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Emotional Recursion: The Feelings behind our feelings

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posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 11:21 PM
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When we act, think, or feel, we rarely notice how our mental dynamics are held in place by a secondary awareness of our actual acting. A quick clinical example shows how this can happen in a pathological mind:

Jeremy is afraid of other people. He cannot understand why he's afraid of other people, he only knows that he's afraid. In this situation, Jeremy is both aware of a) a fear of an object (other people), and b) implicitly, he is afraid of the physical sensations that go along with his emotion of fear. Both dynamics mutually feedback into the other; the perception of fear in the body (made implicitly) recursively links to the object that is feared in the environment. And what is feared reminds one of the embodied sensations; and back and forth: this is how anxieties happen to us.

When we think, recursions between direct knowing (what is actually thought), as well as implicit knowing (in the body) link back up with one another. This is a fundamental psychological dynamic of the human mind. Were caught up in narratives of perception, while discreetly our mind teeters upon the awareness of "how it feels on the inside".

A very common example of this process is the experience of shame. When someone experiences shame, its a very public emotion. It can only be experienced 'publicly' if it is to be a true feeling of shame. In feeling shame, usually there's a direct reason for it, say, you were caught picking your nose and eating it. You think about this, and it's this 'thought' which holds your attention on the shame. But in between your perception, so to speak, there is a continuous implicit knowing of how the shame feels inside you; you curl up inside; you wish you were a turtle so you could retract your head from public notice. In other words, we feel shame ABOUT the shame.

One can also get depressed about ones depression. And this sort of feedback oftentimes creates harrowing states of mind where reflection upon the depressed feeling in the chest and stomach makes one both scared, and in effect, more depressed. It's this 'thinking about our bodily sensations', and recognizing, "this feels bad", that we augment and amplify the bodily expression of the emotion. This is oftentimes not explicit. It is just the type of 'noticing' that the human mind does, without words, just perceiving something on the inside or the outside that 'captures' our attention.

It is useful to think about how we think about the bodily sensations we have, and ask ourselves: why? Instead of reacting to our reactions, as we are wont to do, we can take a step outside 'ourselves', or the 'system' of our mind, and just watch; watch how the mind goes and focuses upon something; and how we oftentimes make implicit judgements in our noticing, which leads to a state change in another direction.

A common, and to me, humorous manifestation of emotional recursion is a labyrinth version where a person feels something, decides upon something, and then feels something negative in response to his deciding. This happens in so many different ways, but it happens most unnoticeably as when we turn away from a certain action because the thought we had left us with an uncomfortable bodily feeling: shame.

Even when we say, for example, I'm going to smile at the next person, we might feel a certain shame about it. Why? Ok. If this is not you and smiling at strangers at ANY time, comes naturally, kudos to you. But there are still instances in our day to day life where a certain behavior or thought is 'red-lined' because it produces in us a certain bodily sensation, and in that sensation, implicitly, we think of something different and better.

One could interpret such a turning away as a fundamental weakness in personality organization. If a thought "scares you", or makes you feel "icky", one can make out a relationship akin to that between parents and children. Whereas the mature mind is able to tolerate and accept negative emotions because they have something to teach me about the human condition, I am able to feel and think and reflect and imagine in ways that would have been impossible before.

Accepting the emotions we experience, in the sense of looking upon them with curiosity and a sense that there's no reason to enact an 'emotion about the emotion', allows us to essentially take control of our own little "i" - that bare zone in our psyche that is completely free from 'outside' influence; that 'witness' without any quality. And in doing so, we become something like captains to a ship; instead, both the ship, and the sea, are under the control of this captain.




posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 11:26 PM
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People who make me feel icky usually turn out to be inimical to my well being....just sayin
Emotions are also part of sensory to mind communication.....
But I also think hair may be a receptor more than a warm head covering.....



posted on Jan, 13 2015 @ 11:32 PM
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Thank you. Great post!!




posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 12:19 AM
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originally posted by: stirling

But I also think hair may be a receptor more than a warm head covering.....

I have had the same thought myself.
Salvador Dali believed that his moustache was his primary sensory organ.
There are tales of Native American trackers being drafted for their skills, and losing those skills after having their head shaved.



posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 12:58 AM
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a reply to: Astrocyte

Awesome post, very well laid out.

If many of us would realize that we think too much and listen to our critical and overthinking inner mind too much it would free us greatly to just "be". And this is something I'm working on continuously. Maybe one day it will become an automatic state.



posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 02:47 AM
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I have studied psychology, I am the parent of a child with Asbergers and I teach, I am mindful of all my emotions and emotional responses and those of others, constantly. I always monitor the things I say and do and consider the emotional impact responses that result, I adapt words and actions accordingly, always trying to say and do 'the right thing'.

I see the thoughtless, emotionally spontaneous words and actions of those that should know better, such as those in positions of authority acting out their jealousy, as the base functionings of underdeveloped personality and generally philosophically uneducated persons.

If schools taught philosophy, etiquette and personality development the world would be a better place.



posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 06:09 AM
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a reply to: Astrocyte




One could interpret such a turning away as a fundamental weakness in personality organization. If a thought "scares you", or makes you feel "icky", one can make out a relationship akin to that between parents and children. Whereas the mature mind is able to tolerate and accept negative emotions because they have something to teach me about the human condition, I am able to feel and think and reflect and imagine in ways that would have been impossible before.


I'm reminded almost every day how big an impact my upbringing has on my current picture of the world. Our perceptions of the world, the people in it and the processes and rules that govern it are shaped primarily by our parents - later on that perception is tinctured further by our friends, other authority figures and actual 'life-experiences' - generally speaking.

Having said all that - I do think we end up with an interesting dynamic in our 'innards' - much like what you are describing - where you experience life, meet the relevant emotion, face the judgment from the 'public' - and then face your own judgment! Almost as if you have to deal with both the consequences from the outside world - and the consequences from whatever picture you hold up for yourself to strive to.

Does that even make any sense? Reading it back now I wonder :-)

But I fully agree with you, think you hit the nail on the head!



posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 06:58 PM
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a reply to: theabsolutetruth




I have studied psychology, I am the parent of a child with Asbergers and I teach, I am mindful of all my emotions and emotional responses and those of others, constantly. I always monitor the things I say and do and consider the emotional impact responses that result, I adapt words and actions accordingly, always trying to say and do 'the right thing'.


It's impossible to be mindful all the time. Lest, of course, you never enter embodied states of mind (i.e experience intense levels of emotionality). But even outside "emotionality", were constantly faced with two competing stimuli: what we think and feel in regard to what were being exposed to; and how we want to respond. That is, we have behavioral tendencies that respond unconsciously and instinctively; for example, if someone gives me a mean look, I cannot help but enact a turning away from his face.. Rare is the person secure enough in his individuality to respond with compassion in such a situation. I don't mean to say its categorically impossible; its just that we each have bodies adapted by evolution to respond to another persons grimace as a sign of threat; and so, my unconscious behavioral systems impel me to enact a basic need: to turn away.

By turning away, I am selfishly helping myself; looking at him is painful. So, how can one imagine mindfulness in such a situation? Since mindfulness has a sort of ontological sense of "being outside the system" a mindful response would be a compassionate response; that is, an ability to maintain your gaze, give a smile in return, and, quite possibly, promote a state-change in the other person. I can do that sometimes; but there are times when the world is weighing on me too heavily for me to be the mindfully resourceful buddha that i'd prefer to be.




If schools taught philosophy, etiquette and personality development the world would be a better place.


My idea of a good education would be ecological. There is but one symbol for this ecology, and that is O



posted on Jan, 14 2015 @ 07:01 PM
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First, we have the cycles of nature and its various biochemical components. Since global warming is happening because human beings have neglected the fact that cause and effect are mere human heuristics designed to give us an advantage in our technological creation, kids can learn about how bacteria, plant and other organic life have become regulators of methane, oxygen and carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, in effect, helping keep alive the very 'ecosystem' that the planet represents.

Second, we have the cycles of physical organisms; nutrition and healthy eating can be discussed in terms of the bodies natural systems of adaptation. The concept of 'evolutionary adaptedness' can be taught, and kids can learn and understand how the human body has been designed to function best with a particular diet; how certain foods in certain proportions are either healthy and healthy; sugar, although pleasurable, can be understood as a luxury to be indulged in only some of the time. Similarly, we can link that nutritional theme to the moral theme that 'not everything that feels good is good'; just as sugar overhwhelms cellular and hormonal systems, throwing the body into disequilibirum, so to can a a mean joke throw social and interpersonal dynamics within a group, a class, and a school, into disorder.


Then, in the type of psychology I am imagining, students can explore the subtleties of their conscious experience. Of course, in the earlier grades, psychology will be taught more as mindfulness; kids will be 'prepared' in these earlier grades for the type of sophisticated explorations I'm imagining will be taught in the later grades. One cannot be interested in something unless he's sensitized first to the nature of the insight.

Culture and the overarching human social patterns can be seen to be the consequence of smaller intimate relations within groups; the most influential and consequential groups, such as leading political families, etc, who stand ontologically 'higher' than middle income families, for example, have their own respective influences.

These social influences can then be related to the intimate and inner influences that shape our own identities and personalities. Who we become is an adaptation to early life environmental patterns. An irritable mother will produce a child that had to adapt to that; other relationships and subtle influences from biology push the developing mind into "irritability" or, conversely, a lack of emotionality. In the former case, the child imitates the psychological defenses of the parent. Since irritation is often an expression of a denied unconscious affect (usually something is noticed, probably in the body, often resulting in 'projection' by confabulation: finding someone 'out there' to be irritated about) the parents expressed behavior of 'irritation' spurs the same thought and feeling processes that the parent once felt when they were the childs age; but now as a parent, they have no recollection for how they become such an irritable person; the reality is they are enacting the same process as their own parents.

The second child 'deviates' from the one who imitates and embodies the same dynamics from the parents because perhaps he encountered different situations in life, leading to a different response. Just like his sibling, however, his adult personality is a response crafted over his early years, eventually culminating in a adult mind that avoids emotions because he can't tolerate the expected negative feedback: irritability.

If highschool aged kids explored these topics in their classrooms with zest and interest, could you imagine what kind of society we could produce?



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