Usually our breathing is automatic and out of the focus of awareness.
Most of the time we do not pay it more than passing attention. Sometimes
we pay attention to the sensations that result from the automatic
functioning of the respiratory processes. Only on special occasions and
mostly for very short periods of time, do we exercise a limited amount
of will power over the different characteristics of the breathing
process - stopping it, deepening it, regulating it, etc.
The relations between the emotional processes, and the automatic
versus the non-automatic mode, are not static. In infancy and in early
childhood, the influence of the automatic innate mode is overwhelmingly
dominant, and more so with regard to the emotional processes.
During growing and maturation, new components join and integrate with
the original ones (and with acquired ones that joined the original ones
before them). Part of these new components tend more to the automatic
mode but a growing part involves awareness and will. In young adults,
the components involving will and awareness have already reached
dominance in daily behavior.
In the system of mature adults, most of the
subjective experience of emotion and nearly all its verbal and nonverbal
expressions are subject to the supervision of the "advanced"
non-automatic processes and programs. Very often, especially with
intensities that are not extremely high or low, the influence of the
"mature and advanced" components is decisive.
It is heredity itself that decides, during each level of maturation
and experience, which processes can be released from the absolute
control of the innate (and acquired) routines of the automatic mode of
operation. Usually, even will combined with focused awareness, cannot
claim the right to
access (and thereby directly influence) basic maintenance processes.
The short indirect influence we can have on the basic chemistry of the body
(like that of the hormones), and on basic maintenance functions (like
breathing and digesting), are "the exceptions that prove the rule". In
most of these processes the direct influence of the average person is
In some of the processes that "change their affinity and loyalty",
heredity itself is responsible for their extraction from the automatic
mode. This is mainly "the fate" of the processes that are responsible
for purposeful behavior, that manage the satisfaction of needs and
desires directly or closely pertinent to them. For instance, grownups
usually refrain from crying as opposed to babies and very young
children. Instead, when circumstance allow it, they try to do something.
For many of the other ex-tractable processes, the extracting itself
and the measure of extraction from the automatic mode are due to many
influences. The most common influences are those resulting from
education, learning, and socialization(11).
For instance, as a result of learning, informal influences and
socialization pressures - differently applied to male and female - the
sexes do not react in the same way when in intense pain or sorrow. In
these circumstances, the overwhelming majority of adult males do not
cry, while for females, the opposite is true. Because of this difference
in socialization, there is rarely an adult female who will never cry,
but within the male population there are many who will not, or cannot,
even when willing.
Usually, following this in the same trend, any serious discussion of
emotion as a main subject arouses automatic opposition: "what can really
be known about emotion that is valuable" or "this is not the most
important thing". However, the subsystem of emotions is the most
important component of the brain and mind of mammals (animals who suckle
their young). Moreover, the higher a species of this family is on the of
evolutionary scale, the more central and essential is its emotional
In contradiction to the assumptions of most modern people, and the
wishful thinking of those biased towards rational thinking, the
emotional system is more of "the humane in the animal" than "the animal
in man". It seems that it is more appropriate to call the human beings
of our time "Homo Emotionalis" than Homo Sapiens".
Even at birth, the function of emotions differs entirely from that of
the reflexes* - which are the basic (and nearly automatic) mode of
operation in creatures which are "lower" on the evolutionary scale (like
Even at the very beginning of life, when the emotional processes are
activated nearly automatically, they differ widely from the reflexes. We
can see, even at this early stage, that the relationship between stimuli
and responses is not on a one to one basis. Even at this early stage, it
is not the case that a certain stimulus, and only it, causes a certain
response. From the beginning, a few stimuli can, together or each by
itself, cause a certain individual response or a group of responses.
- The reflex arc is activated automatically whenever a specific
stimulus is applied to the right receptor of a creature with enough
intensity. In man, one of the small number of reflexes active even in
grownups is that which makes the eye blink when objects approach
swiftly; another is the one that causes the lower part of the leg to
jump when the neurologist taps below the knee.
For instance, even when the newborn baby is only a few hours old,
different patterns of strong stimuli like loud noise, intense light or
an unexpected and swift change in the position of the body, cause a
complex pattern of responses of the "classic" or innate fear. This
pattern includes various components such as facial expression, typical
voices, quickening of the pulse rate and increase in blood pressure.
The biological basis of the emotions
At the beginning of life, the human baby is equipped with a complex
neurological system. This system receives input unceasingly through a
wide spectrum of sensorial receptors of diverse characteristics. For
instance, receptors of light (mainly the eyes), receptors of noise
(mainly the ears), receptors of heat and infrared radiation (the coarse
ones are all over the body - the most delicate ones are mainly in the
forehead and around the eyes), receptors of taste, smell, pressure,
movement & balance, etc.
Various parts (or centers) of the brain (which is the center of the
neurological system) are simultaneously fed by this plethora of fresh
input(5), and an even larger amount of "conserved" ones, stored in the
memory. The new and the old inputs are processed by various components
of the brain in divergent ways in order to act upon and/or to memorize
them for later reference.
During the analyzing and the recycling of the new and old input
(stored results and references of previous processing included), many
processes occur in the brain. Small parts of those processes are
sufficiently slow, long, strong and important that they involve our
awareness. The majority are too short, weak, or of a content or mode,
that do not access to the awareness at all, or perhaps do so but only in
The initial steps of the processing are mainly swift and inaccessible
to the awareness. They mainly consist of (and result in) perception,
identification and subjective evaluating of each item and pattern. This
initial step can decide what will be the amount and the nature of the
effect a specific item of input will have on the ongoing happening and
on future ones. This weighting is done in accordance with a subjective
bias that can deviate widely from the objective one.
During initial processing of the input (and more so during the
recycling and deeper processing of conserved ones), new organizations,
conceptualizations, summations and decisions are achieved, at various
levels of organization and functioning of the brain.
Part of the processes occur in steps that have a stable order. In
some of them, the order of the steps is dependant on the result of the
initial steps, or the advance of the whole process. In most cases,
various steps of the processing are taken parallel to each other. The
processes of these steps can (and usually do) interact with each
Frequently, they not only interact among themselves but also with
other processes that are ongoing in the brain and mind at the time. The
most complicated mode of processing in the brain, which is also the most
typical, is called by the experts the "procession-in-parallel" mode.
The integrations done during the input and the advanced steps of
processing have a topographic (or geographic) facet. Part of the steps
or aspects of the processing can be related to large parts of or to
almost the entire brain. Part can be related to small or large
neurological paths and areas. Specific parts of the processing can be
located in small neurological structures, in a small group of neurons or
even in a particular neuron.
Process products that reach awareness are usually the result of the
simultaneous activity of many regions or nearly all of the brain. Only
complicated and ingenious tactics can succeed in the task of isolating
stages, or in the effort to relate them to regions.
The emotions (sometimes called moods, feelings, sensations,
subjective experience, passions and their like), that are the subjects
of this book, are also processes of the brain. They too have specific
neuronal paths and organization centers for their main facets. They too
involve fresh input and recycled ones (including previous processions of
them) stored as memory traces, which they integrate at various levels.
For instance, the processes of the fear emotion can be engaged by
inputs from receptors of the same sense located at different part of the
body - as in unexpected pain signals. Fear can be aroused by inputs of
various senses like seeing danger or hearing a threat or feeling the
loss of balance. It can involve recycled input of previous processing
about the measure in which a specific person or event is dangerous, as
it caused harm in the past.
It can also involve all these in combination and higher level
processes, like thinking and imagery. It is typically so in the
evaluation of a specific situation in the present or the future, that
has no similar precedents - according to its components, circumstance
and/or the probability of its development and transformation.
The same principle, but with more complex integrations, is expressed
in movement. The regular daily walking in the house from one room to
another - which is relatively simple when the lights are on - is based
on the input of the eyes, the ears, kinesthetic inputs of the muscles,
the sense of balance, memory of the environment and furniture
arrangement, and knowledge of the neighbors' windows, our clothing, our
curtains and our sensitivity of being spied on.
Usually, this kind of movement does not involve the emotional
subsystem to any great degree. However, when the movement is part of a
dance at a ball, with a partner who is a stranger and whom we are
courting - and the dance is not one we know too well - it will surely
involve the emotional subsystem to a great measure. A whole book will be
needed to describe the relevant processing of the input done by the
brain* and the various subsystems involved.
- Since the relationship between the mind and the brain is a bit
blurred, it is worth clearing up the use of the concepts of brain and
mind in this book. They are used here essentially as two main aspects
of what our head is about.
- It is known that the acts of thinking, perceiving, learning,
remembering, feeling, believing and the like are the main aspects of
the mind. It is also known that those are at the same time products of
processes mainly done in the brain.
- The relationship between the mind and brain can be likened to that
which exists between the bicycle and the rider as a physical entities,
and the act of traveling.
The basic emotions
Many scientists label certain processes in the brain as "Basic
Emotions1". Each of them is based, to a large extent, on its own
specific multi-neuronal structure. These structures are part of the
"Limbic System", which is the mammals' "old brain". The basic emotions
are in essence the modern heir of Descartes' "Primary Passions of the
Mind". Mixtures of these basic emotions are the apparent emotions of
daily life. (Established beyond any reasonable doubt by scientific
These emotions are basic in the same sense that the colors red, blue
and yellow are basic colors. They are so called because by mixing them
one can create any other color and shade. The "Basic Emotions" are
called basic since they cannot be composed by any mixture of the others.
The relation between observed emotions and basic emotions, resemble
the relationship between simple chemical mixtures of air, sea water and
soil. Like the substances of the compounds, the contribution of each
basic emotion is relatively independent of those of the others. Like the
chemical elements of the compounds which are rarely found by themselves
in natural condition, so it is with basic emotions. When one needs them
in a relatively pure condition, one must use laboratories or other
artificial conditions and interventions.
In principle, each instance of emotional phenomena can be broken into
its main components or in other words, it can be discerned which of the
basic emotions contribute most to its emergence and
expression. Actually, we often discern with relative ease the weight of
the three most prominent basic emotions at a given moment. Though a
difficult and impractical process, each of the emotional phenomena can
be broken down to reveal the relative contribution of each of its basic
components (i.e. the contribution of each of the basic emotions to its
Each of the neuronal structures which form the strata of a basic
emotion involves several subsystems and processes. These are responsible
for the six main functions or aspects of each of the basic emotions. The
most prominent one is the experiential aspect, which is the source of
the name of emotional phenomena in many languages.
This aspect is the
main "interface" between the unaware, swift and short duration changes
of the basic strata of emotions, and the processes of awareness and
consciousness. The other aspects and components are that of perception,
integration, intra-organismic responses, behavior and expression.
For instance, we perceive that we are slipping on the banana skin; we
integrate this perception with the perception of the hard surface of the
floor and previous memories of falling on it. We feel the emergence of
fear or even panic; the autonomic (vegetative) neuronal subsystem
responds to the imminent danger with internal changes: a quickening
heart beat, perspiration, etc.; the hands are recruited to behave as
shock absorbers; a cry accompanied by a facial expression of surprise
and fear is emitted. While we are slipping on the banana skin, it is
easier to experience than to analyze the relative contribution of the
basic emotion of fear, that of surprise, and that of other basic
The basic emotions are of the bipolar type of the more advanced kind
of biological structures. These structures and their functioning are
based on two contradictory processes and sometimes, as with the
subjective experience of basic emotions, even with contradictory
These structures (or subsystems) are active all
the time and they can be described as a pair of contradictory forces or
vectors, one opposing the other. These structures respond faster and to
less powerful influences than the unipolar structures of the more
Consequently, we do not have two different structures of basic
emotion for the assessment of danger - one for fear and one for feelings
of serenity. Instead, we have one bipolar structure that contains
both. The activity of one subsystem of this neurological structure
signals and acts in order to create fear. The other subsystem does the
opposite. The end result of each moment (i.e. fear versus serenity) and
its intensity is the balance of the two opposing processes.
The state of each basic emotion and its contribution to the existence
of the individual, including that of fear versus serenity, has two main
One of the two poles of each basic emotion has usually more survival
value than the other. Therefore, we tend to experience it more often and
in stronger intensities than the other. Sometimes, when things are
complicated, we can experience a quick fluctuation of the experience
between the two poles of a basic emotion or a number of them.
- The quality of the emotion created, which is the result of the balance
between the two contradictory poles. In the case of fear v. serenity,
this emotional quality can be described as a temporary point of
equilibrium, placed on the bipolar continuum, with fear as one pole
and serenity as the other. When the activity of one of the poles
overwhelms the other, the point depicting the resulting emotion is at one
of the poles, and we have clear-cut fear or serenity.
- In the other cases, the balance will place the point somewhere in
between, either nearer to the fear pole or nearer to the serenity pole
- according to the specific balance of the moment. When the proportion
of the fear pole contribution rises, the point of demarcation moves
toward this pole, serenity is lowered and fear rises. When that of
serenity increases, the point moves in the opposite direction, and so
does the subjective experience.
- The intensity of the basic emotion, which is the sum of the activity
of both subsystems (and contradicting processes) is relatively
independent of the quality of the emotion. For instance, we can be in
a clear state of fear or serenity and still experience each at a very
mild intensity. The precise level of intensity resulting from the
activity of a specific basic emotion depends on the level of general
arousal of the individual and the relative weight of the other basic
The following is a tentative list of 15 basic emotions:
1) Contentment (Pleasure - Sorrow)
2) Concern (Love - Hate)
3) Security (Fear - Serenity)
4) Play (Seriousness - Frolic)
5) Belonging (Attachment - Solitude)
6) Will power (Volition - Surrender)
7) Energy (Rigor - Flimsiness)
8) Frustration (Anger - Leniency)
9) Involvement (Interest - Boredom)
10) Self Respect (Pride - Shame)
11) Eminence (Superiority - Inferiority)
12) Respect (Adoration - Scorn)
13) Vigilance (Wariness - Dreaminess)
14) Expectancy (Surprise - Routine)
15) Attraction (Disgust - Desire)
If you try to analyze an emotional experience, and some of the
ingredients are too hard to fit to any of the 15 basic emotions, it
might be because the list is not complete, as the studies in this area
are still in the probing stage.
This edition of the book will not expand on each of the basic
emotions. It will focus on characteristics, factors and denominators
which are common to all, and are most interesting or most important for
the understanding and use of the General Sensate Focusing Technique.
The essence of emotional phenomenon
Emotions have one aspect which is most known to each one of us, and
whose existence and emotional nature are indisputable, that is, what we
perceive with our internal-body-senses (like muscle tension, pain,
pressure, etc.) when we feel. In other words, the bodily sensations
accompanying the activation of fear, anger, happiness, etc. i.e. the
subjective experience of emotion we are aware of.
The most known to us about the emotional expressions of others, come
from their facial expressions and the inflection in the voice
intonation. When the facial expression or the pitch and melody of the
voice are clear and unequivocal, it is possible to deduce the main
emotion that person is experiencing. Most of us do this quickly, surely
and frequently within the "reality" of daily living. Alas, we seldom do
it for the expressions of more than the two or three prominent emotions.
Another expression mode of other people from which we can learn about
their emotions, moods, feelings, etc. is their verbal communication,
"live" or "recycled". Many emotional contents are communicated by means
of verbal messages such as conversation, singing, writing, and
exclamations like: "help!", "damn it!", etc.
However, one can rely on the verbal expressions only in very specific
instances. Immense quantities of prose, poetry, and scientific essays
were written about this form of communication and the amount of truth to
be gleaned from them. There is a great difference between the amount of
truth conveyed by the two kinds of communication of emotions, i.e. the
verbal and the non-verbal, and the level of clarity of that information.
However, the most essential difference between these two
communication channels is not in their truth value, but in the richness
of their content and the immediacy of their transfer. Each one of us who
tries hard to convey an emotion finds it nearly impossible to describe
in a few words or a crude sketch, what the feeling is.
is indeed not fit for conveying precise emotional content, even when
deceit or any other kind of censorship is not intended, even when one is
most gifted in verbal communication, and even when one does one's
The essence of emotional phenomena does not consist solely of the
internal activity, which is responsible for most of the subjective
experience and external expression; it also has a few other important
components some of which can also be observed in daily life.
There are those which are expressed through changes induced into the
pattern of muscle activity of the body, capable of taking part in
intentional behavior - like walking and manual work - and are easy to
observe. These components are expressed also in less purposeful behavior
of recreation and leisure, that are prone to include more idiosyncrasies
and are thus more obvious to the observer.
Some expressions are also involved with subtle patterns of activity
such as balancing the body, the tension from vigilance, etc. that are
only apparent to the eye of a keen observer. Others are even less
discernible as they involve smaller areas of the body and tender
tissues, for the tracing of which both the scientists and the
unsophisticated lay observers need electronic instruments like the
Electro-Myo-Graph - E.M.G.).
The activity of components of the emotional system is expressed also
in the "Autonomic Nervous System", which is responsible - among other
things - for blushing, paleness, cold sweat etc.
For instance, the systematic bio-electric rhythm of parts of the
brain, tested by the Electro-Encephalo-Graph (E.E.G.) is used in
medicine to trace anomalous effects of tissue damage (Epilepsy
included). However, this rhythm is also related to the emotional system
and its activity. Therefore, the E.E.G. is used in research as a means
of measuring systematic changes induced by various psychoactive drugs
and other interventions to the emotional climate.
The emotions include within their intra-body activity and behavior
very subtle physiological expressions that can be traced only with the
help of bio-chemical tests and electronic gadgets. These observations
are very common within the medical field but not only there.
The internal influence of the activity of the emotional system is
expressed even in subtle chemical changes. These changes are difficult
to relate unequivocally to emotion and to malfunctioning of the
emotional system in each of their occurrences. It is even harder to
discern and assess the relative contribution of the emotional system in
cases where other systems of the body are significantly involved.
For example, the plethora of "psychosomatic" disturbances; the
variations caused to the semi-stable hormonal rhythms of women; the
unwanted changes induced in the levels of the brain's neuro-transmitters
(especially in the autumn); etc. It is still very expensive to conduct
studies in this field and many moral, ethical and technical problems are
How are the emotions of daily life created?
It is worth stressing here that the term emotions has many
"relatives". These are mostly different names for the same processes -
providing different "nicknames" to the same phenomenon in the various
circumstances in which they are expressed or demonstrated. This is done
mainly because of the idiosyncrasies of the language, the insufficient
development and accumulation of human knowledge, and the influence of
prejudice. The most common names for emotional processes in English are:
Emotions, Moods, Feelings, Sensations and Passion.
At the beginning of life and at the appearance of each of the
emotions the first activations of which occur at later points of the
maturation process, we can see a direct connection between a small
number of patterns of stimuli, and the activation of each of the basic
In this early period, the "innate emotional programs" (or
plans - as depicted by the well known investigator and theoretician
Bowlby) are active all the time and respond to the right input in a
reflex-like fashion. At the beginning of life, these programs (plans)
are solely responsible for the management of the multi-neuronal
integration subsystems of emotion - a specific program for each basic
While the original program is active, the relevant perception
processes of each basic emotion feed the integrative part (portion or
stage or component) of the basic emotion. For each topic (or perception
or subject of perception) after the perception stage is completed (i.e a
verdict is reached about the contemplated topic), the integration
process of that emotion can reach its conclusions and pass them on.
The integration stage consists mainly of the assessment of the
perceived stimuli, with regard to the specific aspect of life for which
it takes charge. The integration stage terminates in one kind of message
or another, conveyed to the behavioral part (portion or stage or
component) and, parallel to it, sends the appropriate messages to the
intra-organismic component as well as the expressive and the
(These post integration processes are not only receptors of input but
also sources of output, as they supply feedback to the integrative
component, feed each other with important information and supply input
to nearly all the rest of the emotional subsystem. Actually, none of the
systems of the brain are independent. They are constantly in one kind of
contact or another and are regarded as entirely different entities only
for ease of conceptualization and research. They are called subsystems -
and not systems - wherever this aspect needs to be stressed.)
The specific emotional experience of each moment of our life is, in
essence, the sum of the sensations created by the activity of the
biological sub-strata of life (among which the contribution of the basic
emotions is the greatest) and the recycled traces of past ones from our
memory, projected on various locations of the body.
Usually, the overwhelming majority of the changes in our felt
sensations are induced by the Activation Programs2 of the Basic
Emotions3 - whether as "originally emotional sensations", or as ones
which are emotional responses to purely physiological ones with which
they tend to integrate.
Therefore, at any point on the time continuum,
the sum of the sensations felt, and the emotional experience we are
aware of are nearly identical. It also means that the differential
treatment and conceptualization of the felt sensation, regarding many of
them as "not related to emotion", is mostly arbitrary.
Most of the time, the level of activity of the emotional system
functions in the middle range and not at its extremities. The most
frequent verbal labels of these intensities are names of moods and
feelings. These tend to answer the question "how are you", with the
lengthy answer: "I am in a bad mood" or "I have strange feelings".
In these situations, it is harder to discern the relative contribution of
each basic emotion. This is the main reason for the use of the somewhat
"abstract" labels of adverbs and other qualifiers that accompany mood,
feeling, sensations and experience - instead of names of emotions.
The weakness of the discrimination power of our awareness in the
emotional domain is most clearly revealed when one tries to apply it to
common mild emotional experience. The power of discrimination of the
focused awareness with regard to classification and labeling of feelings
and sensations is even worse and is restricted to the few most prominent
basic emotions in situations of high emotional arousal. Therefore we
cannot rely too much on this faculty when we want to study or manage the
climate of our emotional experience.
The activity of the system of the basic emotions creates, in its
various combinations, a huge divergence of specific emotional mixtures,
that are constantly changing. Though we are not aware of it, we never
experience twice the same emotional mixture. Even the vocabulary of the
most "emotional" language does not include names for more than a
fraction of this variety. These are the main reasons we find it hard to
give a name to the feelings of a specific moment or at least to define
it in words.
The gap between the small number of basic emotions and the abundance
of the specific emotional mixtures of daily life can be translated into
numbers: according to scientists investigating the emotional phenomena,
we have between 10 to 20 different basic emotions. According to some of
these scientists we can encounter in one day thousands of different
emotional mixtures, drawn from the pool of the most common tens of
thousands of emotional mixtures.
The mathematically-oriented reader can appreciate the total number of
possible mixtures if he takes into account the number of possible
permutations for 10 basic bipolar emotions even if each has only 4 steps
between the two poles: 1) substantially towards on pole; 2) mildly so;
3)mildly towards the other direction; 4) substantially towards the other
pole. The result is 410 which is more than a million.
This might seem to be impossible if one does not take into account
that, in the stream of emotion, change is the rule not the
exception. Usually, even an extremely intense emotional mixture lasts in
its original state (as to quality and intensity) no longer than 10
In this stream of emotion, only in extreme cases is the weight (and
thus the quality) of one of the basic emotions so prominent that it
"leaves all the others in the background". In cases like this, people
(and scientists too) tend to regard that mixture as a "pure" expression
of that basic emotion.
The level of activity of the system of basic emotions is constantly
changing, both absolutely and relatively to the other subsystems of the
brain. Sometimes, the level of activity of one or a few basic emotions
rises until the individual seems to be flooded by a certain emotion, or
a specific mixture. This condition is usually of only a short
duration. However, when the homeostasis controls fail, it can last a
whole hour or even longer.
Usually, even the highest levels of emotions experienced in daily
life by adults are not so intense and do not flood the individual. When
they do occur, one can discern in them the simultaneous expression of
three or four basic emotions.
For instance, when injustice is inflicted upon us, we feel intense
anger that usually "leads" the resulting "emotional convoy". Nearly
always this "convoy" includes sorrow for what has been done. Frequently
these two emotions are accompanied by helplessness, especially if it was
a happening we had foreseen but could not prevent or if we could not
extract ourselves from a bad situation. Very often we also feel shame or
regret too - if there was an opportunity to evade the disaster which we
neglected or overlooked. Sometimes, the emotional convoy includes hatred
toward the wrong-doer if he is perceived as an enemy or a rival.
The emotional experience
In daily life, we experience simultaneously the presence and activity
of all the basic emotions. The results of their recent activity is
experienced too, mostly as diminishing echoes. Occasionally, we label a
mixture of basic emotions with a single emotional word taken from the
list of pairs of emotional words that delineate the extremes of the
basic emotional continuum.
Usually, but not always, a mixture is named
after the most prominent basic emotion of that time, using words like:
sorrow, happiness, pride, shame, fear, security, love, etc. At other
times, we refer to a mixture by the name of a milder intensity of the
emotional words that delineate basic emotions (i.e. sadness - instead of
sorrow; contentment - instead of happiness; liking - instead of love;
As the number of verbal labels is scant, they are mostly used as
pointers to a general direction of a "cloud" of emotional mixtures,
without a detailed address for a specific one. When a more precise
communication is needed - in life, prose, or poetry - a more pictorial
language is used and detailed descriptions of the circumstance are
The system of basic emotions is responsible for the most fundamental
assessments of life in each of us. Each of them is in charge of an
aspect of life that is essential to our survival. The relevance of each
event and aspect of the circumstances of the surrounding world - real
and fictional, past or future, material or spiritual, directly or
circumstantial - is scrutinized by the emotional system. It is assessed
and tested simultaneously by all of the 15 or so basic emotions, for its
relevance to the 15 aspects of life the basic emotions are
monitoring. Part of the results of these assessments reaches our
The emotional experience we are usually aware of, such as emotion,
sensation, feeling, mood, desire, felt sensation of the body and their
like, is the main interface between the emotional system and the
The combined emotional experience we are aware of at each moment is,
in essence, like a parcel of 15 announcements delivered from the
emotional subsystem to the subsystem of conscious processes (the aware
cognitive15 processes). The flowing stream of emotional experience of
which we are aware, is like the melody of a grand chorus containing 15
"voices" that are constantly "singing" to the awareness subsystem of the
brain and mind (system).
We can regard the emotional experience we are aware of as the summing
up of the plethora of the emotional information and processes we are not
aware of. This emotional experience serves several main purposes:
Actually, the emotional subsystem and the aware experiences
- When it is very intense, it is aimed at concentrating almost all the
attention and other resources of the individual in order to deal with a
condition suspected or decided upon as an emergency.
- The different emotional intensities and qualities sum up and label the
various happenings or other targets of assessment in order to influence
their integration and further processing by other subsystems. These
subsystems combine the 15 emotional "verdicts" with their own processing.
They file them together in memory; use them in the shaping of ad hoc
activation programs and the various programs they are based on; build
with their "help" new programs and routines; use them to induce minute
changes to the ongoing operations of the ad hoc activation programs that
are responsible for actual behavior - the regular activities and the
one-time ones. And most important of all - they are used as natural
biofeedback in order to induce improvements, updates and amendments
(accommodation and adaptation) into the emotional supra-programs(9)
- The enduring emotional experiences - and especially those that are
with us for long stretches of time (usually called moods) - are like
constant reminders (and verdicts) about the nature of the general
condition of the facts of life. They are usually based on many
erroneous judgments and illogical conclusions. For instance, an ongoing
tension is like a constant sounding of an alarm to remind us that we are
in a state of continuous danger. However, many people are extremely or at
least excessively tense most of the time, even when they are in supremely
secure conditions and benevolent environments.
- The specific emotional experiences of a certain circumstance, with
their unique quality and their relative intensities, label both the
situation as a whole and its various components. Thus they contribute to
the assessment of the relative importance of various components of the
situation and its importance in comparison with other situations, past
- The emotional experiences and moods of various intensities and
durations, are one of the most important means of demarcating the long
lasting aspirations of the individual. They are also used to discern the
long lasting ones from those of the short term.
- The most prominent function of the emotional experience is to attract
our attention and so divert part of it - or most of it when needed - from
other ongoing activities, and focus it on a specific target in order to
deal with it more favorably. The added resources may be used to influence
behavior, thinking, expressions, the further development of subjective
experience itself and a plethora of other processes that do not engage
- The sharp changes in the emotional experience we are aware of, which
occur very frequently to some of us and less so for the majority, are a
means for hasty changes in focus of attention. Sometimes these sharp
changes even transform abruptly the whole state of mind.
- Whether the emotional experiences emerge sharply or gradually, when
they are strong, last long enough and are of the appropriate quality,
they may dominate awareness for short or even long periods of time...
and not let us forget.
- The less dramatic and less prominent milder or "mini" changes in the
emotional experience, which do not have a crucial quality, do not
dominate the awareness processes and do not receive exclusive attention.
They are treated as more or less important announcements, according to
their specific nature, to be joined and processed together with the
other ongoing preoccupations of the brain and mind system.
- Prolonged emotional experiences, usually called moods, are used for
recruiting most of the flexible brain resources (not tied up at the time
with more urgent tasks) for dealing with a specific problem (mostly in
the background). The consolidating of a "family" of emotional mixtures,
as a mood, is a kind of "declaration" by the emotional subsystem: It
specifies chronically, recurrently or for a specific period, that
something important must be done, or that a certain central problem must
- The emotional experience, with its various intensities, qualities,
durations, etc. is the means by which the genetic apparatus (supposed by
some to be shaped by the "natural selection of the species") directs us
it creates is the main (and may be the only)
motivation system of the individual.
In essence, we are not "programmed by our nature" and not educated by
our upbringing to do specific things in a specific manner. What we are
really shaped into is to feel certain things in certain circumstances,
to strive to keep the emotional experience felt within specific
boundaries, and to acquire proficiencies (and short cuts) that help us
to achieve this aim.
It means that we are not directed to achieving a plethora of specific
aims but to preferring certain emotional qualities. Our main survival
programs are not intended to achieve specific conditions and perform
specific acts, but to achieve more flexible and "abstract" targets of
emotional experiences. The best means for this mission is the ability to
improvise, based on the plethora of emotional supra-programs built and
improved during life.
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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
The emotional Supra-Programs
How it really works
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