People respond differently to crisis, especially if it affects what they believe in or hold dear. These beliefs and ‘realities’ are at times seen as life-constant which when challenged may lead people to respond with extreme emotion. While the crisis may be episodic, deeply felt emotions register strongly and enhance the experience recursively.
Human emotions have been the subject of several psychological analyses and assessments within the study of cognitive development and learning. Emotions have significant influence on our cognitive processes, such as perception, attention, learning, memory, reasoning and problem solving. Emotions typically have a much stronger influence on attention, especially modulating the selectivity of attention as well as affecting action and behaviour. Emotions are vast in variety, and their effect on mind and therefore, behaviour is also various. It has been scientifically proven that while positive effect makes its natives creative and happy, negative effect leads to sadness, depression and darkness. Therefore, while mental and cognitive development is multi-faceted, the impact of reinforcement on behaviour has a clear connection to emotional responses.
Neurons that fire together wire together
Edward Thorndike was an American psychologist who studied learning processes in terms of consequences. He famously coined “The Law of Effect” that states that any behaviour that is followed by pleasant consequences is likely to be repeated. This is the same principle that is applied by systems that promote conditioning, e.g., parents rewarding a child for good behavior, criminal being sent to the prison, etc. Therefore, if emotions can lead to positive or negative reinforcement, they will also lead to conditioning of the mind thus, avoiding the low-feeling emotions, and therefore, avoiding the action that led to feeling that emotion.
Do we always know the genesis of our emotions?
“I do not know where that rage came from”, “Something is missing”, or “I don’t know why I feel so lost”
There are several theories on why we think the way we do and one that stands out the most is the Fruedian theory of – The Subconscious. According to him, there are 3 parts of mind – Id, Ego and Super Ego. Id is a child and operates purely on pleasure principles, Ego has no concept of right or wrong and would do anything to get what Id wants, and finally Super Ego, that is the angel with reason and moral standing. Different social environment promote different actions and consequences, leading to setting patterns of behaviour and rich emotional experience. Overtime, these patterns lead to unconscious psychological responses that reduce anxiety arising from potentially harmful emotions as defence mechanisms. These defence mechanisms are unconscious and have highly charged emotional content too.
At the end of the day you can either focus on what is tearing you apart or what is holding you together..
The study of cognitive behaviour is the study of our thinking, but when our well-being is threatened, we switch gears instinctively to ‘survival mode’. Survival is being able to control our fears, manage our emotions, and put our ego in check – way too many things happening at the same time to be thinking about reinforcements and behaviour! In times of crisis, e.g., a relationship crisis that threatens your well-being will put your mind in an auto-pilot survival mode, driven by Ego – smart but unreasonable. This auto-pilot is what decides whether one will repair or change. It is not driven by our behaviour or thinking but more native, subconscious defence mechanisms.
Power is in tearing your mind into pieces and putting them together into shapes of your choosing
Repairing or Changing may be situational, driven by several emotional responses that may not always be controllable, but we can surely start shaping our minds by observing our defense mechanisms, thus, catching our ego in action. Therefore, while our subconscious is behind the screen, it is our daily effort towards shaping our mind which can help us become mindful of our choices and their consequences.