As we consider our emotional lives, it is a real challenge to try to understand what we mean when we talk about emotions.   On one level, we realize that emotions are powerful drivers of our behavior.  However, at another level, emotions seem to be elusive and we often try to ignore them. 

As we consider our emotional lives, it is a real challenge to try to understand what we mean when we talk about emotions.   On one level, we realize that emotions are powerful drivers of our behavior.  However, at another level, emotions seem to be elusive and we often try to ignore them. 

While the concept of emotion seems abstract, the experience of emotions can be very intense and quite visceral.  To begin to understand the essence of emotions, the first step is usually to try to describe them.  In that regard, there are good emotions and bad emotions.  We celebrate feelings of joy, love, and intense pleasure, while we dread the dark dimensions of rage, terror, and despair.   Until the 20th century, the discussion of emotions was largely relegated to the arts and humanities rather than being examined using scientific experimentation.   An exception to this generalization was the famous treatise of emotions being examined using scientific experimentation that Charles Darwin published which he entitled, “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals”.  This classic work had only modest impact when it was first published in 1872.  While this important volume is less well known than his “Origin of Species” which has changed the way we understand who we are, Darwin’s reflections on the expression of emotions in man and animals set the stage for the beginning of our scientific efforts that have been designed to better understand our emotional lives and their biological origins. 

To approach a better understanding of each cardinal emotion, it will be useful to consider how these emotions effect us by reflecting on one emotion at a time.  While it is tempting to begin with pleasure, I am more inclined to cover one of the more problematic emotions.  As a psychiatrist, I am no stranger to exploring both real losses such as the death of a loved one that people must endure as well as personal slights and criticisms that can be painful, but to a casual observer seem to be of little significance. My goal will be to share some of these insights with you in my next blog when I discuss sadness and depression.

19 COMMENTS

  1. Dr Mrazek, boy I am the first
    Dr Mrazek, boy I am the first one to post on this new blog. What an honor! I am a psychotherapist and I work with Trauma and other emotional issues, and I am so pleased to see your blog and get involved. My work takes from Pat Ogden’s Trauma work where she involves the body’s sensations and the emotions and then I take it further and involve the therapists emotions.

    When the client can sense that the therapist is present and willing to feel along with the client, is willing to go to those painful places with the client then magical things happen. Dr Daniel Siegel’s research about the brain and Interpersonal Neurobiology do a great job of explaining the impact of the therapists presence and caring for the client.

    I look forward to your posts and responding. I also, do http://www.naturetherapyretreats.com because being in nature, like meditation, helps clients be more relaxed and more connected within themselves and with others.

  2. I was increasingly dismayed,
    I was increasingly dismayed, offended, and even angered as I watched the program THIS EMOTIONAL LIFE – Information to help us navigate our relationships with family, friends, and lovers, by the stunning omission of the presence, let alone mere mention of even a single gay or lesbian human being. I watched with mounting disappointment and agitation, moment after moment, waiting for an acknowledgement of my existence as a living, feeling person. It never came. Not in words. Not in images. Couple after couple, interviewee after interviewee, expert after expert. Nothing. Nada. No one.

    What do you suppose is communicated by this omission?

    Do gays and lesbians exist, feel, matter? Do our relationships and emotional realities count? Are our lives worth mentioning? Is our presence as members of this world community valid, worthy of note, understanding and compassion?

    What an unfortunate and damaging statement was made by choosing to ignore our existence as a fundamental aspect of the human experience. Gays and lesbians were effectively declared as insignificant, not even worth mentioning, considering, including in the canon of human existence. In fact, there was one and only one mention in the entire program, a singular allusion which occurred in the segment on the boy who was led to commit suicide after being repeatedly bullied; there was a mention of a taunt that he was a “fag”. So, the only acknowledgement of any sort in the entire program was that of a “fag”. Hmmm.

    Consider the possibility that this omission is culturally equivalent to the neglect and damage experienced by the orphans in Eastern Europe who were featured and considered with such compassion. Here we are, yet we do not exist. We may be fed, but we are denied any human contact.

    Invisibility is disenfranchisement.

    What emotional impact do you imagine in your scholarly wisdom this has on us, indeed on everyone else?

    What stereotypes and attitudes do you suppose were confirmed and supported by instructing the audience this way?

    This is a profound error, a huge mitigation of the value of the considerable efforts that went into the creation of this program. A real shame.

  3. I am very interested in many
    I am very interested in many emotions. However, to keep the conversation linear I will comment on sadness and depression. As we all know sadness and depression can manifest itself in many ways. Sometimes it is difficult to diagnose and understand. I realize there is the textbook diagnosis of depression and many fit the DSM IV codes, but some do not. I am particularly interested in sadness and depression related to online gaming. Gaming can evoke serious emotions in players ranging from aggression to depression (when a player’s machine is broken or when a online gamer can not get access to the game). Dr. Mrazek can you speak a bit about depression associated with virtual play and characters (avatars)

  4. It is all nice and good. We
    It is all nice and good. We all know about the Harry Harlow rhesus monkeys experience from our high school psychology class. Today we see more and more people having problem. There is a Chinese saying “Every family has its own cross”. I think which is true across cultures and is universal. Why is that? I’ve been thinking, family is no more than parents, brothers, sisters, husband and wife. People that re close to us. Why is it so difficult? Is it something in our human nature? Are people inherently not good parents?
    A side note, should people be happy? can happiness be a random event like a coin toss, we should only expect the outcome to be 50/50?

  5. EDITORIAL NOTE: Thanks for
    EDITORIAL NOTE: Thanks for your comments everyone. FYI, Dr. Mrazek did not contribute to the editorial decisions for last nights episode. We look forward to your additional comments/thoughts as the project continues.

  6. I was wondering if you are
    I was wondering if you are familiar with Emotional Freedom Technique? It has been shown to be effective with phobias, and PTSD without having to relive the situation over and over again.

  7. To “rofoto,” I am upset as
    To “rofoto,” I am upset as well by the lack of mention of any LGBTQ persons. We are all aware of the tripled suicide rate for this population. It is a topic that certain needs to be given attention.

    In general, I liked the program very much. As a psychotherapist myself, I felt that the information was comprehensive (despite no mention of LGBTQ persons). The material was also presented in a clear fashion that was accessible to non-professionals and professionals alike.

  8. As a 80 yr. old ex long
    As a 80 yr. old ex long distance runner, Korean War Veteran Medic and Great Grandmother, I cannot help but wonder WHY these 2 very excellent and insightfully comprehensive programs have not shown any knowledge of how Cardio exercises of all kinds are Fun, increase Happiness AND all over Health while, reducing Depression for many and eliminate it for me. I have used ‘Oxygen'( varied ways of Cardio Exercise) for 40 yrs. as my Drug of choice since Dr. Kenneth Cooper USAF introduced the original Aerobics Research program for the Astronauts….and then, some will remember, it spread throughout our culture.
    WHY IS THIS FREE NATURAL way of helping ourselves NOT being offered as well as the varied Therapies and the Pharmaceutical industries’ products? Please BALANCE the program with this aspect of Life as a Resource Free to us all. Gratefully, Sally Nave

  9. Boy what a great
    Boy what a great advertisement for the drug companies! To bad it doesn’t work. I haven’t seen one mention of diet. I did see one reference to exercising. This whole thing reminds me of the health care issue in America. We always want someone else to save us or be responsible for our life choices. Life is about being responsible, about learning what truly makes your body and emotions function properly. From constructive associations to healthy diets and exercise and a realization that life is not a Hollywood movie, it’s what we make it most of the time. The fact that life is unpredictable and dangerous with many risks is what makes it so exciting and challenging. The problem is our unrealistic life of machines, schedules, wars and competition. We are still lost in Newtonian concepts. I really understand why Jesus wept for us and I’m not a Christian. Chalk one up for Pfizer, Monsanto the NEA and our leaders with all the other terrible corporations and good old boys that have such an insidious death grip on this world and PBS. Did you ever wonder how the American Indians survived and functioned so well without all our modern foolishness we have? Then the white man came and taught them a better life and they died like flies. For Gods sake it’s documented that people in 3rd world countries on indigenous diets have none of the health and emotional problems we have. Like Mr. Thoreau said “SIMPLIFY”

  10. As a therapist, I, too, am
    As a therapist, I, too, am fascinated by the series and am eager to read what Dr. Mrazek will be writing in the future. One concern I had was the omission of EMDR as a powerful, well researched and effective resolution treatment for PTSD and depression. I wonder why it wasn’t mentioned at all. What are your views on it Dr. Mrazek?

  11. to rofoto: Don’t throw the
    to rofoto: Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. This was not a show about gays or lesbians – it was a show about people. They are people. This was information. Sometimes hearing something in a different way – even if it is information you’ve heard before – gives you insight.. Insight can change how you think about something and, in turn, how you think about other things. That can change everything.

  12. I watched a portion of this
    I watched a portion of this first episode and became angry and even appalled when I saw a person being interviewed as being a recovering alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. The 11th Tradition of AA: “Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, films and TV”. The founders of Alcoholics Anonymous developed this tradition as it’s greatest safeguard for the fellowship and it’s individual members. The 11th Tradition is the greatest protection Alcoholics Anonymous has. An example: suppose this person says he is recovering in Alcoholics Anonymous. A week later he is picked up for drunk driving after running over a child in a crosswalk. The story hits the evening breaking news and is plastered all over the front pages of newspapers all over. To an outsider, one would come to the conclusion that Alcoholics Anonymous does not work. Not only does it not work, but if this person were a prospective member of AA and it were found out by his profession and colleagues it could mean ruin for this persons life. That is why no person should identify themself as an alcoholic in Alcoholics Anonymous. – Anonymous

  13. I’d like to know what Rebecca
    I’d like to know what Rebecca Tobias meant when she said she gave up how she viewed and interacted with men (going from memory). How did she do that and how did it improve her life?

  14. The exchange between Dr.
    The exchange between Dr. Gilbert and Louise Hay was quite something. When Dr. Gilbert said ‘we look to science to understand the stars’, my reaction was: and how much do we know about the stars? Hay is right at least about this: Einstein and Steven Hawking are only in pre-kindergarten — or rather, if it took a billion years to get a Ph.D., on that scale Einstein is in pre-kindergarten. So I don’t know how much authority these cosmic toddlers have on questions of human happiness.

    None at all, I think. But the scientific perspective was still worth hearing. It’s not ‘data’ so much as social networking, the value of collecting many other people’s stories.

    While Dr. Gilbert is appropriately skeptical about self-help, he’s presumptuous about ‘professional’ psychotherapy. I’m as skeptical of that institution as I am of Louise Hay’s ‘bad thoughts’ theory — especially given the history of anti-gay quackery sanctioned by the American Psychiatric Association. Legitimate science had already landed a man on the moon while the APA was still consulting its ‘inner ding’ on homosexuality. So it’s a little soon to scoff at Louise Hay.

    Claiming the mantle of science is a bit of a scam in itself. Collecting hearsay about people’s emotional states is valuable, but it’s not measuring objective facts. And I don’t recall any statistics on the effectiveness of psycho-whatever. So I think Dr. Gilbert’s presumptions about his own field is a weakness in this program.

    I add my objection to the glaring absence of any mention of gay people in either the segments on marriage or bullying. Yes, relationships are keys to happiness. So what are the implications of legally prohibiting a key to happiness? How do people achieve happiness in the face of cultural hostility to their relationships?

  15. wideglide7

    Thats ridiculous.
    wideglide7

    Thats ridiculous. Last I check this was America. Clearly a participant in AA has the right to publicly disclose that. It is their freedom to do so. They do not have a right to disclose the identity of other but they do have a right to exercise free will.

  16. After watching all three
    After watching all three parts of this series my initial reaction was “very well done & informative”. I’ve told at least five people about the show in the past few days. I thought it had just the right mix of science, scientists, real people’s stories and celebrity’s stories.
    While watching the series I did have a few concerns but was willing to overlook them because I felt that the value of being able to share the content and raise the awareness levels of such a wide audience more than outweighed its short-comings.
    However, after reading other people’s comments I thought that I’d share my concerns too.
    One was the reliance on medication with few alternatives mentioned, other than meditation. A few of the other posts mentioned viable alternatives.
    I did notice the lack of gay/lesbian as well, but being heterosexual it probably didn’t both me as much as if I had been gay/lesbian. However, I don’t have children and there was almost an underlying message that if you don’t have children you have missed out on a vital life experience (which I agree with) and that perhaps you aren’t “normal” (which I disagree with). What I mean by that is that much of the focus was on families. There was little talk of non-family lifestyles: single, married without children, gay/lesbian, etc.
    Related to this is the lack of mention of people who are introverted, which is only 25% of the population. Generally speaking Introverts enjoy relationships but prefer fewer, deeper relationships and feel more comfortable with a few people rather than larger groups. I am an introvert and several times got the feeling that, according to the show, there must be something “wrong” with me for enjoying time by myself rather than being with other people.
    I did feel that Dr. Gilbert lost his objectivity when talking with Louise Hay and others in the self-help portion of the show. There is so much we have yet to understand and things that we can’t yet explain, that to dismiss some of the self-help methods because they are viewed as unscientific seems a little short-sighted. Could it be that science has yet to discover a way to measure these methods?
    Lastly, the section on bullying was very well done but I wish you had covered why bullies bully in the first place and what is being done to teach them about their need to bully and how to learn different coping mechanisms.

  17. Very interesting
    Very interesting series!

    Where can I get more information about antidepressant drugs causing hippocampal neurons to multiply?
    Have other areas of the brain been looked at in terms of responding to psychotropic / psychoactive drugs; specifically affecting neuronal multiplication? / growth in size / loss / shrinkage?

    Thank you in advance

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