Posted by: Edward | January 15, 2007

Tilting the stimulus-emotion-feelings loop

I have personal experience of the link between body state and my feelings. I’m the kind of absent-minded professor sort who can forget to eat on occasion. Sometimes when this happens I get in a particularly bitchy kind of cranky mood. Every thing irritates me and I start snapping at people. Not surprisingly it was people around me that noticed this pattern first.

If Damasio is right this feeling is my body trying to communicate. The obvious thought is that the body is trying to tell me to eat. I have come to the conclusion that by the time I’m feeling cranky my body has decided I’m too thick to get the signal and is now trying to get someone else to tell me. I also get a similar mood if I am short on sleep and should go to bed.

Castaneda has claimed that sorcery is applying one’s will on the joints of a situation. Joints are the hinge points that bodies turn around they are the connection tissue between parts. In aikido control of a joint gives you control of the body. Applying this principle to ourselves leads us to look at how the various processes link up into nested feed back loops. From these loops we locate those connections or turns over which conscious effort can exert an effect.

In the stimulus, reaction, feeling, thoughts and images sequence there are several places that we can apply pressure. We can, upon experiencing a feeling, concentrate on thoughts and images congruent with the feeling of our choosing to provide the stimulus for the next iteration of the loop. We can, upon noticing our physical emotive reaction, change them or adjust them more to our liking. With the physical reactions adjustments are easier than direct changes. It is hard to turn activation into calm but easier to adjust fear into excitement. The last place we can use our influences is on the association between stimulus and emotive reaction. After reflection we can associate stimulus that has triggered unpleasantness with more favorable reactions.

Some people might be bothered by my supposition that my body was using my feelings to communicate with other people but evolution has no qualms about groups. Humans, as other animals, evolved in terms of the pack or grouping that existed as their species evolved. Any feature, such as feelings, that evolved at the same time would have evolved in terms of the animal and its group.

Damasio, Antonio. (2003). Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain. Orlando: Harcourt, Inc.


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