You Can Learn to Exploit Your Emotions

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Emotions are deeply embedded in the brain and the body.  We were emotional beings before we ever  became thinking beings.  Emotions originated before thoughts.  The evidence for this can be seen in the brain's architecture itself.  The brain stem and the base of the brain can be called the "life-maintenance brain."   It regulates our breathing, body temperature, blood pressure, sleep-wake cycle, movement, attention arousal etc.  On top of the life-maintenance brain, sits the "emotional brain," which governs the basic emotions, namely, anger, fear, joy,  and sadness.  On top of the emotional brain, sits the "thinking brain," the gray matter, which is like the cap of the brain.  So when we say, "wear your thinking cap," we are referring to a physical fact.     

 Emotional brain has direct access to the body.  Compared to the thinking brain, emotional brain is closer to the parts of the brain that directly control and command the body.  This is why a lot of times we react in ways contrary to what our thinking brain tells us to do.  For example, we blush, perspire or scream when we tell ourselves not to.   

 This is so because emotions trigger a natural physical response and the thinking (rational) brain asks for a controlled or an unnatural response.  This does not mean that we cannot control our raw, "tooth and nail" responses, it just takes a lot more practice and hard work on our part.  At any rate, most of us feel we are exploited by our emotions.  The good news is that you can learn to exploit your emotions and  win the battle in your favor.  

 Recognize that while some emotions weaken us, others empower us.  How much can they empower us?  Remember the 95-pound lady who single-handedly lifted her car to save her son who was pinned underneath?  The emotion of love can provide superhuman strength, patience, and endurance.  Appropriate emotions can mobilize our body to respond with extraordinary speed, efficiency, and accuracy.  Accomplished athletes know it.  They create the ideal performance state by manufacturing joy and pride that accompanies victory.  In this way, they feel confidence, optimism, and energy which keeps them in their highest competence zone. 

 Notice I said, athletes create that emotion.  They create that emotion much like what actors do.  You may think that actors merely pretend to be someone else.  You may further think if that's not real, how can that help in the actual performance?"  Here is the key:  accomplished actors don't pretend an emotion, they live it.  Likewise, accomplished actors don't pretend to be someone else, they become that person for that moment.  

 When highly trained actors act out fear, joy, anger, or sadness, they feel that emotion in their body and their mind.  If an actor can't experience the targeted emotion in his or her body, acting would appear hollow and empty, and you as an audience won't be moved by it.  Scientists have confirmed that the physical experience of acted emotion in a professional actor is almost identical to that of real emotion.  Many professional actors and actresses after playing continuously and over a long period a role of a severely distressed person have consequently damaged their own body immune system.  It is now known that severe and prolonged distress and negative emotions such as, fear, anger, grief, and despair can damage the body's immune function.  

 By the same token, if you mentally and physically feel positive emotions, such as, of inspiration, confidence, joy, victory, and enthusiasm, and perform corresponding actions, you will access your competence zone which athletes call, "the C-zone."  Enthusiasm!  Some people can't stand the word.  They think being enthusiastic about anything is childish.  Look at the word "enthusiasm."  It is made of the word "theo," the God."  Enthusiasm refers to the state when the God is with you.  Why would one shy away from enthusiasm? 

 Don't wait to feel proud until you have won the trophy of your dreams.  Don't wait to feel happy until you have realized your ultimate goal.  Don't wait to feel confident and victorious until you have triumphed over your competition.  Feel the pride, the happiness, the confidence, and the victory, now.  If you can't feel these emotions, just copy the physical actions of people who are proud, happy, confident, and victorious.  Adopt such people as your models.  Observe how they stand, walk, talk, breathe, and move?  Repeat their physical actions to capture the emotion underlying them.  

 Doing actions produces the corresponding emotion.  Ask yourself, "How would I act if I feel this way?  What would I do if I did feel this particular emotion?"  When the mind and body fully unite, real emotions follow and real emotions produce real results.      

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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