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The Psychology of Emotions

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jun 23, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I've been reading and watching a series of lectures on mind-body medicine by Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, professor of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. One of his lectures covers the psychology of emotions. The content is fascinating and I thought I'd share what I learned for anyone who might be interested.

    Satterfield tells us what emotions are and how they influence learning and memory. He also answers the question, “How do we feel our emotions?”

    Before I begin summarizing Satterfield’s chapter, I would like to say that afterward, I will focus on the role our emotions play in pain. For those in pain from TMS repressed emotions or problems stemming from perfectionist or “goodism” personalities, wanting everyone to like us all the time, our emotions can cause a wide range of physical and psychological pain. This will include what Dr. John Sarno writes about emotions and pain in his book, Healing Back Pain, and additional research I have made on the subject.

    Back to Satterfield’s chapter, he says that emotions are sources of information intended to communicate information about relationships to the self and the world. They are meant to motivate either withdrawal or approach (feeling love brings us closer to a person, while fear pushes us away). Emotions influence learning and memory and, as those of us who know about TMS, can create anxiety, anger, and repressed rage stemming from our childhood that surface years later in pain.

    Satterfield says that emotions are linked with thoughts and behaviors, so that to understand emotions, we need to look at what we’re thinking and doing. We need, first of all, to be able to perceive and correctly identify the emotion. Then we must know the trigger for that emotion, whether it is coming from inside or outside? Was the emotion real or imagined (such as imagined fear by someone with a pain who worries it could become worse or even fatal, when the worry is not real).

    This leads us to the interpretive step in the emotions process. How do we deal with our emotions when they might cause us anxiety or pain?

    Satterfield quotes Paul Ekman, a 1960s psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, whose research led him to conclude that there are six primary emotions: happiness, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust, and fear.

    Satterfield then discusses verbal and nonverbal communication regarding our emotions. It’s easy to see someone’s emotion in their face, but we also can feel their emotion if they walk to us over the phone. If I’m stressed, it shows in my voice, as others have told me. Body posture is another signal of our emotions. You can laugh, but I had a girlfriend who when sitting crossed her legs tightly which indicated to me that she was sexually frustrated. I don’t think I was wrong, even though I never got familiar with her. Maybe I was afraid of her reaction.

    He then discusses positive and negative emotions. Positive being happiness, joy, love, excitement, and negative being depression, anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, and envy. One of the emotions he discusses is how income relates to happiness, which I have written about in another post regarding Satterfield’s chapter 9.

    In his TMS book, Healing Back Pain, Dr. John S. Sarno writes extensively on how emotions affect our health and can cause physical pain that is caused by repressing emotions that often go back to our childhood but that may be triggered by present situations. In my case, close friends’ divorce triggered repressed anger and feelings of abandonment when my own parents divorced when I was just seven years old.

    In his book, Dr. Sarno discusses emotions affecting physical disorders including back and leg pain, arm pain, fibromyalgia, migraine headaches and others.

    He says to be free of pain from our negative emotions, it is not changing them but recognizing that they exist and the brain is trying to keep us from being aware of their existence through the mechanism of the pain syndrome. It is a key point in healing to understand why the knowledge of our negative emotions causing physical pain is the effective cure.

    Says Dr. Sarno, “There have been many observations through the years that psychological and social factors may play a role in the cause and cure of cancer.” When my sister was diagnosed with rectal cancer, she looked heavenward and told her husband, who had died of cancer five years earlier, “I’m not ready yet to play poker with you up where you are.” She focused her emotions from fear of dying to a more positive emotion of surviving, and she did.

    Even with cancer, says Dr. Sarno, “It is the efficiency of the immune system to do its job of eradicating the infectious agent that is at issue. Stressful emotions can reduce that effectiveness and allow the infection to flourish, but there is ample anecdotal evidence that people have the capacity to enhance immunologic efficiency by improving their emotional states.

    Dr. Sarno cites as a well-known example of how a positive emotion… laughter… can produce a cure. He refers to the author Norman Cousins who cured himself from a life-threatening symptom through humor therapy, simply watching movies that made him laugh. Many of the films were old Marx Brothers comedies. Sarno says when attention is focused away from the negative emotion, the illness or pain loses its purpose and ceases.

    I especially like this quote, from actress Audrey Hepburn: “I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.”

    People who have good emotional health are aware of their thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behaviors. They have learned healthy ways to cope with the stress and problems that are a normal part of life. They feel good about themselves and have healthy relationships.

    However, many things that happen in your life can disrupt your emotional health and lead to strong feelings of sadness, stress or anxiety. These things include:
    • Being laid off from your job
    • Having a child leave or return home
    • Dealing with the death of a loved one
    • Getting divorced or married
    • Suffering an illness or an injury
    • Getting a job promotion
    • Experiencing money problems
    • Moving to a new home
    • Having a baby

    “Good” changes can be just as stressful as “bad” changes.

    Your body responds to your emotions in the way you think, feel and act. TMSers know this as the “Mindbody” connection. When you are stressed, anxious or upset, your body tries to tell you that something isn’t right. For example, high blood pressure or a stomach ulcer might develop after a particularly stressful event, such as the death of a loved one. The following can be physical signs that your emotional health is out of balance:
    • Back pain
    • Change in appetite
    • Chest pain
    • Constipation or diarrhea
    • Dry mouth
    • Extreme tiredness
    • General aches and pains
    • Headaches
    • High blood pressure
    • Insomnia (trouble sleeping)
    • Lightheadedness
    • Palpitations (the feeling that your heart is racing)
    • Sexual problems
    • Shortness of breath
    • Stiff neck
    • Sweating
    • Upset stomach
    • Weight gain or loss
    Poor emotional health can weaken your body's immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times. Also, when you are feeling stressed, anxious or upset, you may not take care of your health as well as you should. You may not feel like exercising, eating nutritious foods or taking medicine that your doctor prescribes. Abuse of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs may also be a sign of poor emotional health.

    If your symptoms aren’t caused by other health problems, you can address the emotional causes of your symptoms. Your doctor may suggest ways to treat your physical symptoms while you work together to improve your emotional health.

    There are ways to improve your emotional health.

    First, try to recognize your emotions and understand why you are having them. Sorting out the causes of sadness, stress and anxiety in your life can help you manage your emotional health. The following are some other helpful tips.

    Express your feelings in appropriate ways. If feelings of stress, sadness or anxiety are causing physical problems, keeping these feelings inside can make you feel worse. It’s okay to let your loved ones know when something is bothering you. However, keep in mind that your family and friends may not be able to help you deal with your feelings appropriately. At these times, ask someone outside the situation--such as your family doctor, a counselor or a religious advisor--for advice and support to help you improve your emotional health.

    Live a balanced life. Try not to obsess about the problems at work, school or home that lead to negative feelings. This doesn’t mean you have to pretend to be happy when you feel stressed, anxious or upset. It’s important to deal with these negative feelings, but try to focus on the positive things in your life too. You may want to use a journal to keep track of things that make you feel happy or peaceful. Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.

    Develop resilience. People with resilience are able to cope with stress in a healthy way. Resilience can be learned and strengthened with different strategies. These include having social support, keeping a positive view of yourself, accepting change and keeping things in perspective.

    Calm your mind and body. Relaxation methods, such as meditation, are useful ways to bring your emotions into balance. Meditation is a form of guided thought. It can take many forms. For example, you may do it by exercising, stretching or breathing deeply.

    Take care of yourself. To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep and exercising to relieve pent-up tension. Avoid overeating and don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. Using drugs or alcohol just causes other problems, such as family and health problems.

    One emotion that can help us be healthier is optimism. Researchers call it “a high-voltage tool in the life-skills toolbox.” Susan C. Vaughan, MD, says it’s like a psychological righting reflex. “It’s like cats,” she say. “If you throw them out a window, they land on their feet.” Optimists know how to bounce back.

    Martin Seligman, PhD, professor psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “If a setback is thought about as temporary, changeable, and local, that’s optimism. If it’s thought about as permanent, unchangeable, and pervasive, that’s pessimism.” He says pessimistic people are two to eight times more at risk of depression. Optimists are happier, healthier, and more productive. Researchers have found that optimists are less likely to develop cancer or die from heart disease. Optimism is an emotion that can be a life-saver.

    Recent posts on TMSWiki.org were about emotions and their effect on pelvic pain.

    Pilatesgirl posted: “I have been somewhat successful at recognizing my emotions connected to the pelvic pain up until this week. I had been doing very well...pain was 95% better...I was thinking I was almost out of the woods. Then bam, it returns and I feel like I’m starting all over again. I know I am dealing with a lot of conditioning and triggers. It feels like there are so many triggers. Mother in law, time of the month, kids home for summer vacation, and a lot of running around this summer.

    “I was a bit overwhelmed today...thinking about a few past experiences that were upsetting. I want to get into the habit of journaling for a few minutes when this happens but it's not always convenient with kids around. I think I am putting too much pressure on myself to get everything back to where I was prior to the pain. I also felt a little restless today. I want to do so many things (probably because the last two years I didn't do much) and I am having a difficult time with patience. Patience with the program and patience with the recovery process. I realize this is not helpful to my recovery.

    “My progress so far has been bumpy. I'm going to assume that is a pretty normal part of the process. I do get discouraged and a little depressed at times though.”

    Marian replied: “Pilatesgirl, it's no wonder your pain returned. You are under a lot of stress. Go easy on yourself. I just had a visit from my in-laws and knew that my symptoms would get worse, and they did, and I also knew that when they left my symptoms would get better, and they did that as well. Progress for some of us is definitely bumpy -- just ignore it. Sometimes the wind blows you one way or another, but overall your progress is going in the right direction. The roads can be curvy, but they get you there.”

    Many more thoughts on emotions and their affects on our health are to be found here:



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