Emotional Drivers – 3

How important are emotions in our life?  Do we really need to be as emotional as we are? Are emotions good or bad for us? Emotional people are weak people.  Emotions coerce us into taking decisions which we regret later.  We should rely only on the left (logical) side of our brain to take wise decisions.

Well, I don’t know if you have heard all these quotes, but I am somewhat sure you would have heard them at least once and for some may be multiple times in your life.  But one thing is pretty obvious most of us human beings are driven by our emotions, some to a lesser degree and most people to a very large degree.  So, is it bad or is it good?  Well, there exactly is not a straightforward answer to this question for multiple reasons.  Let’s discuss some of them and post that we would also go back to our earlier question I ended my post with last time, why we should not go to a super market empty stomach, or for that matter we should not venture out hungry (of course not always as an exception could be when you are going for a meal outside, although even then it would be a great idea to eat something before venturing out).  So, we will discuss that afterwards.

What are emotions and how do they originate?  Emotions do not turn up out of the blue, but rather follow a pattern which takes shape over a period of time without us even realizing that we may be responsible for creating these patterns.  We call them natural reactions (instincts), but that’s a very naïve explanation of a fact which is deeply rooted in science.  We all would have heard of neurons, simply put they work like messengers in our body, and a neuron comprises of an axon, dendrite and cell body.  Being messengers, their primary function is to help in transmitting information from one point to another.  And just as we need to write something, a letter (mail) to let others know what we want to communicate, neurons use neurotransmitters to transmit information.  These neurotransmitters are carried from one neuron to another through a complicated network of axons and dendrites.  I won’t go into the detailed working of neurons; as it is easily available on Wikipedia.  We would rather focus on what happens afterwards.  So, release of neurotransmitters (basically sodium and potassium ions working on potential difference of an axon and a dendrite) leads to changes in how we feel which in turn affects our actions.  Imagine someone on a high dose of marijuana or cannabis, how that person feels, high, of course and the actual reason we feel high after consuming these substances are the way these neurotransmitters are either released or inhibited.  The release or inhibition of neurotransmitters is triggered by various actions that an individual takes or should I say an individual takes varied actions because of the way his/her neurons work.  Do we control our body or the body controls us by giving us signals which are subconsciously deciphered by it and we act along those instructions.

Imagine a husband sitting at home waiting for his wife to go to a movie as planned.  Wife doesn’t turn up on time and doesn’t even call up or message to let him know she would won’t be able to make it on time.  In fact she is not even picking her phone and it’s been almost 3 hours since they were supposed to start from home.  How would the husband feel and why?  Well, here the natural answer would be frustrated, concerned, anxious or may be even frightened.  Now, let’s suppose he gets a call from an unknown number on his phone, now what would he be thinking?  If we go by conventional wisdom, he could very anxious and probably scared anticipating bad news.  Now, was the husband using his logic or giving a free run to his emotions to take him on a roller coaster ride.  Well, of course he was doing the latter and that’s what most of us do.  We get so much overwhelmed by incoming stimulations that we just switch off the logical part of our brain (frontal cortex) and let our amygdala take over and make quick (rash) decisions for us.

Primary reason for such a behaviour is that our survival is at stake and in situations like these we don’t have the luxury of time to think and decide, we rather are supposed to make a quick decision and this has to bypass the normal processing of information, forcing us to grab obvious cues (which may or may not give you a complete picture) to decide on the next course.  Now, in the scenario above, the wife may have had a flat tyre and her phone might have run out of battery.  She might have to walk a long distance before she could access any public transport or a cab to get back home or connect with her husband.  However, such a possibility will not occur to most of us (and her husband) while experiencing such a situation, as for us most of us are predisposed towards a negative consequence rather than positive ones whenever we are faced with situations where we do not have complete information.  A lot of studies have confirmed the fact that most of us are naturally risk averse and would not expect a positive result in a random scenario when we are lacking perceived control to affect the outcome.  In such situations we would rather play safe and expect to lose than to win.  Let me give an example, if you are asked to put a bet on heads and tails, wherein you win 100 bucks if you call out rightly and lose if your prediction is wrong, would you play the game.  A chance of you winning the bet or losing it is 50%.  However, very few people would agree to this bet.  Now, if the winning for a right call is increased to, say 200 and penalty for a wrong guess still remains100, would you still play?  A lot of us would still not risk their 100 bucks, because we are not looking at gaining 200 but we are scared of losing 100.  Risk aversion prompts us to expect negative outcomes in most situations, and this is what the husband experienced when he began mentally preparing list of all the things that could go wrong with his wife that night giving very little work to his prefrontal cortex to think rationally.

Now, coming back to where we finished previously, why we should not venture out empty stomach especially for shopping, is based on solid scientific research and affects most of us.  When we are hungry, our brain is preoccupied with getting some sort of nourishment for the body and uses most of its energy in scanning and finding out things which can give immediate gratification.  And we all know buying new things always gratifies us, and thus when we are hungry we buy much more than we actually need without even realizing why we were doing it, as that gratification leads to release of dopamine which realizes us and makes us feel good. So, the next time you are heading outside, just remember to soothe your taste buds or they will turn your brain into a wild wanderlust leaving you in the lurch when you would need it the most.

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