To: Neuroimaging Researchers
My life within psychotic mania and suicidal depression as a tech ed teacher, quality manager, and mechanical engineer and not a PhD psychologist have given me a unique “outside the box” perspective of psychological emotional theory that I have found nowhere else.
- Can neuroimaging establish the cause/effect relationships between cognition, biology, emotions/feelings, and conscious awareness?
- By establishing cause/effect relationships, can terminology be standardized among psychological and linguistic academia?
- What is the evolutionary significance of a conscious awareness of feeling good emotions/feelings or feeling bad emotions/feelings?
- If emotions and feelings are both an awareness of biological states/changes neuro-linguistically combined with a cognitive awareness, what is their significant difference?
- Is the nature of neuro-linguistic programming in defining the cognitive construct of emotions and its terminology so engrained from birth that science is automatically and without question accepting a linguistic construct of emotions that originated over 3000 years ago as exhibited in Homer’s Iliad?
- Can a person’s neuro-linguistic programming and conception of its cognitive construct of emotions and emotion’s detailed variants such as anger, fear, happiness, and surprise contemplate an alternative paradigm contrary to his/her original basic beliefs?
Professor Antonio Damasio sets up my issue with the modern psychological theory of emotions at the very start of his book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness (1999. New York, NY: A Harvest Book Harcourt, Inc).:
“So, here is the situation. I could understand reasonably well how different emotions were induced in the brain and played out in the theater of the body. I could also envision how both the induction of emotions and the consequent bodily changes that largely constitute emotions an emotional state were signaled in several brain structures appropriate to map such changes, thus constituting the substrate for feeling an emotion. But, for the life of me, I could not understand how that brain substrate of feeling could become known to the organism having the emotion.”
I apologize if I have mis-understood his thesis. I will paraphrase:
He has 1st) “emotions induced in the brain”, 2nd) “consequent bodily changes” and 3rd) “feeling could become known to the organism having the emotion.” He has defined emotions as causal to the biological changes that a person then feels as emotions. Does he believe that emotions are both cause and effect?
This is a problem. A person cannot have an emotional reaction to a snake unless there first are the cognitive activities of perceiving a snake, understanding that it is a snake, and the realization that the snake can be harmful. Only after these cognitive activities actuate an emotional neurology can there be biological changes. Actuating an emotional neurology is not an emotion until these biological states are perceived, understood, and realized as an emotion. I realize that a snake can also be causal to a reflexive action, but even here, the reflexive action cannot occur until there is first the cognitive perception – or cognitive imagination – of the snake.
Within the Handbook of Emotion Regulation (Gross J., 2014) discussion of the sequence of “situation – attention – appraisal – response,” suggests that situation, attention, and appraisal are causal to the effect response. But what are the cause/effect relationships within this emotional response, that is, between the “experiential, behavioral, and neurobiological response systems?” Professor Gross’ views about cause and effect are unclear.
The same lack of clarity arises within the all-encompassing cause/effect order within the “environment” of “thoughts, physical reactions, moods, and behaviors” of Mind over Mood (Greenberger, D., Padesky, C., 2016). This lack of a distinct cause/effect order lies in part, or maybe because of, the commonly accepted cause/effect relationship as illustrated in Cognitive Behavior Therapy: Basics and Beyond (Beck, J., 2011) where emotion is characterized as causal to the effect physiological response.
Is it possible that his and others terminology of emotions, like happiness, sadness, fear is but a neuro-linguistic cognitive construct that combines the (1) awareness and perception of a specific set of biological changes with the (2) awareness and perception of a specific set of cognitive activities? And therefore, emotions such as happiness and fear are but an illusionary placeholder, an imaginary variable implying causality to biological change. Whereas, the real cause of biological states/changes are the cognitive activities of perception, recognition, conceiving – which includes imagination and inspiration – and reasoning?
I believe I understand his use and need for “emotional induction”. But why even have “emotions induced in the brain” to initiate bodily changes? I prefer manipulating a more common terminology such that (1st) the neural circuitry of cognitive activities (2nd) activate an “emotional neural network” that (3rd) initiates biological changes. Then, more in keeping with common linguistic programming, these bodily changes can be (4th) perceived by consciousness as emotions and feelings.
That is, a person feels, perceives, or is aware of emotions and feelings such that:
- Emotions and feelings are the perception by consciousness of biological states and changes within the body/brain’s biology precipitated by cognitive activities through an “emotional neural circuitry”.
- Or, simply, cognition changes the biology that consciousness then perceives as emotions/feelings.
Academic’s acceptance of the paradigm that “emotions” are causal to bodily changes is a major concern of mine and is the basis for some very problematic psychological and psychiatric therapy because “emotions” can be deemed aberrant, destructive, and out of control and causal to destructive and aberrant behaviors. And therefore, “emotions” must be controlled, managed, and regulated…. with pharmaceuticals if need be. This would harmonize with Professor Damasio’s terminology that “emotions induced in the brain initiate biological changes”. But…if what initiates biological change can be more clearly understood as cognitive activities activating an “emotional neurology” that initiates biological changes that consciousness then perceives as emotions, it is cognition that needs to be controlled, managed, and regulated. And by having cognition causal to biological changes, the success of cognitive behavior therapies (CBT) comes into a new light. And the evolution of emotions can be understood as a necessary component of successful behavior and decision making.
I must introduce a new concept here that defines good feeling emotions and bad feeling emotions because within this understanding are the keys to transcending destructive aggressive and abusive behavior. Good feeling and bad feeling emotions have a biological significance. Good emotional feelings correlate with a healthy biology and negative emotional feelings correlate with an unhealthy biology. I will explain.
If good feeling emotions correlated with an unhealthy activity – such as not eating – the body, if the feelings were followed, would die. Conversely, if bad feeling emotions correlated with a healthy activity – such as breathing – the body, if the feelings were followed, would not survive. These scenarios are unreasonably extreme but this logic can be applied to any of numerous more sensible psychological scenarios. Therefore, for the body to survive the evolutionary process, good feeling emotions must correlate with healthy biological activity and bad feeling emotions must correlate with unhealthy biological activity.
The same logic goes for cognitive activity. If a person is cold and hungry and cognitive activities of imagination on how to obtain or create food and shelter were to emotionally feel painful and miserable, would such creative thought necessary for survival continue? Remember that within the evolutionary process, any original outcome is possible but those outcomes detrimental to survival tend not to survive.
From an individual biological perspective, if it feels good, it is good. An individual must learn how to reframe emotionally negative cognitive activity into “appropriate” emotional positive cognitive activity. Individuals must learn how to effectively use emotions to guide cognitive activity. From a societal perspective, it behooves the culture/society to teach individuals how their decisions towards their own health, prosperity, and well-being are intertwined with society’s health, prosperity, and well-being.
Within humanity’s current neuro-linguistically programmed paradigm of emotions, emotions must be controlled, managed, and regulated because destructive emotions drive aggression. In my book, Symbiotic Psychology: The Synergy Between Mind, Body, Emotions, and Consciousness, I develop a different paradigm where emotions and their attribute of feeling good or feeling bad have an evolved symbiotic relationship with the mind and body and emotions are used to guide one’s conscious choice of cognitive behaviors to promote health, prosperity, and well-being for the benefit of the individual as well as for his/her society and culture at large. (The latest revision of my book is freely available as a PDF download on: https://symbioticpsychology.com/ or https://emotional-evolution.com/ .)
The significance of this distinction is profound. Within the current linguistic usage of the word emotion and its more precise negative variants such as fear, anger, and hate, the human mind is continually being linguistically reprogrammed to shut off a biological feedback mechanism that, internally, protects the body and, externally, protects the culture and society one inhabits by promoting positive behavior. That is, for the survival and health of the individual, emotionally negative and destructive cognitive behaviors must be reframed into emotionally positive and constructive behaviors. This reconstituted negative, abusive, and adverse behavior into healthy and constructive behavior will then extend culturally outward and reshape society.
I realize that a researcher’s life’s work may prevent some significant resonance between definitions within academia but I am finding everybody in academia has a life’s work into their own working paradigms that is preventing some very important discussion and communication and, therefore, some very serious issues within psychological and psychiatric therapies are not being addressed.
I welcome any thoughts any researcher may have and since I am retired – from mechanical engineering – I am generally free for any discussions.
Somewhere, sometime, somehow, academia must find some common ground. Since I began voicing my concerns over psychological and pharmaceutical therapeutic methodologies erroneously based within causal aberrant and destructive emotions, over a million (MILLION) Americans have committed suicide, millions of other people have been put in incarcerating conditions that only amplify their psychological injuries, and mass shootings continue with no review of the psychological environments that are oblivious to emotions’ evolutionary design and that are fostering all of these atrocities. Lack of true academic questioning and review of psychological and pharmaceutical emotional theory is a true crime against humanity.
M.S. Technology Education
M.S. Management Technology
Emotions and Feelings: Nature’s Biofeedback Mechanism
Emotions and feelings are felt. Good and bad feeling emotions and feelings are the perception, by consciousness, of a biochemical physiology within the body and the brain precipitated by an evolved and nurtured cognitive neural circuitry. Because emotions and feelings are perceptions of an internal state of biology precipitated by cognition, emotions and feelings are a reflection of, and give insights into, the nature of said cognitive behavior. Also, because emotions and feelings are not causal, emotions and feelings are neither destructive nor constructive but rather they are indicators towards the presence of very real destructive and constructive – and causal – cognitive behaviors. Correlations between cognition, healthy biochemical physiology, and good feeling emotions and feelings are a result of millions of years of evolutionary survival for the health and well-being of the individual – as are the correlations between bad feeling emotions and feelings and an unhealthy biology. Now the question is, how are these correlations between cognition, biology, emotions and feelings, and consciousness understood, nurtured, and developed within a society for an individual’s health, wealth, and general well-being through their own successful decision-making and creativity?