7.0 Cognitive-Emotional Wisdom
The success of our teachers in life – whether they are our parents, teachers and other students in school, religious leaders, bosses at work, or the powerful academia, political, and business leaders who set the stage for our lives – is in their ability to empower us with the skills and abilities to think and to feel good, and to help us move our thought and debate up into the mammalian brain. Here, a “what feels good is good” mentality can evolve into broader and greater awareness of both short and long-term consequences, and decision-making and action can mature into greater complexity and imagination. With such education and personal development, “what feels good is good” can have a compassionate foundation for existence.
To have cognitive-emotional wisdom is to have the cognitive and emotional understanding and ability to avoid acting from the lower platforms of despair, depression, and anger. It is to have the cognitive tools and agility to move up the emotional staircase and to act from platforms of good feelings where clarity, health and vigor reside.
The steps to move up the emotional staircase (or emotional hierarchy) vary depending upon the set of emotions involved. One order of progression may be to move from despair, to anger, to frustration, to displeasure, to pleasure, to joy, to delight, to exhilaration, and finally, to ecstasy. Most people do not have the ability to go from despair to joy. That would be too great a leap. But they may go from despair to anger, from anger to frustration, from frustration to displeasure, from displeasure to pleasure, and from pleasure to joy over time.
Development of cognitive-emotional wisdom also helps an individual to develop the desire, courage, and tenacity to do the work necessary to move up the emotional staircase and to continually reach for thoughts that feel better. Poetry, music, dance, the arts, and sports can all be important motivators because successful participation within these disciplines demand action from higher levels of cognitive awareness and a more refined response to emotional perceptions. Every step higher in the level of accomplishment demands an even greater commitment to a cognitive discipline with emotional guidance. Every step higher is a movement into greater happiness, joy and passion. Think about it. Physical and cognitive agility, coordination and strength, all key attributes for an athlete’s success, require the athlete, as a consequence of evolution, to be joyous and passionate within their endeavors.
As individuals mature into adulthood, they should continually be developing new and more intricate methods of utilizing their emotional guidance to create new and more complex harmonies within their minds and bodies and with their external world. The complexities of the mammalian brain need to be utilized to adapt a prehistorically evolved emotional guidance system to the demands, complexity, and nuances of our modern society. Having cognitive-emotional wisdom also means having a broad enough perspective on “what feels good is good” to understand that ‘what feels good’ in the immediate present may have a completely different emotional response in the very near future. Jumping off a cliff may feel great, but the landing leaves much to be desired.
The mind and body exist within a multitude of conditions and activities, all creating a symphony of emotional feedback and harmonies. It is these harmonies and disharmonies that individuals must bring together as they conduct the symphony of their lives’ creations. The primary goal and objective for society and its members should be to nurture and guide individuals into their own beings as creators of their own lives. Much too often, societal and individual actions create schisms between individuals and their own personal emotional guidance, sometimes innocently, sometimes with benevolent intent, but sometimes with malicious intent to manipulate individuals for ulterior purposes, such as exploitation or control.
7.1 Development of Cognitive-Emotional Wisdom
The narrowness of myopic mental vision and perspective plays a role in mental illness and aberrant behaviors to strive for action that is not myopic but, rather, integrates the totality of a person’s cognitive and emotional universe. Just as the various sections of an orchestra must be aware that they are playing in the same key to remain in harmony, the various
aspects of a person’s consciousness and very being must find harmonious integration for the person to remain whole and mentally healthy. Otherwise the dissonance that can develop within a person to accommodate society’s diverse demands can become so great that it may be impossible for the person to remain whole and mentally healthy. To be mentally well, individuals must have successfully mastered the necessary skills to navigate their cognitive and emotional processes through life’s challenges and adventures. They must successfully integrate the lessons demanded by society and develop the necessary cognitive-emotional wisdom to succeed.
In a healthy, cognitive/emotional symbiotic system, emotionally negative activities of the mind must be a source of inspiration and creativity: inspirations for new, emotionally positive and transformative cognitive activities that are the necessary precursors to healthy physical action. Emotional wisdom is reached when emotionally positive cognitive and physical activities bring health and vitality and nurture a constructive, cooperative and successful personal environment. Emotional ignorance, on the other hand, is when emotionally negative cognitive activities run amok: externally they create destructive physical actions and internally they create unhealthy environments susceptible to disease, illness and injury.
The first step towards cognitive-emotional wisdom is to establish a person’s awareness of the fundamentals of the emotional feedback system. Unfortunately, even the syntax of language misrepresents the mind, body, emotion relationship with consciousness. To say that a person is “emotionally out of control” or having a “fit of rage”, or “acting out in anger” or committing a “crime of passion’ is an incorrect characterization. The person is not “emotionally out of control” but, rather, they are “cognitively out of control” because it is the cognitive activities that are creating biochemical/physiological changes, which consciousness perceives and calls emotions. Emotions cannot be aberrant and destructive because they are but the messenger. It is cognition that can be aberrant and destructive. It is cognition that is creating the biochemical physiology that is running afoul.
The phrase ‘don’t be so emotional’ and the concept of ‘emotional disorder’ do not treat emotions as a perception of mental activities via biochemical physiology. This use of language obscures the notion that the display of a person being ‘emotional’ is the direct result of his or her current cognitive activities and it is these cognitive activities that need to be addressed.
Cognitive-emotional wisdom is born when emotionally depressed persons begin to understand and accept the relationship between their depression and the nature of their thoughts. The fall into depression is not their fault but healing demands taking new responsibilities. For depressed persons to continue dwelling upon the people and events responsible for their current condition is to create barriers to understanding and accepting their new responsibilities for their own thoughts and actions. Cognitive-emotional wisdom means to begin taking new responsibilities for one’s own behavior and to change and develop new habits of thought and perspectives. A neuroplastic brain makes all this possible. (ref. 7-1)
7.2 Trauma and Addiction Corrupting the Cognitive-Emotional Relationship
The recollection of trauma memories is a reenactment of events which differs from the malleable story telling nature memories of normal events. With trauma, almost any awareness can trigger a cascade of very real events within the cognitive mind that reenacts critical and specific parts of the original horror. The key to healing is to bring the traumatic reenactment out of the dark depths and hidden awareness into the story telling nature of memories where new cognitive activities of understanding can modify the horrors into a palatable memory. Traumatic events stamp and imprint a neurological loop within the brain that corrupts the natural cognitive-emotional relationship and continuously affects the body and decision making throughout life unless interceding therapeutic work disrupts the process. (Kolk, B. 2015)
All traumatic events, can surreptitiously affect decision making and behavior to where behavior and decisions are not based within a freedom of being and desire but within the confines and restraints of fearful avoidance. Traumatic events can covertly initiate behavior from unreasonable outbursts and aggression upon oneself and others to seemingly reasonable and rationale decision making to paralytic depression. Traumatic events disrupt a natural harmony of being to where an individual dissociates one’s self from emotion’s evolutionary function to promote health, prosperity, and well-being.
The correlative relationship between mind, body, emotions, and consciousness has evolved to promote individual health and well-being (ref Section 2: “Emotions as an Evolved Biological System”). Trauma may be defined as an experience – or series of experiences – so severe as to short circuit the normal harmonious and healthy flow of electro-biochemical activity within and between neural network areas within the brain and body that disrupts a person’s evolved reaction to seek and maintain cognitive activities that feel good. Human beings have evolved to be healthy and joyous. Culturally this may be far from the norm and be an indication of a broken culture and society rather than an indication of natural human character. A cultural lack of awareness and understanding of the natural cognitive-emotional relationship may promote dubious and insidious behavior that only continues the chain of pain, suffering, and trauma upon the next generation.
Self-prescribed remedial behaviors in response to traumatic events can easily become addictive rather than healing. Self-medication with alcohol, tobacco, and other “recreational drugs” may also – and very quickly and drastically – disrupt natural cognitive-emotional activity beyond its elastic capacity to return to normalcy. As a hand that was forced onto a hot stove may forever be scarred and may even become functionally impaired, trauma may severely impact internal biochemical physiology and adversely affect natural cognitive and emotional behavior as well as the physical expression of that behavior.
Behavior modifications, street drugs, and even properly prescribed medications used to cope with trauma are addictive for two reasons. One is that they buffer consciousness from the pain of the traumatic event and, two, especially with drugs, withdrawal symptoms can be so painful and severe as to prevent any cessation of use. If adaptive behaviors to cope with trauma are innocuous, any traumatic injury may never be acknowledged nor the need for any remedial action be recognized. Only when adaptive behaviors become disruptive – or even destructive and criminal – to self or others, does the need for cognitive-emotional rehabilitative therapy become a serious consideration.
The nature of what constitutes a traumatic event or addictive behavior is highly individualistic. Common to post traumatic and addictive behavior is a lack of a natural responsiveness to an evolved emotional system designed to guide cognitive behavior towards individual health and well-being. Any lack of joy and well-being within a supposedly healthy and constructive lifestyle is an indication for the need of cognitive-emotional education and/or rehabilitation intervention. Society has a moral obligation to provide the necessary education and training within its schools, hospitals, and prisons to establish individual awareness and responsiveness to heathy cognitive-emotional behavior. Section 8.2: “Cognitive-Emotional Rehabilitation and Strengthening Exercises” provides a descriptive list of possible rehabilitative behaviors. Although these exercises are all relatively safe, they may be abused without the basic understanding and knowledge of why and how they are designed to reestablish a natural and healthy relationship between mind, body, emotions, and consciousness. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. has written a wonderful book on trauma, The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma (2014), New York, NY, Penguin Books. Part Five, Paths to Recovery provides a series of healing avenues that should be explored by anyone suffering from trauma as well as by anyone who may have an interest in societal and individual well-being.
Research studies are revealing new realizations and understandings of a neuroplastic brain designed to rewire itself (Doidge, 2015). The neuroplastic brain makes it possible to establish new, healthy, and constructive awareness and behavior associations. Everyone has within them an amazing capacity to change, adapt, and to thrive within a wide variety of conditions and environments. This has awakened new and exciting possibilities for individuals and cultures now being destroyed by traumatic and addictive behaviors. When actually should the education and training to heal generation to generation traumatic behavior begin? When should the chain of pain onto others stop? How about now!
7.3 Cognitive-Emotional Wisdom in Education
What is the purpose of education if it is not to provide the tools and training for a successful adult life? And where is success without joy and passion? Can education be called a success if it does not provide the understanding and training of a personal cognitive-emotional system which has evolved for the actualization and maintenance of mental and physical health and well-being? Education should not be confined to developing a student’s cognitive skills without also understanding the emotional connection to happiness and joy needed to succeed in life. Cognition, physiology, emotions and consciousness have evolved together as a synergistic team. The nature and effective employment of these synergies should certainly be part of our educational curriculum. And this means teaching and developing the students’ skills and abilities to be happy and joyous within their endeavors.
Education must also be about training students to develop the wisdom necessary to function with an emotional system that has been evolving hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of years. The biochemical/physiological response to cognitive activities of our reptilian brain are far different than the biochemical/physiological response from cognitive activities to our mammalian brain. To ignore the intricacies of an emotional guidance system is to disregard thousands of years of survival on the savannahs of Africa by our original human ancestry. This emotional guidance system now needs to be prepared and cultivated and nourished for successful operation within today’s technological world. This modern environment requires a new awakening and acceptance of an individual’s abilities to guide his or her own life.
The importance of physical education, sports, and even early-year recess in school is that it nurtures the cognitive-emotional relationship to physical health and well-being. We evolved to be active and these school activities reinforce the correlation between positive emotions and physical health and well-being. Encouraging healthful activity with the feeling of joy is to promote this evolutionary correlation. Seeking joy and the feeling of well-being within physical movement reinforces the physiological and emotional connection that has evolved over millions of years.
Performing arts such as dance, theater, and music especially ask each participant to connect with and to discover their emotional awareness. These disciplines require an exploration into emotions. Instead of promoting a culture of emotional ignorance, they promote a culture of emotional understanding and appreciation. This emotional awareness is a vital factor in comprehending the alliances between cognition, emotion, and physiology.
Basic lessons in the understanding of and the application of one’s own emotional system are vital. This means that our youth need education about how to develop joy in their lives. Emotional wisdom is about taking healthful actions in joy rather than taking destructive actions in anger. The capacity to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to pivot from destructive to healthy mental and physical actions should be developed within early childhood education to take full advantage of the brain’s neuroplastic behavior to reinforce these habits.
Students must receive the cognitive training and skills to climb up the emotional staircase from the lower emotions of rage and anger, to the higher emotional levels of frustration and irritation, and finally to the pleasurable feelings of positive emotions. The failure to develop this cognitive-emotional wisdom, where emotional evolution is ignored, can be directly tied to our society’s violent behavior where movement up the emotional staircase is never learned, developed, nor practiced. Like successful students in school, successful people in life know how to use their emotions to guide their cognitive activities towards achieving their goals and agendas.
We as a society have failed to develop the necessary education and training of a unique and wonderful emotional guidance system. Many home environments don’t provide even the basic emotional guidance understanding and training which creates a huge challenge to our educational institutions. The consequences of such an ineffective emotional understanding within any cognitive behavior training can be readily seen in our prisons, our hospitals and the perpetuation of dependency on our welfare institutions. Violence and a failure to succeed in life is the result of an individual’s lack of understanding and appreciation of the cognitive-emotional connection.
The emotional guidance system has evolved to constructively guide individuals so that violence is a last resort response to the threat of immediate physical danger. The overhaul of our criminal justice system must start with an overhaul of our educational system and cultural values pertaining to understanding millions of years of emotional evolution and the nurturing of cognitive-emotional wisdom.
7.4 Criminal Justice Reform: The Unalienable Rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
The mental skills and agility that most people have developed from birth to navigate successfully through the societal nuances and intricacies of “what feels good is good” and ‘what feels bad is bad’ is largely absent in the tens of thousands of incarcerated people. Here, as a result of reinforcement of negative thought patterns with a misunderstanding of emotions as a feedback system, cognitive activity has never moved up the emotional staircase into the pleasures of successful and compassionate living. Any successful, sustained rehabilitation is also dependent on understanding the brain’s neuroplastic nature by our teachers, our parents, our schools, our religious figures, and by our politicians who are blindly, or maybe purposely, setting up rules and laws with punishments that only further degrade human intellectual and emotional wisdom and well-being. The brain can be rewired from an emotionally negative decision processing that accentuates destructive behavior to an emotionally positive decision processing that accentuates rewarding, useful and constructive behavior and results (Begley, 2013).
Why does society respond to unwanted behavior via punishment? Why is “spare the rod and spoil the child” such an ingrained euphemism within our culture? Why is punishment for “crimes against society” considered to be just and humane behavior? Our current criminal ‘justice’ system only further desecrates our humanity and continues the cycle of self-destruction. It is time to stop the individual’s and society’s downward spiral into hell. Discussion and debate must move our concepts and resultant systemic practices and institutions out of our more reflexive reptilian brain and into our more compassionate mammalian brain where reality not only seems different, it is different. Different neural networks are assembling a different world.
Within this new world, punishment is not justice and human degradation is obscene. In this new world, empowering an individual to create their own, unique and wonderful world of joy is paramount. Here, society nurtures cognitive-emotional wisdom, the wisdom that finds a thought that feels better within a process that developed over tens of thousands of years of evolution and that is now etched in our DNA.
Where is the society and culture that promotes cognitive-emotional wisdom education and training within our schools and prisons? Where is the society and culture that knows not of punishment, but understands the wisdom and freedom of joy? Every person has an emotional guidance system; its understanding and training must be part of our evolving moral culture. But we have a justice system entrenched in ‘punishment’ to bring ‘justice.’ Our system should be about justice, to be sure. But where is the justice if there is no understanding of, nor education and training to employ a very ancient emotional guidance system? Where is our government that was designed to protect our unalienable rights? How can our government perform its Constitutional mandate to promote the general welfare if it is not promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? To achieve this aim, we must promote the necessary understanding, purpose, and importance of an individual’s emotional guidance system – a biological system necessary for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Decision making and action from a negative emotional base has its evolutionary foundation within the reality of actual and immediate physical danger. To act from fear and anger within an emotional storm is to act without the benefit of the mental clarity and purpose found within an emotional calm. Reptilian life-and-death cognitive reflexes are for the natural and artificial battlefields that have little to do with most behavior requirements within our modern societies. A person’s power of decision making comes not from the emotional negative places of fear, anger, and despair, but from the emotional clarity found within peace, joy and hope. There can be no criminal justice without also providing the cognitive/emotional rehabilitation needed to succeed in society. And this means teaching a prisoner the wisdom in ‘the pursuit of happiness’! It is a ‘crime of society’ to believe that punishment is justice for criminal behavior. The rule of punishment reinforces and propagates an emotionally negative and destructive way of living. Is that to be society’s intent for our current criminal justice system? The lack of ethical decision-making skills within the cognitive abilities of incarcerated adolescents does not mean these people cannot be rehabilitated to practice new ideologies and behaviors later in life.
Who can predict the motivation, drive and desire of a person to return to the life of freedom and the life of well-being, joy, vitality, and enthusiasm for another day’s adventures even after years or even decades of imprisonment? Within a climate of doubt and disbelief of reform possibilities there may still exist within many individuals a flame of hope and the necessary drive to work and develop his or her cognitive-emotional wisdom and return to the freedoms and harmonies of joyous well-being. There is a moral duty and a Constitutional mandate for society to explore the possibilities and to give those imprisoned a chance to return to a naturally healthy life of freedom. There is a Constitutional and societal duty to explore, develop and learn about the mind-body-emotion-consciousness connection. Likewise, there is a Constitutional and societal responsibility to understand cognitive-emotional wisdom and the brain’s neuroplastic ability to change and to develop new neural networks that can redefine new perspectives, new alternatives, and new possibilities for successful living by our incarcerated brothers and sisters. Where is our government that was created to protect our inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Where are the protectors of our Constitution for the welfare of all of humanity?
7.5 Reframing Antisocial Personality Disorder
Because of the brain’s neuroplastic nature to develop alternate networks, more advanced mental constructs of wanting and desire can develop as a person matures. The combination of internal physiological behaviors and the external physical exertion for survival also means a more complex development between the biological body and emotions. Movement to gather food or even to hunt on the African savannahs during humanity’s beginnings meant survival. Thus, a correlation between emotional pleasure and physical activity would be evolutionarily advantageous.
Although the joy of the hunt and the pleasure of gathering may produce the food needed for survival, during the heat of the day continual exertion risks heat exhaustion, dehydration and death. Rather than being a mere pawn of pleasure and pain, the individual must make decisions whether to continue to hunt in such adverse conditions with survival of self and family as one possible outcome and the death of the hunter and those dependent on the hunter’s survival as another. Or, maybe the hunter’s lone survival becomes evolutionarily advantageous.
Thus, neuroplasticity of the cognitive and emotional networks involves a complexity that permits cognitive reflection about the conditions for physical exertion and weighing of conflicting factors of feeling good while getting food versus feeling bad because of the day’s heat. The success or failure of these reflections and choices might spawn different genetic lines with different values and behaviors, such as one emphasizing the survival of the self and another emphasizing the survival of the family. One genetic line may care about other people; another genetic line may not. Therefore “antisocial personality disorder” would not be an actual disorder, rather, it would be a natural part of an individual’s evolution. Any successful interaction with these individuals – whether individually or as a society – must recognize and respond to their lack of any capacity for compassion, understanding, and kindness except when it pertains to their own well-being and interest.
7.6 Military Personnel Decommissioning
The power of the brain’s neuroplastic capacity to adapt to the demands of a new environment by changing and developing new neural networks is also demonstrated by the successful migration from civilian to military life. Unfortunately, this neural network change, which is developed to succeed in military life, is not later reconfigured for civilian life. There must be a structured ‘decommissioning’ period for military combatants that accounts for the neural network changes that allowed for success within a militarily structured environment designed for war. This wartime neural network must be reconfigured for a successful civilian life. Military life starts with a very well developed ‘boot camp’ that prepares a civilian for the new rigors and demands of a combatant. Where is the basic re-training that deprograms and alters the neural networks that formed while in active military service and that are now detrimental to civilian life? Where ‘commissioning’ personnel into military service has a long and rich tradition to produce successful combatants, surly it makes sense that the ‘decommissioning’ of military personnel with the new knowledge of the brain’s neuroplastic adaptive behaviors must be explored. Success can be measured when we no longer hear of homeless veterans or veterans who have given up hope and committed suicide. Military personnel are offered the most advanced and best training in the world to succeed in the most brutal of environments. They should also be trained to become the most advanced, best trained and most capable to succeed within the harsh realities of civilian life.
7.7 The Wisdom of a Champion: Let Joy Reign
The ‘Grateful Red’ (the UW student section) are stomping their feet in appreciation for the skillful play of their basketball team. Team execution has reached a new level of excellence. ‘Every’ shot is dropping, even more bizarre and – amazingly – a teammate is in the right spot for every loose ball, block, rebound or steal. There’s electricity in the air. It feels good! It feels great! It is wild. For team member and fan alike, this didn’t just happen; it began with a feeling, a positive good emotional feeling that grew and then exploded…lighting the nets on fire!
Evolution advanced a correlation between feeling good and a well-balanced and vital body. Emotional awareness of this, either consciously or unconsciously, meant survival. Those who acted without this understanding did not survive. To act without joy means the body is not in a prime biochemical/physiological state and simply does not have the harmony within itself to excel and perform at peak abilities. To physically compete at a peak physiological state, the emotional state cannot be negative, which means that consciousness must direct cognitive activity towards joyous being.
The mind-body-emotional game of any contest is about having the discipline to use the mind and all its cognitive abilities to find, to focus in on, and finally, to use the presence of good feeling emotions that proclaim a synergistic harmony of mind and body and being in the zone. “Do you feel ‘it’?” It being this mind-body-emotional zone of confidence, momentum, and an undercurrent of knowing success.
An athlete cannot play his or her best having an emotionally negative state of mind. The presence of negative emotions means that a well-balanced and vital body is not physiologically present. A biochemical/physiological disharmony, felt through emotional dissonance, manifests directly from cognitive dissonance. Eye hand coordination will be off. Touch will be off. Execution will suffer. Mistakes are inevitable. Emotional negativity leads to injuries when the body is stressed and pushed to its limits during competition because the mind and body are biologically not working together as a unified whole.
The mental game of ‘being in the zone,’ ‘creating momentum,’ ‘being connected’ and ‘having confidence’ is about emotions, about good feeling emotions. There is no mental game, there is no mental focus, there is no confidence, there is no success, unless the emotions and feelings collaborate and acknowledge it. The mind, body, and emotions must work together as a synergistic whole – as the proverbial team – to bring forth an athlete’s best performance. This mind-body-emotional game is about cognitively bringing forth an emotional belief of success, which also brings forth by evolutionary necessity, the correlative physiological and biological foundation for success.
How much time in the off season has been spent in the gym to get the body physically ready for a long season of competition? How much time has been spent training one’s cognitive abilities to enter and sustain the emotional feeling of confidence and knowing of success and its correlative physiological and biological harmony? An athlete can easily name ten key conditioning and skill exercises they use to develop the body. How many athletes can name ten cognitive/emotional exercises they use to enter and to sustain the synergistic harmony of mind, body, and emotions necessary for success (see 8.2: Exercises in Cognitive-Emotional Rehabilitation).
Every moment throughout every day is an opportunity to train and to practice moving into a better and better feeling place of success. Every negative emotion is an opportunity to create a more powerful, emotionally positive mental attitude. Winning starts when each negative emotion is used as motivation to find a thought that feels better. Each of these successes helps develop the mental gymnastics required to respond to an evolved emotional guidance system with intent and purpose. The emotional system is giving constant feedback on whether ‘their head’ is getting into their game of success or into their game of failure. The question is, “does an athlete have the discipline to listen and the skills and training necessary to make the cognitive adjustments needed when the competition demands them?”
The mind-body-emotional play of a competition starts long before the actual game begins and must continue throughout any competition. Championships are lost because emotional guidance gets distracted from the final outcome and is sidetracked into the pregame publicity of yesterday’s success. Winning feels good but a tournament isn’t over with the semi-finals. A race isn’t won in the preliminaries. The competition isn’t over until it’s over. Now is the time for real mind-body-emotional discipline; to use the mind and its cognitive abilities to focus on, to recreate, and then to maintain an emotional background of previous successful competitive endeavors.
As I was walking through a grade school gym where I was substitute teaching, a very young and small boy wanted me to watch him shoot a basket. Amazingly, with his limited ability, he shouted with glee as his shot just hit the rim. He looked at me beaming with a smile, obviously very proud of his success, and proclaimed, “it almost went in!” He had found the emotion of success where most would have only discovered failure.
The smallest of actions, a moment of brilliance, any second where “I feel it,” are all mind-body-emotional states of previous successes. It is a time when ‘that felt good!’ The Exercises in Cognitive-Emotional Rehabilitation of section 8.2 contains a list of exercises to recreate these mind-body-emotional states as fortification from any barrage of doubts, fears, uncertainties, and questions presented by an upcoming event. Recreate these mind-body-emotional states as a defense from the lure and illusion of a victory that doesn’t yet exist. Recreate these mind-body-emotional states as a reaction to any doubt and fear that squelches any inner harmony, peace, and enjoyment of competition. Recreate these mind-body-emotional states as an offense to the opponent’s barrage of jabs, hits and punches to assert ‘their’ dominance. Cognitive/emotional training starts in the off-season at home and continues each day and through each practice and right into the locker room and onto the court and throughout the game. Half-time is but an opportunity to reaffirm the joyous mind-body-emotional synergy of success. Too many half-time talks by the coaching staff disconnect rather than reinforce each individual’s and the team’s connection to strength, agility, coordination and power.
“If there are any doubters who don’t believe that we are going out and taking over the second half and winning this game, you can stay right here. We don’t want you. We don’t need you.” UW football player halftime speech to the team (paraphrased).
The audience may be watching and emotionally reacting to the action on the basketball court, but the real plays take place in the minds and hearts of each athlete. Which athlete is going to maintain their knowing of, and feeling of success? Which athlete will rise and overcome each challenge on who ‘owns’ this ball, these nets and this court? Which athlete will first feel the frustration of a missed shot or stolen ball or an opponent’s score and which team will first succumb to the gnawing fear of doubt? Every move and pass before a shot is time surgically utilized to assert self-confidence and domination. Pass the ball around to set up a shot but also to break down the opponent’s mental resilience and to assertively demonstrate to them that “we” control this game. We own this game. We are enjoying this game. Our bench is enjoying this game. We are winning this game no matter the current score. “Do you feel it? Good! Take the shot.”
Emotions are responses to all that activity going on between the ears. They are an ever-present coach that lets each athlete individually know where his or her mind’s activities are heading. The better the feeling, the more mental activities are in your game. The worse the feeling, the closer mental activities are to getting lost in your opponent’s game. The question is, how much time and energy has been devoted throughout an athlete’s career to understanding and appreciating the cognitive/emotional game necessary for success?
Any break in the action provides a moment to utilize the months and years of cognitive/emotional training and exercises and to stop and step up the emotional staircase. That is, if in despair to move up into anger; if in anger, to move up into frustration; if in frustration, to move up into hope; if in hope, to move up into the joy of believing; if in the joy of believing, to move up into the excitement of knowing…. of success! “A time out is an opportunity to get your mind, your body, and your heart into the moment of your event. If you learn how to take the time to own each competitive event and to make those moments in time joyously yours, then any event throughout life can bring joy and must become yours.”
7.8 Emotions in the 21st Century
The purpose of life from a biochemical/physiological perspective is to find joy. A correlation exists between joy and the biochemical/physiological balances found within the brain’s neural networks and the body that makes for a strong and vigorous being. Has not that been the evolution of the emotional system? A false/positive correlation between joyous emotions and lethargy, weakness, and ineptness would only make a being vulnerable and easy prey within the survival of the species. Joy, happiness, and wonderment associated with biochemical/physiological harmony of strength, confidence, skill, and agility, on the other hand, would clearly enhance the survival of the species.
Genetically, humans are wired to feel good emotionally. The very strength and survival of the individual depends on striving for better feelings and what those feelings represent within the body. It is our evolutionary nature. But we do not thrive as individual beings without the societal strength to create and empower the development of cognitive-emotional wisdom, where individuals learn, develop, and know how to respond to their own individual emotional guidance with healthful and joyous actions and behaviors.
It is necessary to elaborate on some important distinctions which need to be made in our 21st century consumer-focused society. Sugar may have wonderful ‘feels good’ associations but gaining weight is probably not one of them. Shopping may feel good but getting the bills may not. Having a brand-new car feels great, but the consequences of it being a stolen car does not. The same ‘feels good’ but ‘know the bad’ goes for drinking, drugs, medications and all of human behaviors. Knowing what actions may feel good and knowing what consequences may feel horrendous is a product of the cognitive mind and the emotional perceptual system of the body’s biochemical physiology. On the other hand, society’s acceptance of such action often impacts a person’s attention to their own emotional guidance: what if a person’s behavior aligns with emotional guidance but this behavior is contrary to accepted societal norms? And conversely, what if a person’s behavior aligns with emotional guidance but this behavior should be contrary to accepted societal norms?
Where is the emotional wisdom in a ‘feels good is good’ behavior model? The correlation between the better one feels and the healthier one is, began evolving millions of years ago. In question are emotions’ guiding relevance in the 21st century and beyond. Emotions are only reflections of cognitive activities via their correlative relationship to biochemical physiology. Therefore, it is not emotions, but cognition that is in question. The power of cognitive-emotional wisdom lies within one’s abilities to meet the challenges of today’s complex societies by transmuting life’s pains and failures, via cognitive work and imagination, into the thoughts and actions that both feel good and are integral and harmonious to a self and that does not demand the obedience and subjugation of others but promotes the welfare and empowerment of others. This means moving out of the more reflexive reptilian brain and into the more compassionate, complex capacity within the mammalian brain. Joy and happiness, if dependent on the requirement and demand for specific behavior in others, is an attempt to appease a false ideology. It can never succeed. To make joy and happiness dependent on others’ behaviors is to deny the evolutionary role of emotional guidance. Emotional guidance and cognitive-emotional wisdom are self-management tools.
Begley, S. (2013). Rewiring Your Emotions. Retrieved From https://www.mindful.org/rewiring-your-emotion
Doidge, N. (2015). Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity. New York, NY: Viking
Kolk, B. (2014). The Body Keeps Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. New York, NY: Penguin Books.
Andrew O. Jackson