And the answer is, Yes. At one and the same time, a state is all of these things. And this speaks to why we use the word state— it is a systemic term that combines all of these facets into a single term and so breaks up the old delusion of the separate words, “mind,” “body,” “emotion,” as if they referred to isolated entities.
Today there’s a lot of research and writing on emotional intelligence. And Daniel Goleman uses this phrase to refer to the awareness (detection), monitoring (observing), managing of emotions, and then using those emotions to relate to others. NLP and Neuro-Semantics have been speaking about E.Q. (Emotional Quotient) since the 1970s as state awareness, eliciting, monitoring, interrupting, managing, anchoring, etc.
And what is an emotion? Motion! It is a moving within a person, an activation within all of the aspects of the brain— the thalamus, associative and motor cortexes so that somatic (body) energy is generated so that a person moves out [e(x)-motion] from his or her current experience. So an “emotion” is a system function of mind-and-body and that’s why we hyphenate the full phrase—mind-body-emotion.
Neurologically, an emotion is “an action tendency” generated by the information in our context that activates our motor cortex and other brain structures (amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, adrenal gland, etc.). Understanding emotions in this way enables us to hold the tension between several realizations that are simultaneously true.
What is an emotion? It is how you feel your meanings. The meanings you create are the meanings that you then feel as “emotions.” Create ideas, understandings, beliefs, and meaning frames of joy, delight, and pleasure and you will be feeling the emotions that correspond to these meanings. So with fear and timidity and insecurity—these emotions arise from your beliefs and understandings about something that you interpret as scary. Emotions make sense according to the frames and layers of frames that you have about things. Emotions manifest somatically (in your body) the maps you create about things.
What is an emotion? It is the difference that you experience between what you have mapped about things and your experiences of those things. It is the map–territory difference. If the territory is not living up to your understandings and expectations, then your maps are being violated and when your maps are being violated— your very sense of the world is in danger. So no wonder you feel “negative!” No wonder you feel threatened at a very basic (existential) level! No wonder you feel afraid, angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, guilty, bad, etc. And when the territory is fulfilling your perceptions and expectations, then your maps are being confirmed, validated, and proven right. No wonder you feel pleased, delighted, happy, content, and “good!” Everybody in your mind-body-emotion system says, “You’re on the right track, keep going.” Conversely, when you feel the “bad” (the “negative” emotions), everything inside you is screaming, “Stop, look, listen, change course, something is not right.”
In Neuro-Semantics, we illustrate this with a scale. Using the metaphor of a scale, we put “map” on one side and “territory” (or your experience in the territory) on the other side. As the scale balances out— going up and down, experience in the territory confirms or disconfirms the map a resulting emotion occurs. The emotion provides you information about how you are doing with your map in the world. If doing well, it activates your excitatory nerves so that you continue; if it is not doing well, it activates your inhibitory nerve impulses so that you slow down or stop to re-evaluate things. Then you can change either your map or your experience (your competence in coping).
And there’s more. That’s not the last word in Neuro-Semantics about emotions. The scale metaphor speaks generally to how you and I experience “positive”and “negative” emotions and directs us to both our mapping about things and our skills in coping with the territory that we are attempting to navigate. Yet there is more. What is more are the higher frames that you have about all of this. What do you believe about your mapping? What do you believe about your beliefs, your expectations, your understandings, your skills, the territory, etc.?
So the quality of your emotions, as the difference between mapping and experiencing, is governed by even higher meta-states (frames of meanings). Among these I find the following are some of the most important ones to check on:
1) Demandingness. How much demandingness do you have in your mapping? The more you demand that things have to be the way you want them and expect them, the more violation you will experience and therefore the more negative emotions and the more negative the emotions that you experience.
2) Appreciation. How much appreciation do you have for yourself, others, life, the world, emotions, etc.? The more you have a frame of appreciation, the more good feelings you will generate, and the more good feelings you can generate even for the smallest of blessings, the smallest of delights.
3) Surprise. What do you believe about being surprised, shocked, unsure, etc.? The more you accept and welcome surprises, the more comfortable you will be with ambiguity, with differences between what you get and what you expected, and the more you’ll bring a child-like attitude of wonder and curiosity to things.
4) Counting/Discounting. What do you believe about things counting? Does everything count? Or does nothing except the very best count? If you tend to discount, to background everything good except the big thing you are wanting or working on, you’ll find that very little will excite or motivate you.
5) Habituation. What do you believe about the things that you are used to? The more you let things habituate and not keep a “freshness of appreciation” about them, the more you get “used to your blessings” which Abraham Maslow said is one of the greatest sources of human evil on the planet.
In Neuro-Semantics we focus on all of this in our flagship Training — APG (Accessing Personal Genius). It occurs at the beginning of Day 2 and the reason for that? Because to access your highest and best (your “personal genius” or focus state), you have to have a good relationship to your emotions. And mostly for those emotions that trouble you, you just need to meta-state them with acceptance (and I’ll write about that in the next Meta Reflection).
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D.