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A GUIDE FOR SELF HELP

FOCUSING ON THE EMOTIONS OF DAILY LIFE
A GUIDE FOR THEIR MAINTENANCE

Or
How to change without trying too hard
by
Ilan Shalif (Ph.D.)


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Back to the CONTENTS To do it yourself - now To the Daily Focusing To the recycled emotions To the Special projects To the Guide for the guide To the Emotions

What are the emotions The activation programs Ad hoc activation programs Supra-Programs The emotional Supra-Programs The cover-programs The trash-programs How it really works
to the Impossible missions???
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8. THE ACTIVATION PROGRAMS

The Innate Activation Programs of the brain - the emotional ones and the non-emotional ones - are very primitive. They lack the flexibility, intricacy and the complexity needed for adult life. They are not even fit the somewhat simpler life of an infant. They are really not intended for these tasks. It is most important that the new baby responds with disgust and vomiting to stale food.

But it is not so good if children and adults respond with a reflex like vomiting to each feeling of disgust. Especially if the disgusting element is a medicine or the reaction is to the disgusting behavior of others.

The main purpose of the innate activation programs is to equip the young baby for his first days of life. Then, the two main functions are:
a)
to be the basic strata and building blocks for activation programs built during the years of growth and maturing; .

b)
to function as a defense system in emergency situations when the swift, automatic and reflex-like responses, based on genetic memory is the preferred mode. When one is in an unexpected emergency, it is possible to observe the effects of archaic versions of activation programs - especially the emotional ones.
For instance, when an adult finds that his overdraft in the bank has almost reached the limit, the operation program of the basic emotion of fear v. serenity triggered is not the innate one. Instead, this situation activates the mature and updated version of the operation program (Supra-Program(8) in the following, Supra-Plan in the theory of Bowlby). The duty of this version is twofold:

Firstly, to initiate a more thrifty pattern of behavior or other appropriate measures to take care of the overdraft; secondly, to prevent the activation of the innate program of the emotion which would cause him to run away every time he learned about a dangerous condition within his overdraft at the bank.

One of the results of the plasticity of activation programs of the emotional supra-program type is demonstrated in the vast number of ways individuals respond to similar circumstances. Part of these different ways are of relatively good quality, and their activation brings about the needed results. Part of the different ways are relatively harmless - though inefficient and costly.

They can be an exaggeration of one sort or another of right steps, or be embedded with various mistakes which are not fatal. Other variations - private or common to whole groups of people - are not reliable ways to achieve the basic targets. If one is lucky, they may be merely a costly or funny means of achieving the right end; if one is not lucky enough - as are most people - one cannot expect to lead a happy life.

Other ways in which people behave are results of programs involving too little effort, or activities with a wrong or clearly damaging direction. Thus, these ways cannot bring about the desired results. Sometimes they are even clearly damaging. They are always self-defeating.

In adulthood, and especially in modern industrial countries, very few of our activities can rely on the innate emotional programs. For instance, the emotional subsystem of people who find during their visit to the bank that their overdraft is too big, relay specific "emotional announcements" to the awareness. However, in these instances people cannot rely on the activation of innate operating programs to solve the problem for them.

Some of them examine their accounts - income and expenditure and change their plans. Others may react with anxiety first, and only later make some constructive amendments. Still others with a less adaptive repertoire may only get in a bad mood, but refrain from doing anything to meet the demands of the problem.

People of another group get away from the bank very fast, and divert their attention from the sad news, using the consumption of alcohol drugs or other substances, or do many other things, irrelevant to the problem, just in order to improve their feelings.

9. AD HOC ACTIVATION PROGRAMS(4)

As mentioned in previous chapters, the overwhelming majority of activities in our brain is executed by activation programs(2) - schemes, in the terminology of J. Piajet. Part of the programs are with us from birth while the others were built during life. The programs are usually stored in the memory and drawn out when needed. However, the actual work is not done by these programs but by ad hoc executable programs based on them.

The ad hoc programs are temporary versions of the semi-permanent ones translated or adapted after taking into consideration the specific circumstance, or more specific ones based on the semi-permanent ones. The new ad hoc programs are built by "older" ad hoc programs, which are active at the given moment, after these programs identified the need for new or additional programs.

Each of the ad hoc programs contains a subprogram for monitoring each step of the execution. Parallel to the execution of the program, this subprogram is responsible for introducing minute changes needed to achieve the aims of the program. The whole process of creating and executing the ad hoc program is recorded in the memory for future reference.

Before we start any activity, or change the course of an ongoing one the appropriate activation programs and processes initiate a search in the memory for the most appropriate program. Generally, the one chosen is treated as the ad hoc execution program for the task at hand and applied almost as it is. Sometimes, the chosen program is adapted to specific needs and conditions.

Seldom - and even less common as one matures - none of the stored ones are found fit for the need in hand. In these cases, and when one is deliberately learning something, the ad hoc programs which activate the preparation processes, construct an entirely new program. For this task they use part of the plethora of programs, and routines of programs already stored in memory.

During a meal, for instance, regular food is treated semi-automatically. A common dish with a new variation is treated a little less automatically. However, an entirely new food demands the construction of an entirely new set of programs.

The same processes apply to the programs of all other aspects and happenings of life, beginning with the most basic physiological maintenance of temperature and energy up to the most complicated ones of philosophy.

Many activation programs, especially the most complex supra-programs of behavior in social settings, include options to be decided upon according to specific circumstances. For instance, the ad hoc version of the supra- program responsible for cleaning the nose is constructed after taking into consideration the presence of others, and the ease with which one can avoid being seen.

The decisions about the program options involved in eating also need to take into consideration many specific conditions. Even during eating and before starting to swallow the chewed food of each intake, the specific circumstances must be inspected thoroughly if smooth functioning is desired.

In addition to the executable portion (subprogram) of the ad hoc activation program built for the task at hand, there is always built into it a subprogram the task of which is to control the said activity. The control components of the ad hoc programs in these two examples contain, among others: expectations about the reactions of those around (or the lack of them) with regard to cleaning the nose, and in the case of eating, about the smooth passage of the food in the Oesophagus.

Afterwards, while the ad hoc program is being executed, the control component monitors its progress and results, and compares them with the expectations. If everything goes as expected, the information is entered into the suitable memory "files" together with very complimentary recommendations. If things do not go so smoothly, the controlling subprogram enters these observations in the memory together with detailed criticism.

Simultaneously, the control subprogram recruits the help of other programs in order to mend the ad hoc program while it runs, to stop it if needed, and to abandon it altogether if found irreparable. Whether successful or not, recommendations for the future are always entered into the memory files for further reference.

During the controlled activity of the ad hoc programs, and afterwards, when the relevant memory files are reviewed, the information is also used to update, mend and improve the supra-programs involved (including, of course, the emotional activation programs).

For instance, when a chunk of food gets stuck in the throat, the ad hoc operation program enters the warning that a better inspection should be made before the next swallow. If the food is of a tasty new dish not encountered before, the recommendations at the end of the meal will certainly include suggestions about the building of a special supra-program, to be applied in the future, whenever eating this food.

The program of cleaning the nose might need a more radical amelioration when one receives harsh treatment while activating it in the presence of people who are sensitive. One of the possible results may be the inclusion of a subroutine which will ban its execution altogether in the presence of others.

10. SUPRA-PROGRAMS

At the beginning of life, we are entirely dependant on the innate emotional programs and those of the senso-motor type. From that time onwards, the building and executing of the ad hoc programs, together with the maturation of the brain and the accumulated experience, result in the building of numerous new programs. Each of these new programs is usually a crystallization or integration of the results of the repeated execution of similar ad hoc programs, in similar conditions and/or with a similar purpose.

The new programs are usually "stronger" or "of higher status" than those previously built - including the innate ones. In most circumstances the new programs inhibit the innate ones or actually substitute for them. Because of this difference in status, Bowlby calls them supra-plans. For the same reason, many scientists call them supra-programs or other similar names.

For instance, all the healthy newborn babies cry when slapped (and thereby clear their air channels). However, a baby that has grown a bit, and is more than a few months old, can easily learn to inhibit crying in situations where the pain involved is not too intense. Moreover, the same baby can learn to emit heart breaking cries even on occasions where he has slight or no physical pain at all. It seems that most babies try this from time to time, in order to get the desired results from caring figures.

The supra-programs are also experienced as being more powerful than the original ones. This is so, because when one becomes conscious of a conflict between programs of different kinds, the new ones and logic are frequently the winners. (Sometimes, the act of attending to the conflict is what decides which will be the victor; other times, people just remember better logical solutions.)

Most of the time the "new" programs are really a stable organization of a few of the old ones with the addition of new routines and options. The more advanced a program is, the less the weight in it of the original mode of operation and the more parts in touch with the awareness. Consequently, the new programs seems to be less emotional and oriented more and more towards the future.

The construction of supra-programs

The greatest number of the supra-programs are constructed "spontaneously" during growing up, mostly with the "help" of socialization11 and mainly during early childhood, but also through adolescence and young adulthood. Some are the result of relatively free experience and experiments initiated by the individual. A bigger number result from "modeling".

In most of the cases we copy the supra-programs of others because of identification and other emotional ties with them. Others are the result of our in-built tendency to absorb information embedded in the situation even if its emotional quality is neutral or nearly so.

During maturation, and more so in adulthood, an increasing number of the new versions of operating programs seem to be the result of less substantial activities. Among these which contribute an increasing share to the "pool" of "building materials" are: contemplation, imagery, passively absorbed information, learning, activations of programs in a "theoretical manner" in the imagination (without their behavioral components), etc.

The relationship between various components or steps of the new programs is more complicated and of a less rigid order than in the innate programs. The triggers that can activate them are more diverse. They seem to have more then one version each, which often differ only slightly from each other.

A small number of the programs are built as intended by "agents of socialization" as a result of their direct activity. For example, the building of a program of positive regard towards relatives results from the repeated pressure of parents applied in the irrefusable demand: "Say thank you to aunty".

The culture of mankind includes the knowledge and customs required for the intentional activities aimed at molding the innate and acquired emotional programs. Some of the activities involved do not have a name of their own. They are usually applied informally, by family members, peers, friends and other acquaintances, mainly during childhood and adolescence but also throughout life.

Other influences have more specific names like: Psychotherapy, Chemo- therapy, Education, Punishment, etc. and are usually applied by people of authority who have special status in the social system.

The main aim of these activities is to induce changes in the undesirable aspects of supra-programs in the individual. Their targets are mostly those programs that are deemed noxious, harmful or destructive for the individual, for those who are related to him, for those in authority or for the system in general.

However, the more profound results of socialization are usually quite different from those expected by the agents. In the above example, when the pressure is applied "too successfully", the results tend to be a specific program of submission, and many other non-specific ones related to manners. More often than not, the results are a general supra-program of yielding to authority and another one of avoidance of relatives. That of positive attitude to relatives is less likely to materialize as a result of this kind of intervention.

Still a smaller number of the new programs are built throughout life, as a result of deliberate learning, including the one responsible for the habit of inserting a small plastic card into a crack in the wall, in order to get a number of colored pieces of paper!

11. THE EMOTIONAL SUPRA-PROGRAMS

At the beginning of life, the dominance of the innate mental equipment is overwhelming and the hegemony of the subsystem of the basic emotions is nearly complete. The brain structures of the basic emotions are repeatedly activated by innate programs of their own. At that stage, the emotional repertory is quite simple and nearly every inconvenience of substantial impact causes the baby to cry.

Combined with the physiological processes of maturing, the accumulated experiences result in the building of new programs. A number of the new emotional programs built are only more flexible versions of innate ones. A number are those the fresh aspect of which is the result of the inclusion of options (and inhibitions) that are based on the maturing of the body and the cognitive ability.

Other supra-programs are based to a large extent on acquired knowledge and skills. They seems to be entirely new, and it is hard, at first, to find which of the more primitive programs were used as their "building materials".

Over the years the relative weight of accumulated experience in the building of programs, increases immensely. Consequently, most of the new programs of adults are based on stored information accumulated during the actual activation of ad hoc programs which were based on previously built supra-programs.

Though all programs are related to survival, and thus to emotion, not all of them are colored so much with emotional factors accessible to awareness of the individual or to those who observe him. Thus it is a common custom to distinguish between the two kinds and call "Emotional" only those which are obvious or which defy simple logic.

As a result of the maturation and the accumulation of supra-programs, the rigid automatic innate mode of operation for the activation of the brain structures of the basic emotions, is abolished. This causes changes to the way each of the various components of each of the basic emotions function. It also changes dramatically the relations and interactions between these components which become very flexible.

For instance, using a supra-program, the integration processes of basic emotions can be inputted and influenced by other than the innate perceptual patterns. They can be influenced by word, memory, thinking, perception of signs or symbols or other things, that are connected with the specific basic emotion by association.

The most striking example is the ability of colored pieces of paper, (treated as money) or memories and imagery about them, to influence the emotional climate of people. They can change the mood of a person, from the positive pole of the basic emotion happiness v. sorrow to the opposite pole and vice versa. (This power is especially potent when the colored-pieces of paper are inscribed with a number followed by many zeros, which with luck one may receive, or unfortunately, may have to give.)

During maturation and socialization, the reflex like manner in which the primary patterns of stimuli of a basic emotion influence the integration processes and activate their other components, progressively diminishes. The original activity of the basic emotion, internal, external and communicative, also loses its cohesiveness and semi-automatic mode. Even the ability of the processes occurring in the integration component of each basic emotion to create feelings of the subjective experience of that particular emotion is no longer automatic and unconditional.

The building, updating, upgrading, mending, and other changes entered into the activation programs of the emotional system are, in principle, more or less the same as the changes responsible for practical activities. Initially, they are based, like all other activities of the mind and brain system, on innate programs. However, it seems that in this domain, the basic building blocks come less from the senso-motoric repertoire and more from the small number of complex innate programs of the basic emotions.

For instance, most of the older generation still remember the feelings of disgust (and the tendency to vomit) engendered by cod-liver oil given to them in childhood to correct vitamin D deficiencies. This initially automatic activity of the basic emotion of Disgust v. Desire (or Attraction v. Repulsion) was aroused at first by the mere smell. However, after lots of pressure and bribes from mothers and other caring persons, this pattern gradually faded. After a while most of us ceased to spit out or vomit this "medicine" or even stopped feeling revulsion, and a few of us even got used to it.

During life, individuals acquire (learn) new sub-components and patterns that are integrated into the regular activities of each of the basic emotions by means of emotional supra-programs. These new components act as additions, variations or even substitutions to innate patterns and sub-components. The individual acquires supra-programs that culminate in the ability to activate deliberately the basic emotions - as a whole or certain parts of them - in ways that differ widely from the innate patterns.

Sometimes, the acquired changes are expressed whether unconsciously or involuntarily in an instinctive-like fashion, in such a way that it is hard to distinguish from the innate mode.

For example, people can intentionally activate their desire versus disgust basic emotion - the desire pole mainly - by memories of sexual activities or by imaginary ones. The initiation of these "unreal activities" can happen spontaneously during dreams. They can be activated intentionally or spontaneously or even reluctantly during daydreams, by the sight of a passerby, or an association.

The deviation of these patterns from the original ones (of the basic emotions involved) may or may not reach our awareness, and the resulting sensations and images appear with varying degrees of vividness. These may or may not be accompanied by voluntary or spontaneous activity of one kind or another.

Throughout his life, the individual acquires the ability to influence the components of the basic emotions responsible for initiating activities, which were originally under the strict control of the integration components. Usually he also acquires some proficiency in executing them.

This proficiency enables the average person to activate various processes: intra-organismic, behavioral and communicative, even without a previously achieved suitable integration. Not only professional actors can simulate emotions successfully, even young children can do it.

The subjective experiential component is also not immune from the interventions and variations induced by supra-programs. The social environment greatly influences the shaping of this component, mainly by means of modeling, education and socialization.

During, and as a result of these processes, the individual also acquires a proficiency which may be used to divert the emotional experience. This proficiency is constantly expressed, deliberately or automatically, and with various degrees of awareness of the processes that divert the subjective experience from the innate course.

For instance, people learn to halt laughter or crying, by contracting the face muscles involved in the expression of these emotions. For thousands of years, people have been listening to and performing certain melodies to change their whole emotional climate. All of us are aware that we can change our mood just by changing the contents of our thoughts.

People posses a whole range of natural measures capable of inducing change in the emotional climate. Prominent among the behavioral alternatives are those that are included in the innate repertoire or appear automatically when one is sufficiently mature. In addition, there is a huge number of measures acquired from being subject to cultural customs of upbringing, and from divergent individual solutions found to common developmental problems, which were encountered on the way to adulthood.

The four main branches of this group of measures are:

a)
Natural behavior that satisfies different desires and needs like eating when hungry and drinking when thirsty.

b)
Behavior corresponding to the basic emotion most active at the given moment, like weeping when suffering and staring when interested.

c)
Regarding the specific feelings, emotional experiences of a certain moment, moods and other felt sensations of the body, as announcing the prevailing conditions at the time of their occurrence and as recommending a specific reaction. For instance, the treatment of the feelings of fear in dangerous circumstances as a recommendation to leave rapidly.

d)
Treating the feelings and sensations of the emotional process as a "call to arms" directed to brain and mind systems, or at least as an invitation to pay pay them attention.
The essence of this book and the manual in chapter 5, form a technique for the management of the emotional system and climate, which is based on improving and enhancing this fourth natural behavior pattern. (It seems that this is the best method of enhancing the activity of the internal maintenance processes of the updating, mending, and building of supra-programs of daily use, and especially the more emotional ones.)

12. THE COVER-PROGRAMS

The emotional supra-programs that automatically divert the emotional experience from its "natural" course, are called in this book "Cover-Programs"(17). This seems to be the best name for them, as the main purpose of each of these emotional supra-programs is to suppress (cover up) a certain internal message from the emotional subsystem, and prevent (if needed) contents related to it from entering the awareness.

The professionals provide names such as "Cognitive Sets", "Perceptual Sets", "Defenses", etc. Choosing the descriptive name of "cover-programs", and not the more common name "defenses" was done on purpose, the main reason being that the conscious and purposeful connotation of the name "defense" implies responsibility and even guilt. ("Don't be so defensive!!!").

The more sophisticated programs of this kind are mainly aimed at the weakening of extreme intensities of emotional experiences, mostly "negative" ones. They are also used to prevent "threatening emotional contents" (forbidden according to social norms or personal tastes and meaning) from reaching the awareness. They suppress them altogether or just change their quality, intensity or other aspect, to less threatening ones.

The unsophisticated cover-programs rigidly prevent emotional qualities and the felt sensations related to them from reaching the awareness at all (and they are the easiest to "capture" and rehabilitate). The most sophisticated ones selectively prevent, modulate or divert specific emotional qualities in specific circumstances, and are often hard to "diagnose".

The cover-programs do not meddle with our emotional experiences solely for internal aims. Nor do they do it just to break the chain of behavior that seems to get out of control. They also protect us from dangers and pain involved in the detection of true feelings, ours by others, and those of others by us. The cover-programs of this censorial type are an expression of the first rule of all spies which says: "What you do not know, you cannot disclose" - what you do not feel, you are not going to reveal by a facial expression, a slip of the tongue, or the intonation of your voice.

The most dramatic expressions of cover-programs are observed when they are on the verge of failure. In some occurrences, an extreme intensity of fear is recruited to divert the "awful secret" and emotional quality involved from reaching the awareness, "Anxiety Attacks" are the common name for their extreme intensities. These responses and other extreme responses that use other than the appropriate emotions try to prevent the appropriate ones from entering the awareness "with no regard to cost". In fact, they usually cost more than one can afford and lead one towards emotional bankruptcy.

The collection of the main types of cover-programs (or defenses) and their common usage are similar in people of the same culture. Consequently, the inhabitants of the industrialized countries of the western culture are very similar in this respect.

However, individuals of the same culture differ widely as to the actual versions of the cover-programs they possess and the types they use the most. They differ mainly in the subtle details of the programs resulting from the uniqueness of each personal history. They differ too with regard to their efficiency, flexibility, discriminatory power and a wide variety of inter- personal differences.

The direct flow of the emotional experience to the awareness is not the only victim of the cover-programs. External communications of emotion are also censored by the cover-programs. This measure is taken because the mechanisms of spontaneous external communication of emotions are intimately connected with the awareness system. For instance, our emotionally loaded vocal communication is heard by us too; the activity of the facial and other muscles of non-vocal communication is felt by us and not only seen by the others, etc.

As both functions of covering - from ourselves and from the others - are intimately interwoven, both can supply reasons for the building of a cover program that deals with a certain thing, and each of them can be the reason for the activation of a certain cover-program. As a result, both the awareness of emotion and the communication of emotion can suffer from distortions initiated in order to serve the other.

However, the various kinds of supra-programs of distortion - cover programs, cognitive sets and defenses - cannot banish, dissolve, or cause the complete annihilation of the activity of the innate activation programs of the basic emotion.

These programs cannot render the innate programs entirely inactive and stop them from reaching the specific verdicts of each of the basic emotions, even for the shortest time. It seems that the various supra- programs only contain the ability to shorten, diminish and push to a subliminal level certain parts of the innate programs in a wide spectrum of circumstances.

Therefore, at each moment and in each aspect, the ongoing activity of the emotional system is a combination of both the innate activation programs and the acquired supra-programs, with a greater weight given to the more emotional supra-programs, and among these especially to the cover-programs.

It is worth mentioning here that, in principle, the cover-programs are not a "bad" thing. They are part of the precious body of activation programs of the mind and brain system. They join the various mechanisms of the brain - physiological ones and various activation routines and programs - that do the immense work of filtering the plethora of inputs of body and mind processes to each other.

Usually the cover-programs serve the subsystems of emotion faithfully. Like other emotional supra-programs they are based on innate programs that are changed, mended, updated, etc. Their faults are mainly those of most other activation programs - insufficient updating, and too weak discerning power.

At birth, and more so later in life, the cover-programs have the responsibility of passively and actively filtering the huge quantity of information, inputs, feedbacks, etc. They have to decide, each moment anew, which content should be distorted and to what extent. They have to intervene in the allocation of the limited amount of resources of the brain and mind to the various tasks (mostly done by the various allocation mechanisms of attention but only a minority by the conscious ones).

These programs are involved especially in the filtering of the inputs of those programs contending for the limited capacity of conscious awareness. To some extent, they decide which will be denied entrance and which will receive a split second chance to plead its case, which will receive only marginal attention, which will enter the focus of attention for a short time and which will be given full audience in the center of awareness with a prolonged and focused attention.

For instance, the cover programs of the person who is caring for a young baby have the responsibility of trimming down and delegating to the background the hunger cry of the baby, while he prepares the food.

13. THE TRASH-PROGRAMS

The concise slang used by young adults often includes the vivid description of the common low level of life quality as being "in the trash". This low level of the quality of life is the rule for most people in the modern and rich countries of the "first world" most of the time - regardless of social status or economic resources. For each one who is briefly "out of the trash" there are many more who are almost never clear of it.

Many of my trainees and I have recently become part of the minority which form the "exception that proves he rule". The "trash" simile adequately describes what each of us experienced before encountering the "General Sensate Focus" technique.

In commemoration of those bad days and in order to indicate the culprit, the programs one works on to improve the quality of life are nicknamed trash- programs. Actually, this nickname is not only used throughout the text of this book, but also as a regular concept in the work with trainees. We even use it regularly in our individual daily life when conversing with others familiar with its meaning.

There are about six main "families" of those "trash-programs". Sometimes, a subprogram or even a whole program can be allocated to more than one of the following groups or families as they are not mutually exclusive:
a)
The most prominent family consists of programs which are responsible for prolonged pressure, distress, depression, tension, stomach pains, heart discomfort, low back pains, etc.

b)
The second family consists of programs responsible for the relatively short and acute emotional feelings and sensations such as: anxiety attacks, rage attacks (accompanied by the will to hurt the offender), sporadic guilt feelings, shame, weeping, etc.

c)
The third family consists of those programs that prevent the experience and/or communication of the felt emotions, sensations, moods, passions, etc. or at least attenuate their intensity. A few members of this family are indiscriminate and affect all levels and qualities of the emotions. The others are a bit more discriminate and have a more selective effect on the various aspects and expression of emotion.

d)
The fourth family is the most destructive. Its members prevent us from executing essential behavioral patterns, or restrain us from executing actions we have already decided on, even when we know that they are vital to our well-being. The affects of these programs are usually felt as "internal resistance", inhibitions, lack of will power, personality factors and characteristics, etc. These programs delay, postpone, hinder, or even prevent the beginning of the execution of programs and plans. Sometimes, in addition or instead of the above, they "just" sabotage their progress.

e)
The fifth family consists of programs doing the opposite with nearly the same damaging effects or even more. They execute prematurely behaviors we have already decided to delay, postpone, or even wish to prevent. They prevent us from the timely aborting of behavior and other actions found faulty during their execution. Programs of this family can "take us for a ride" that could be prolonged for life, or shorten our lives to suit their length.

f)
The sixth family is the biggest of all. It consists mostly of emotional supra-programs that cause erroneous evaluations of circumstances and resources.

The programs of this group are of three main kinds:
  1. programs that introduce errors that are relevant for one of the basic emotions.

  2. programs that cause errors in certain circumstances that are relevant to mixtures of basic emotions.

  3. programs that are responsible for widespread distortions in the emotional testing of reality.

Why are programs trashy?
There are many reasons why we have trash-programs:

a)
First and foremost is the huge number of programs, chunks of information and other impressions stored in our memory which we have to deal with:

1) We have a substantial number of innate programs that are hard to mold into more advanced and divergent forms.

2) We have a nearly infinite number of memory traces of the activities of ad hoc programs registered which we have to refer to when relevant problems are encountered.

3) We have a rich environment which changes constantly. This brings us face to face with new opportunities and dangers and force us to build and maintain a multitude of additional programs, most of them not executed in real life even once.

b)
Second in order but not in importance, is the limited capacity of our brain and mind processes responsible for the updating, mending, accommodating and adapting of the supra-programs of the mind.

c)
The third reason is the built-in strategy of the brain and mind system when confronted with the "impossible mission" of managing real life. Because of these limits, most of the adaptation processes are initiated by it only when ad hoc programs are built, whether for internal use or for actual behavior.

(If the system tried to update, mend, accommodate and adapt all programs stored in memory, we would be stuck with those of the first months of life!!!)

d)
As we have built by ourselves, copied from others and been given abundant examples of programs which were trashy to begin with (as they were built of far from perfect components), even the complete adaptation of one program seems to be impossible.

e)
People around us are usually interested in what we are doing and feeling. It started even before birth and will usually continue, even after our death. Part of them built in us programs on purpose - for their good, or for ours, because of cultural demands and because of their own various trash-programs. In many cases their effect on our programs was just accidental or even randomal.

f)
One of the most important factors which contribute to the trashiness of our programs - the more emotional and the less emotional ones are the cover-programs. For many reasons, these programs prevent or limit the involvement of the awareness in many programs, contents and felt sensations of the body. When access to the awareness and its attentional resources is limited, the application of the amendment processes to the trash-program is also limited and the level of their trashiness remains high.

g)
We nearly always neglect the only opportunity we have to make things a bit more bearable due to laziness, prejudice and ignorance, i.e. we do not "listen" to the "begging" of the control routines of the active ad hoc programs, which request the addition of attentional resources, even when submitted as clearly felt sensations.
Common roots of trash-programs
The following are a few of the most prevalent "replicas" or contents of messages of socialization agents. They were surely recited to you many times. Even if you cannot recall the fact and even if you missed a few, they are very good material for self-provocation intended to summon felt sensations for focusing purposes (recycling emotion G in chapter 5).
1)
Do not feel emotion X!!! (Here and in the other items, synonyms and "relatives" of the word "emotion" are applied too.)
2)
Why do you not feel emotion Y?
3)
In situation X you should feel emotion Y and not emotion Z.
4)
In situation X substitute emotion Y for that of Z.
5)
Change emotion X with the substance Y (food, drug, beverage, etc.).
6)
After emotion X comes/ must come the emotion Y.
7)
Emotion X is not proper for one who is male/female, and whose age is Y and his social status is Z.
8)
Refrain from too high/ low intensity of the emotion X in situation Y in the presence of Z.
9)
It is better not to execute behavior X or express Y in situation Z.
10)
If you do X you should/ would feel Y instead of Z.
11)
Refrain from behavior which cause a discernible measure of emotion X.
12)
In situation Y change the emotion X into its opposite.
13)
Instead of doing X, feel Y.
14)
Instead of feeling X, do Y.
15)
See what emotion X you are causing me.
16)
Do not be/ behave like a baby.
17)
Do/ stop doing X which results or intends to cause emotion Y to Z otherwise....

Activation programs, ad hoc programs, supra-programs, emotional
programs, cover-programs and trash-programs.

It seems that the relation between the primary emotional programs of the mind and brain system, and the supra-programs are like those of democratic parents and their young offspring. Most of the time, such parents let the children decide for themselves autonomously, though only within their protected environments (demarcated by the cover-programs).

Meanwhile, they wait in the background to help or assist in emergency situations, and all the time they murmur to themselves and those around them remarks, and comments, compliments and criticism (the low intensity sensations of the body that are always felt by us).

The survival of the innate programs, and the dynamic interactions and combinations between them and the supra-programs of adults, express the little importance nature gives to our learning abilities and reasoning faculties.

In the usual course of life, the less emotional supra-programs are active in the foreground, while just behind them - at the margins of awareness act the more emotional ones and in the far background "lurk" the always active primary innate emotional programs - as if according to "the rules" and "orders" of "natural selection".

The contemporary state of affairs is like a verdict which says that "similar to other animals of a high developmental status, the members of the human species are primarily emotional beings". It seems that man functions better as Homo-Emotionalis than as Homo-Sapiens. Nature still prefers to rely heavily on the Limbic System (the older part of the brain) rather than on the Cortex (the outer layer of the brain which is a relatively newcomer) - and more so in an emergency.

Even in adult human beings, whose cortex and logical thinking is developed to the utmost, "nature" has reservations. It does not give man's rational processes of reasoning absolute control, even for a moment. Even with adults, the "new" parts of the brain, the conscious thinking and the emotional supra-programs function only as supplements to the innate primary emotional programs and not as substitutes.

However, when no emergency provokes the primary emotional programs, the emotional supra-programs seem to have nearly sole responsibility. Only when we take this into consideration, can we understand how the most sane and intelligent persons may be aware of an activity of theirs, that contradicts both logic and self perseverance, and still continue with it.

Only when taking this into consideration can we understand how people can consciously observe without intervention, or even initiate, behavior that defies logic and may endanger their health. It is most conspicuous when human behavior entirely contradicts the survival prospects of both the individual and his nexus.

Reckless driving, volunteering for dangerous sporting missions, introducing harmful materials into the body like drugs and junk food, refusing to take urgently needed medicine when ill or even to see a doctor - are only the most common and most obvious of the trashy activities of defective supra- programs.

Usually, behavior that defies logic and endangers survival will be enacted when there is a contradiction between short-term and long-term-considerations. The logical considerations and life experience which use the supra-programs to influence the primary programs of basic emotions are often not strong enough, when the innate ones pull in the opposite direction because very short-term- considerations. The many failures of logic to influence the behavior of individuals, groups and even nations emphasizes the fact that "human nature" is still Homo-Emotionalis and not Homo-Sapiens.

Constantly, programs of various levels of "trashiness", manage our life. Constantly, the control routines of the ongoing ad hoc programs try to recruit more mental resources in order to adjust to the demands of the present. Constantly we do not give enough attention to the felt sensations of the body, which are mostly notices from these programs, as if to keep the level of trashiness from descending too low. Luckily, we pay scant attention to these demands - and thus prevent life from sinking too deep into the garbage pile.

There are various ways one can treat or relate to the trash-programs that create or are responsible for unpleasant feelings. These measures and points of view are also applicable to the programs that push us to behave in contradiction to what our reason and the supra-programs which are not so faulty try to tell us.

The most common views are those of the defeatists. They regard the mission of improvement as almost impossible. Each encounter with a faulty activity of a program leaves them feeling helpless. Eventually, the recurrent feelings of helplessness are established as a trait.

The less common - though it is the most simple - is the stubborn approach. This way of looking at the problem is common to the innovators, the adventurists, the rebels and the author of this book. In essence it says: "do not yield". It conveys the stubborn decision that it is worth trying to change the whole world and especially the emotional supra-programs of the trash type, in order to make life a pleasant voyage on earth - while life and earth last.

14. HOW IT REALLY WORKS

Paying attention
All people pay some attention to the feelings and sensations created continually by the emotional system and the ad hoc activation programs. It does not have to be an unbearable headache or internal intestinal agony which draw our attention to the feelings and sensations of the moment. But, most people are not consciously aware of the fact that they have bodily felt sensations and feelings all the time, and that they attend to them within the margin of their awareness.

Most of them increase and decrease their level of awareness to this stream of inputs instinctively or as a reflex, with only a vague notion of the fact (except when the feelings are very intense). Usually, they hardly remember afterwards that they paid so much attention to those targets.

Only people who are in extraordinary circumstances, or those who are extremely exceptional themselves, remember in detail their paying attention to a target. Only a very few people who are not specifically trained to do so are wise enough to activate this behavior deliberately and voluntarily.

The general sensate focusing technique, and many other effective measures, which succeed in improving supra-programs of individuals significantly, activate the same system in basically the same manner - even when the persons involved are not aware of this fact.

Those who use these approaches do so by systematically influencing the way the people they work with allocate attentional resources. Intentionally or as a by-product, the reallocated attention is focused on felt sensations which result from the control components of ad hoc programs. (Sometimes, when people are unaware of the real way the emotional system works, it is done only "by accident" as the treatment involves activities which create hard to ignore sensations).

The following are a few pages intended to make the focusing of attention and other tactics of the technique more meaningful.

Biofeedback or how the head works

During my first year of formal studies in the field of psychology, I enrolled in a course of laboratory workshops. One of the sessions involved the demonstration of the ever-changing electrical conductivity (and resistance to it) of the skin. Each of us experimented with an instrument which measures the changes that occur in the resistance of the skin to a weak electrical current (called by the name of "Galvanic-Skin-Resistance" or G.S.R.). The changes in the measured resistance are mainly due to changes in the sweating intensities.

The slow changes in the secretion of the sweat glands are mainly due to general changes in the body temperature, fast ones are the result of the minute changes that occur in the activity of the "autonomic nervous system". A fast rise in the activity of this system and an increase in the secretion of sweat are physiological expressions of high arousal and fear.

Thus, in spite of its innocent name, this instrument is intended to measure emotional changes and not those of electrical conductivity. For this reason, it is included in the police polygraph (called by some "the lie-detector").

During the exercise, I had one of the instruments attached to my fingers and I started to play with it: first I only followed the minute changes in the position of the needle of the watch-like monitor; then I found that these changes were related to the content of my thoughts; after a short while I even succeeded in controlling the movement of the needle by systematically changing the contents of my thoughts, sexy thoughts moved it to the right and boring ones to the left.

A bit later I found that one need not use thoughts in order to influence the needle, as the intention alone, accompanied with concentration of attention, achieved the same results. Not much later I learned that I was not the first to discover this phenomenon, and that this physiological function is the easiest to measure and influence. The sensations of the body which are related to these functions are hard to discern in normal circumstances and a few of them are never noticed by untrained individuals.

A whole branch of research is dedicated to the task of training people to take partial control of functions of the body with the aid of measuring devices. This activity is usually called "Biofeedback Training". This name sums up the processes behind this phenomenon which consists of:
a)
A sub-system of the brain and mind system which supervises a physiological function and supplies (feed) it with an input, thus influences its intensity.

b)
Faint feedback from a part or a region or a site of the body (or brain) about the activation of that function (influenced by the input of the sub-system), supplied (back or in return) to the sub-system of the brain and mind supervising it, via natural channels.

c)
Substantial feedback about the activation of the same function, supplied to the same sub-system of the brain and mind, from the same site of the body or brain, via the visual or the auditory channel, by the instrument that measures this function.
The initial "Bio" is added to "Feedback" to create the term "Biofeedback" in order to distinguish it from the feedback processes of a purely technological environment.

Many processes of our body are evolving under the supervision of other processes of the organism. Processes are initiated, curtailed or change their level according to the input they get from their supervising processes, which in their turn do it according to inputs from other processes, including feedback from the supervised ones.

For instance, whenever the temperature of the body rises too much, the process which supervises the secretion of the sweat glands get an elevated "signal" from the heat receptors of the skin, and rises the level of secretion. Afterwards, as the temperature subsides, the suitable feedback supplied by the receptors causes the supervising process to reduce the sweat secretion.

Huge quantities of input and feedback are transferred in the body and the brain via the nervous system. Part of it is the new information about the world, most of it is internal - from one subsystem to all the other relevant ones. Sometimes the distances are very small, sometimes they are greater, but very few are easy to measure by instruments.

Though the study of the feedback processes by means of "biofeedback" training has existed for more than thirty years, there is still no detailed explanation in the public pool of knowledge. The usual explanations are an elegant evasion of the problem, embedded in the vague terms of "learning processes".

"Illegal" feedback or "how the trash-programs are hunted"

Our brain constantly receives huge quantities of input from the main senses of sight, hearing, smell, balance and movement, as well as the huge number of various receptors dispersed in or near the skin, in the muscles and in all other parts of brain and body.

This large number of input suppliers report to the same subsystems of the brain through the same nervous system, nearly all the time. As the brain and mind system is flooded by all this information, it cannot pay intensive attention to all of it. Thus, most has no attention paid to it in the focus of awareness if its level of intensity is not high.

When we are in a session of biofeedback training and concentrate our attention on the feedback of an instrument which measure a physiological function, an enhanced feedback of the measured process reach the relevant brain centers, via route and sensory modality through which it never arrived there before. For instance, the information supplied by the receptors of the skin about small changes in its moisture which they feed to the brain through the sensory nerves, is usually not considered in the center of awareness.

However, as the information changes to the visual or auditory channel that usually does engage the center of awareness (according to the specific instrument) the impact of the information increase and it engages the center of awareness.

The same minute fast changes that occur in each physiological process of our body occur also in the stream of information supplied as the feedback of the instrument, and are exactly like those of the function measured. Part of the minute changes of the measured function is the result of the systematic and "erratic" changes in the supervisor process.

Thus, all three of them function as a "chorus" of three, and create a cohesive functional connection. The control subprograms of the relevant ad hoc programs cannot fail to identify the enhanced feedback as pertinent to them, and thus, use it to reshape the ongoing activities.

At first, the strength of the "artificial" connection is a function of the amount of attention paid to the monitor of the instrument (or the signal it emits). When the concentration of the attention is strong and lasting enough, the will processes involved with consciousness and awareness can be applied to the ad hoc activation programs responsible for the measured function - and change them together.

After a while, one can change the supra-programs which are the "building blocks" of the ad hoc programs which are involved in the training, and strengthen gradually the influence of the will on the measured function. When persisting in training one reach a point in which one can apply one's will and attention to the function even without the measuring instrument, on the basis of the natural feedback alone.

The general sensate focusing technique is based on the same processes but the measuring instruments are not necessary for the training. We start with the stronger sensations of the body - related to the emotional processes - and focus attention on them. The control routines of the ad hoc activation programs involved, use the additional resources to refine all the relevant programs.

Consequently, better functioning is achieved; better versions of the supra-programs involved are constructed; and a change for the better occur in the sensation focused on. Gradually - as in biofeedback training - one learns to pay more attention to the levels of low intensity of the natural biofeedback and succeed in discerning even those which are really very weak.

Thus, one can learn to "monitor" and listen to the very faint requests of ad hoc programs for attention, and invest in the improvement of programs huge quantities of mental resources previously wasted or ill-used.

The lost paradox

It is still a common habit to divide the various activities and processes of our body and mind into voluntary and involuntary processes, as a residual of past ignorance:

Included in the first are such activities as talking, moving, swallowing, thinking - and others we can activate as we wish.

In the second kind, are included those we are not clearly aware of and all these we cannot influence by sheer will-power - previously thought to be immune to voluntary influences. As for instance, the level of sugar in the blood, "brain waves", blood-pressure, the temperature of specific regions of the body, etc. We know now that we can influence all of them, but only using indirect means, and by attending to the various sensations of the body.

However, as it was found that man can influence via biofeedback training even the most subtle processes, the dichotomy and all the conceptualization around it were found to be not valid. The wonder, now, at the way one succeeds in changing one's brain waves through biofeedback training is neither more nor less than that aroused by the act of learning to ride a bicycle.

In spite of the philosophical and psychological difficulties, the dream-like experience of biofeedback training is worth while. Only the one who has experienced the change induced in measuring instrument by the intense concentration of one's attention and will - observed in the monitor of the instrument or in the auditory or visual signal it emits - can appreciate this in full. Only the experience of deliberately causing an unpleasant feeling to dissolve, solely by means of focusing the attention on it, can surpass that experience.

                                *   *   *
                                  *   *
                                    *

The incomplete story of the emotions and their management comes here to an end. The "theoretical" chapters were introduced in order to help you get a meaningful picture of the self-maintenance system of the operating programs of the mind. This picture may help you recruit your resources in order to treat your emotional system more wisely.

Doing it as recommended in the self training chapter 5, will improve your whole life so much that not only those around will find it hard to comprehend, but you yourself will be amazed. It is a pity no one can yet supply, the final piece of the puzzle which is the mechanism of the brain that writes new information on the new protein chains in the brain cells, and its complementary one - that reads the information already there.

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bowlby, J. (1969-1981) Attachment and loss. London: Hogart, Vol. 1-3.

Darwin, C. (1872) The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals. London: John Murray (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press 1965).

Descartes, R. (1649) Treatise on the passions of the soul. In the Philosophical Works Of Descartes: E.S. Halden & G.R.T. Ross (Trans.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967.

Ekman, P., (Ed.), (1982) Emotions in the Human Face. London: Cambridge University Press.

Fonberg, E. (1986) Amygdala, emotions, motivation, and depressive states. In R. Plutchik & H. Kellerman (Eds.), Emotion - Theory Research and Experience. New York: Academic Press, Vol. 3.

Izard, C.E., Kagan, J., & R.B. Zajonc (Eds.) (1984) Emotion, Cognition and Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leventhal, H. (1982) A perceptual motor theory of emotion. Social Science Information, 21, 819-845.

Piajet, J. (1965) The origin of intelligence in children. New York: International Universities Press.

Plutchik, R., and Kellerman H. (Eds.), (1982-1986) Emotion - Theory Research and Experience. New York: Academic Press, Vol. 1-3.

Shalif, I. The Emotions and the Dimensions of Discrimination Among Them in Daily Life. A study towards a Ph.D. dissertation, that was carried out (1987) under the supervision of Professor Isaac Lewin. (Was approved by the Senate of Bar-Ilan University: 1.1.1991).

SUPPLEMENT 1:

A form for marking the time of cigarettes lighted, or other bad habits

The bold print numbers are for the hours, the others are for the minutes. Print and/or photocopy this supplement and cut a square for each day. On each occasion of lighting a cigarette, mark the approximate time.

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Back to the CONTENTS To do it yourself - now To the Daily Focusing To the recycled emotions To the Special projects To the Guide for the guide To the Emotions

What are the emotions The activation programs Ad hoc activation programs Supra-Programs The emotional Supra-Programs The cover-programs The trash-programs How it really works
to the Impossible missions???
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o get back ON-LINE with the Biofeedback WITHOUT instruments
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