How to Understand Emotion: Why you react as you do

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This is the second article in The Game of Life series.


Rather than employing our On-board Assistants (our minds) only as and when they are required — for hypothesising, planning, problem-solving, communicating, and so on — the majority of Players spend the majority of their gaming lives, not only occupied by the irrelevant chatter of their inefficient biological computers — but tormented by them.

If you called upon Siri, for example, to provide directions to your girlfriend’s house, you would not permit her to continue monologuing as you ate your dinner, or to pull apart your life choices as you went upstairs to make love.

Yet, for the most part, we each endure this pain-inducing prattle within the confines of our own heads!

The role of the mind is to conjure up and carve out new and exciting experiences to be taken up by your consciousness. When it is not being used for this creative process, it should be put aside so that the other aspects of the in-game world can be enjoyed fully.

This is possible — and here’s how to do it.

The Scanning Mind

Like an artificial intelligence system integrated into a helmet of some futuristic, inter-galactic adventurer, our minds work by scanning our environments (past, present or future) for specific patterns and data. These sensory observations are then relayed upon the screen of our awareness in the form of a running commentary. The patterns that the scanning mind focuses upon, and their associated emotional responses, are determined by the programming our biocomputers have received throughout our lives.

Back along the path of our evolution, our brains were wired to maximise our chance of survival. At that time, survival was ensured by the fulfilment of three major biological imperatives: escaping death, consumption (sex and food) and improving one’s standing in the group hierarchy.

Environmental happenings, picked up by the scanning mind, that supported the fulfilment of the organisms biological imperatives were emotionally reinforced (pleasure was generated); for example, when eating sugary fruits or mating. Those happenings that threatened the organism were emotionally discouraged (fear or pain was generated); for example, being bested in a physical confrontation with another member of the group.

In short, Emotions provided a survival-oriented pull or push system that navigated our animal ancestors.

Scientists believe as little as 200,000 years separate humans alive now from their genetically identical ancestors. The neurological architecture that these prehistoric cousins depended upon to induce a biochemical flight or flight, as well as pull or push response, is the same mechanism that produces fear (or pleasure) in our modern-day counterparts.

Egothe In-game Character

Despite the fact that our survival is so rarely — if ever — at stake, our scanning minds still cause the synthesis of the emotions once relied upon to generate a hair-trigger response to life or death situations. Fear, discontent, anger, anxiety and the rest of the negative emotional catalogue are routinely fired up within our psychosomatic networks — the peptide-coordinated communication system connecting our neurological, nervous, gastrointestinal and endocrin systems.

Practically all of this biochemical turmoil stems from the association with and protection of the ego.

The word ego has been thrown around for so long that it is hard to talk about it without stepping on the toes of one’s pre-existing connotations. Therefore, it is far easier, within this context, to instead call the ego the In-Game Character — the who that you (Consciousness) are playing.

The In-Game Character is a big idea stored in the memory banks of your biocomputer made up of lots of little ideas pertaining to your interactions with the Game World: your possessions, relationships, occupations, societal roles, past-times, and so on.

In other words, it is the image which symbolises the reflection of your consciousness within the world. And so it is useful insomuch that it provides a label by which your consciousness can be identified. Also, as with any video game, perceived characteristics and personal backstory all add to the depth of and immersion of the storytelling.

Associating with the Character

The majority of Players remain unaware that they are, in fact, Consciousness — and the fortunate participants of the Game of Life. Deriving instead their sense of self — their identity — as the In-Game Character. Which is ultimately nothing more than a lifeless idea, animated by their awareness.

In doing so, most humans have split themselves in two. From there on, there is a You — and there is yourself. Consciousness and its reflection. Life thus shifts from being to becoming; from playing to procuring and securing inconsequential achievements and impermanent conditions, as the Players strive to bolster and enrich the self.

Enormous amounts of consciousness is then invested and depleted as the On-board Assistant (the rational mind) continuously scans past, present and future environments for any object, person or situation which threatens the longevity and composition of the In-game Character.

In-Game Suffering

The circumstantial conditions deemed necessary in order for our egos to feel secure and fulfilled are determined largely, but not exclusively, by society and those who raised us. These needs, musts, shoulds and should nots are simply the lines of code our On-board Assistants received at the impressionable tutorial stages of the Game of Life.

As children, we are programmed to believe that certain conditions (such as material wealth, financial security, an abundance of friends, intellectual prowess and an arsenal of impressive talents) must be present in order for us to be happy — and so the absence of these necessities inevitably leads to suffering.

For the Game of Life is such that, invariably, you win some — and you lose some.

Therefore, whenever any number of these conditions are absent, or may potentially be absent in the future, an emotional response is booted up within the Player.

Emotional Manipulation

Every emotional response is actually learned as a child as a way of manipulating the world and those around us in order to get what we want.

For example, if you were playing with your older brother and cousin and they no longer wanted to include you, adrenaline and other stress hormones would be administered throughout your psychosomatic network. You fall to the ground with a huff and proceed to cry, shake and scream until your mother runs from the house, consoles you, and commands that the others “play nicely”.

Unconsciously, you then “code” your biocomputer by instructing it that: Resistance (in this case, crying and upset) is the key to getting what I want.

Henceforth, every time a situation arose which failed to align with your model of how life should be, your On-board Assistant booted up and coordinated a physiological response best suited to manipulate those around into accordance with the model.

Whether the emotional response is anger, worry, frustration, or whatever, the uncomfortable feeling is nothing more than a learned, robot-like programmed reaction designed to bring your here and now into alignment with an imaginary ideal that you believe will permit happiness.

Once you recognise the futility and painful irony in being miserable so as to bring about happiness, you are then free to begin reprogramming your On-board Assistant. This will be covered in the next instalment.

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Emotional lobotomy is important.

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