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POWERFUL EMOTIONS; UNHEALTHY BEHAVIORS
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | September 2015 (Edited August 2018)
Our thoughts propel us into fruitful and prepared futures, but they also can haunt our peaceful moments with worry and guilt. By mindful attentiveness to the nature of our thoughts we can gain the benefits and limit the harm.
Understanding the pitfalls of thinking improves well-being. Giving thoughts too much power creates vulnerability to the unpredictableness of a wandering mind. Thoughts aren’t material (in the normal sense); they are products of the mind, pulling memories from the past, mulling over problems in the future, giving meaning to the meaningless. We must think. It’s our golden heritage. But unsubstantiated thoughts drown experience with fluff, create heartache, stir anxiety, and motivate fruitless endeavors. We must scrupulously examine these little demons for reasonableness, dismiss some, follow-up on others, and act on a few.
Unbiased observation of thought proves difficult for most; but emotional separation from thoughts allows for greater objectivity. When thoughts lose emotional power, we gain peace. Unbiased observation is the ideal, not always possible or practical, nor should perfection be the goal; but achieving some separation by skeptically examining personal thoughts for accuracy, adds clarity, deepening insights. From personal observation, we self-soothe and increase emotional regulation.
"Unbiased observation is the ideal, not always possible or practical, nor should perfection be the goal; but achieving some separation by skeptically examining personal thoughts for accuracy, adds clarity, deepening insights."
When entrenched in emotions, rational thought suspends, and we revert to habitual patterns. This adaptive process prepares an organism for threats without the delay of slower rational analysis. But this adaptation also has hazards; an emotionally flooded mind may act without consideration of long-term objectives. While intoxicated with emotions, we strike with intent to destroy rather than resolve. We lose sight of future goals. An emotional exchange quickly morphs from a healthy discussion to a battle of wills, utilizing destructive tools of criticism, contempt and defensiveness. The battle may be won, but the relationship critically wounded. We get our way at the expense of the desired connection and trust essential for a healthy relationship.
Emotions aren’t the enemy. We need them for survival, sometimes long-term goals must be sacrificed to survive in the moment. Emotions contribute more to life than immediate survival. They’re essential for a rich and rewarding life. But emotions can overwhelm, leading us astray. Our mind switches from reasonableness to blind rage without warning. If we become intimate with our emotions, familiar with the triggers sending us into furies, and become skilled at self-soothing, we can avoid harmful behaviors accompanying an emotionally flooded mind. By doing so, we avoid needless hurting of those around us, and better direct our lives toward more enjoyable objectives.