Posts tagged “emotions

How Emotions Are Made

I love it when research and science confirm Glasser’s beliefs, and Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions Are Made (2017) does just that in a big way!

HowEmotionsAreMade

Glasser wanted people to understand the concept (and reality) of internal control, that is, that they are not controlled by circumstances outside of them nor are they victims of life’s curve balls, but rather they are the architects of their thinking and their behavior.

Glasser created the concepts of total behavior to give people insights into their choices. Using the graphic of a car, he emphasized that thinking and acting are represented by the two front tires, the two tires that a driver can directly steer and control. Glasser’s point was that similarly people can have direct control over their own thinking and acting. The remaining two parts of a total behavior are feelings and physiology, or our emotions and all the ways that our bodies come into alignment with the other parts of our behavior. He believed that we can have only indirect control over our feelings and our physiology. For him, the key was that our total behaviors throughout the day always come into alignment with each other.

Total Behavior Car

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

How Emotions Are Made does nothing to argue that point and, if anything, Feldman Barrett goes farther than Glasser in explaining that not only are we the architects of our thinking and behavior, we are also the architect of our emotions. Check out the TED talk that follows for her brief presentation –

The TED talk is good, but I want to share some quotes from the book that reveal why a Choice theorist would especially be interested in her findings.

Emotions are not reactions to the world. You are not a passive receiver of sensory input but an active constructor of your emotions. From sensory input and past experience, your brain constructs meaning and prescribes action.*

Glasser made a case for our behavior coming from within, rather than being controlled by others, and Feldman Barrett believes the same as it relates to emotions. In this next quote, she reminded me of Glasser and the way he would state the terms he really didn’t want to use – terms like mental illness, schizophrenia, and bi-polar, to name a few. Read her quote that follows and you’ll see what I mean.

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Lisa Feldman Barrett

Likewise, we do not “recognize” or “detect” emotions in others. These terms imply that an emotion category has a fingerprint that exists in nature, independent of any perceiver, waiting to be found. Any scientific question about “detecting” emotion automatically presumes a certain kind of answer. In the construction mindset, I speak of perceiving an instance of emotion. Perception is a complex mental process that does not imply a neural fingerprint behind the emotion, merely that an instance of emotion occurred somehow. I also avoid verbs like “triggering” emotion, and phrases like “emotional reaction” and emotions “happening to you.” Such wording implies that emotions are objective entities. Even when you feel no sense of agency when experiencing emotion, which is most of the time, you are an active participant in that experience.*

If by introducing you to How Emotions Are Made, and sharing these quotes from the book, I have ignited more questions that answers – good. I encourage you to read the book for yourself. I am convinced Glasser would have added it to his book collection, right there on his office shelf alongside other books like Mad in America (2001), by Robert Whitaker.

We’ll end the post today with this last quote, which summarizes her Glasser-like findings –

After conducting hundreds of experiments in my lab, and reviewing thousands more by other researchers, I’ve come to a profoundly unintuitive conclusion shared by a growing number of scientists. Emotions do not shine forth from the face nor from the maelstrom of your body’s inner core. They don’t issue from a specific part of the brain. No scientific innovation will miraculously reveal a biological fingerprint of any emotion. That’s because our emotions aren’t built in, waiting to be revealed. They are made. By us. We don’t recognize emotions or identify emotions: we construct our own emotional experiences, and our perceptions of others’ emotions, on the spot, as needed, through a complex interplay of systems. Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain: we are architects of our own experience.*

Feldman Barrett’s work will help anyone trying to better understand human behavior and motivation, and especially those of us interested in the emotional pieces of what Glasser referred to as total behavior.

* Sorry about not having the page numbers. I purchased the book on my iPad, which doesn’t have the same page numbering as the hard copy.

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Human beings are not at the mercy of mythical emotion circuits
buried deep within animalistic parts of our highly evolved brain:
we are architects of our own experience.
Lisa Feldman Barrett

 

 

 

 

The World According to Wilson

Lessons on mental health from Wilson, one of the stars of the movie, Castaway. The William Glasser Institute recently shared this article with members and I thought many of you would find it interesting, thought provoking, and maybe even helpful. Check it out.

cast-away-wilson-volleyball1

Wilson

by Mike Rice

So much of the world appears to be caught up in the belief that any behavior that is not considered usual or normal is the result of a mental illness . . . that there is some sort of chemical imbalance in some people’s brains. I am often challenged in my group sessions about the behavior of those who have been labeled schizophrenics, when I state that most of what we are calling mental illness is no more than the behavior of unhappy people. Even those who have received this diagnosis have challenged me on this statement. They seem to want to wear their badge of mental illness to let others know they are helpless and that there is nothing they can do to improve their happiness. I often hear, “Normal people don’t talk to themselves or see things that aren’t there. So there HAS to be something wrong with their brain.”

Those who have received mental illness diagnoses have been told that they have some abnormality within their brain and that there is nothing they can do about it . . . that they will have to learn to live with it for the rest of their lives while taking medications that drug their brains to cause them to not hear voices and stop seeing invisible people. These drugs also stop the person from functioning normally by shutting down all of their emotions; having a flat affect; losing interest in the things that they used to enjoy, and losing their ability to be creative. Ironically, many of these medications prevent the person from overcoming their unhappiness or to discover other creative ways to deal with their unhappiness.

It is their creative ability that led them to choose the behaviors they discovered to deal with their unhappiness and frustration in the first place.

I saw the movie, “Cast Away,” starring Tom Hanks, when it first came out in 2000. Since then, I recently saw it again on my local cable network and was able to make the connection of how some behaviors would be considered mental illness by some in certain circumstances, but not mental illness in other circumstances. Allow me to explain:

In the movie, after being marooned on a small island in the South Pacific, Chuck (Tom Hanks) found himself without his basic genetic needs. He had to be creative to survive and began to improvise ways to find shelter, food, thirst and dehydration quenchers. He soon found himself without the power to do much about his situation, but maintained enough power from within to continue to survive. Even when he considered suicide, his tested method failed and renewed his internal power for survival.

cast_away-tom-hanks

His freedom was now very limited. He had only a small portion of the island in which he could navigate as most of it was mountainous and surrounded by pounding waves. He was held in solitary confinement. He certainly was not having any fun. All of his basic needs for happiness were not being met to the degree that he wanted.

The first thing he did when he reached the island after his plane crash was to yell out to connect to someone . . . anyone. Even the sound of dropping coconuts led him to think that someone might be near and he would yell out towards the area where he heard the sounds. He was missing the genetic need for connecting with others and belonging to the social world he had recently lost. He still had the image of Love in his Quality World from his deeply satisfying relationship with his girlfriend, Kelly (Helen Hunt), back in Memphis.

From what I have described so far, and for you who have seen the movie, you would not think any of Chuck’s behaviors were the result of a mental illness. In fact, you would probably think that it was his creativity and improvisation that was able to allow him the ability to meet his needs of survival: shelter, food, and drink.

But it wasn’t long after his initial awareness that he was, indeed, stranded in the middle of nowhere and the odds of being rescued were minimal. He still had the strong genetic need for love and belonging and after injuring his hand while attempting to make fire, his frustration led to him choosing to throw objects that had washed up from the plane crash, kick the sand, swear, and destroy whatever was near him. His bloody hand from the injury he incurred left a palm print on a soccer ball that had been part of the cargo in the plane. After he had calmed down and successfully created a fire, he began staring at the soccer ball and saw the potential for something in the bloody hand print . . . a human face. Since no one was around to offer a need-satisfying relationship in the form of connecting with others, he would create his own person to meet this need.

He made the air hole the nose and erased some of the blood to make the eyes and mouth. The company who made the soccer ball was Wilson and their name was boldly printed on the ball. This became Chuck’s compensation for connecting with someone whom he named, “Wilson.” So far, you may be saying to yourself, “So . . . . ? What’s your point?”

Chuck then began talking to Wilson and even answering on Wilson’s behalf to satisfy his need for love and belonging and connecting. And I would be willing to wager that you would still be thinking, “Well, sure. There’s nothing wrong with that. He did it to keep his sanity . . . to keep himself from going crazy on a deserted island.”

AHA! If he did that back in Memphis where he lived, would you still say his behavior was an acceptable way to behave? One might be inclined to get as far away from him as possible because, “who knows what a crazy person who talks to himself or to inanimate objects might do?” One might also believe he is seriously mentally ill and should be placed on brain meds and is in dire need of a psychiatrist.

In an isolating experience, you are more likely to accept Chuck’s unusual or unnatural behavior as typical, rational, and understandable. But if not deserted on a lonely island, the same behaviors are seen as symptoms of mental illness and chemical imbalances. The unusual behavior one may create and perform serves the purpose of easing their unhappiness and frustration, at the time . . . just like Chuck on the island. If he didn’t have Wilson to talk to, and imagine that Wilson was talking to him, he would have felt much more unhappy and frustrated than if he hadn’t created Wilson.

The person who sees things, hears things, and talks to people who are not present, or to inanimate objects, is no different than Chuck. While they are not physically on a deserted island, they are in a deserted world based upon their choice to isolate or detach from others because of unsatisfying relationships with the important people in their life. They have detached from others and can be alone while around others. Their creativity to deal with their frustration and unhappiness is no different than Chuck’s creativity in producing and talking to Wilson, a soccer ball.

The only difference is the circumstances. You could see Chuck’s dilemma and rationalize Chuck’s behavior because you could relate to being in his situation. And since you could relate, you deem it normal, acceptable, and not a mental illness at all. You were living in his world on the screen and silently thinking, “I’d probably do the same thing.”

If Chuck behaved in this manner back in Memphis, you would not see the situation he would be experiencing in his world. His unsatisfying situation and internal frustration would be very real to him, but invisible to you. And since you have most of your needs met, on a somewhat regular basis, in a world where they are more easily attainable than a desert island, you might be inclined to think and believe his behavior is a mental illness.

When Chuck was rescued and came back home, he didn’t talk to things or people who weren’t there anymore. First of all, Wilson was lost at sea before he was rescued. But when Chuck got home, he was back in a world with people with whom he could connect. And it didn’t take brain meds to get him to stop talking to imaginary things or hearing imaginary voices. He only had to connect with others and those who are important to him. After five years of living in isolation, his rescue not only saved his life, it restored most of his basic genetic needs for happiness: Survival, Love and Belonging, Freedom, Power, and Fun. The love of his life had given up hope for his return and had married someone else.  There would obviously be some emotional pain from that loss.  But even that didn’t cause Chuck to return to his island-surviving behaviors.

Would you say a child who has an imaginary playmate is mentally ill? Or would you say they are being really creative? When you dream at night . . . are some of your dreams really “out there”? Does that mean that you are crazy when you are dreaming or is your mind simply being creative? If your brain can do that when you are asleep, it is also capable of doing it when you are awake?

In our world, it appears it is much easier to convince others that a person is mentally ill than to convince them that they are sane and only frustrated and unhappy.

Learn more about The Glasser Institute at www.wglasser.com

Contact The Glasser Institute at  wginst@wglasser.com

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I’m headed to southern Oregon next week to conduct a Soul Shaper workshop at Milo Academy. Looking forward to it!

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