imperfect self to another and the love given to us by imperfect others, is the most important wealth we possess.

At the end of the day, when all else is stilled and the distractions of work, ambition, success and achievement are put aside, it is those we "go home to" and the nourishment they provide us that is our real treasure.

May we take a moment each day to appreciate how profound a blessing the gift of love is in our lives.

With all good wishes,
Georgianna
Copyright 2012 G. Donadio

Take Two Tylenol, Call Me in the Morning

Here is a very interesting bit of research. Although I have shared this information on a national blog I write for, the information was so interesting that I wanted to share it again, here with you.

Last year there was a study conducted at the University of Kentucky, College of Arts and Sciences, that was examining the connection and possible overlap between physical pain and emotional pain. This particular study had 62 participants who were filling out the “Hurt Feeling Scale”, a self-assessment tool which measures an individual’s reaction to distressing experiences. In addition, the study was using doses of the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen, as art of its protocol.

The researchers separated the study volunteers into two groups. The first group, after filling out their self-assessment tools, were given 1,000 mg of the acetaminophen. This is a dose that is equal to one Extra Strength Tylenol. The control group however, received a placebo  instead of the acetaminophen.

The finding from this study showed that the control group without the acetaminphen, after three weeks, did not experience any change in the amount of intensity of "hurt" feeling during the three week period. However, the group that did receive the active ingredient reported a noticeable reduction of "hurt" feelings on a regular, day-today basis.

The outcomes were so interesting that the researchers started a second study cohort group of 25 different volunteers, but this time upped the amount of acetaminophen to 2,000 mg daily and added computer games that were designed to create social rejection and a feeling of isolation in the participants. Also new to the study was MRI scanning which were able to identify when the participants had feelings of social rejection occur.

Now here is the "gold" of this research – the outcomes demonstrated that the area of the brain where emotional discomfort is felt is the same location that the physical pain is experienced in. This would explain why the group that was taking the acetaminophen, while having not physical pain, reported less feelings of hurt and rejection than the group that was not taking the acetaminophen but rather a placebo substance.

Geoff MacDonald, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who is an expert in romantic relationships, co-authored this study. MacDonald states that our brain pain centers cannot tell the difference between physical pain and emotional pain.
So, while Tylenol is not recommended to be used routinely as it can lead to liver and digestive system disturbances, knowing that it can take away the pain of a broken heart, it may soon be that our therapists as well as our physicians will recommendation that we “take two Tylenol and call me in the morning” for heartache as well as for headache!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/227298.php http://web.psych.utoronto.ca/gmacdonald/Research%20Interests.html

With all good wishes,
Georgianna

Copyright 2012, G. Donadio All Rights Reserved

How Your Relationships Impact Your Health

NIWH is about to publish its first book on transforming relationships using our Behavioral Engagement model of behavior change. The book discusses all the interwoven components of how and why people change their behaviors and the number one overriding factor in why we behave as we do.

At the top of the list is our needs as human beings, right next to food, water and shelter, is the need to be in relationship with others. The Belongingness Theory is held by many psychologists to be rooted in evolution and how humans have been able to survive and thrive in extremely difficult and often dangerous environments. According to the theory, our bodies release neurotransmitter chemicals when we socialize and these neurochemicals have a positive affect on our nevous systems and sense of security and being part of a larger and safer group of others.

We all form what is referred to as “para-relationships” as well. In these realtionships we assoiate ourselves with others like TV characters in sit-coms or with groups of people, like a football team. These attachments allows us to expand our sense of “tribe” and belongingness as well as provide a “reflective” sense of accomplishment or achievement when the groups we associate with win a championship or an Emmy award.

Our realtionships and a sense of belonging are a top priority to all of us. We often lose sight of this until a relationship has ended or someone has passed away. Freud accuratedly said “we are never so hopelessly unhappy as when we lose love.” When it comes to our health, we often do not connect how imperative the experience of loving, being loved and belonging are to our overall well being and immune function. It feels important that from time to time that we remind ourselves about what really matters in our lives as our health and our relationships are intimately intertwined.

Do something good for your self today, and for those you are in relationship with. Take a moment of gratitude for the gift of family, friends, spouse, partner, peers who enrich your life and keep you healthy.

Without the gift of sharing love, our lives and our health suffer.

With all good wishes,
G
© by NIWH 2011 all rights reserved

Just What ARE Emotions?

Most of us perceive our brain as being for “thinking” or intellectual functions.  We often think of ourselves, our personality as what is going on “from the neck up”.  In fact, there are several parts to our brain which contribute to who we are and how we form our personality – not just our cortex.

The cortex is what we refer to as our “smart brain”.  Most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually, yet – they are emotionally dysfunctional almost in the extreme. We often presume erroneously that our thinking brain should be “smart” enough to exercise dominion over our emotions.

However, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning.

Some of us learn to be assertive or aggressive in our environments to adapt and some of us may learn to become passive or try to become invisible to stay safe and secure. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than its drive to survive. Hence, our emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is helpful of us to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first 0-5 years of our development. Our familial “input” taught us, as did Pavlov with his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process, as the thought process for humans is the “newest” component to our primordial brain. It is in the survival adaptive portion of our brain where we form our “personality” and where we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

When we understand the possibility that interpersonal issues which frustrate us may come not from “being difficult” or “bad intent” but rather from our drive to survive and our interpretation of the stimulation and environment we were conditioned by, then we can begin to be “kinder and gentler” towards ourselves and others.

In summary, our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot “think them” into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives. We can also explore techniques that allow us to have greater control over our emotions.

With all good wishes,
G

Copyright 2011, All Rights Reserved G. Donadio