There has been considerable debate on what comes first in response to any stimulus, thought or emotion? Some argue that how you feel dictates how you think. If I am sad then this emotion will cater to more somber memories and thoughts, and vice versa if I am happy. Others argue that if you choose to think certain thoughts, you can change your emotions from whatever they are to what you want/need them to be for any given situation. I wonder if we have been debating a moot point. Feelings or emotions are labels we have been using to describe what thoughts are being narrated by the brain. New neuroscience is strongly suggesting that emotions and thoughts are in fact the same, neurologically. How we feel can only be described by thought. If you have labeled an emotion you are feeling as sad, then you are in fact using thought to come up with the ‘sad’ label. Your thoughts, neuropathways, are dependent on stored memories, not on objective labels, to make those labels. What is sad to one person might be just mundane to one and traumatic to another. I presented this argument in my first book in 1995, Clearing Your Path, coining the ‘Theory of Emotional Relativity’ concept. Why is it important to re-examine our labels and emotional language? Because the center of out labeling machine, our brain, is an inherently biased and flawed organ. It uses only experiences stored in it, not objective rationale, to label.
Consider that if emotions and thoughts are the same, and the distinction moot, then what is worth learning is the impact of stimuli on them both with specific regard to our ability to make the best decision. It should be appreciated that innovation and collaboration, the cornerstone of workplace performance, are neurological conditions and almost entirely predicated on the emotional labels constantly being made by us, as I discussed in my last blog. I’d like to argue that there are only three emotional labels we need: Green, Yellow and Red. (https://izzyjustice.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/emotional-speedometer/). This simplification of the emotional vocabulary shifts the focus from “labels” to “neurological state” which is the centerpiece of performance. Is it more important to label how you feel as sad, frustrated, annoyed, tired (etc) or to understand that you are “yellow” and your neuropathways are going to your negative memories thereby shifting your brain’s ability to critically think and make the best decision?
Last week, I asked you to take inventory of the non-stop labeling your brain is doing through each event. That list is quite long for just a day. Look at all those labels from last week and see how many of them fit into Green, Yellow or Red. They all should. This new language eliminates judgement of an experience and transfers the focus to its impact on you, and your ability to make good decisions. Who cares whether something good or bad happened to you to make you feel happy or sad, if you have the ability to view all experiences as a neurological test to be at your best as often as possible and certainly, when it matters most. Change the game. Make all experiences about your brain, not about the characters in the experience or the archaic labels you have been using. The limits of your performance are in your brain.