Name that Emotion

In an earlier post I showed how “feelings” are made up of different components. These include the physical experience such as heart palpitating and hands shaking, the names we give to these sensations, the outcomes we imagine, and the beliefs we have about ourselves based on these emotions. In this article I’ll be discussing the second component- the names we give to our emotions.
When we feel a physical sensation, we will probably react quite differently depending on what name we give to that sensation. If we call it “fear”, we may run away, hide, play dead, surrender, grit our teeth, fight back, or even launch a pre-emptive attack. If we call the sensation “being madly in love” we might react quite differently, even though the physical feeling is the same. Someone who is swept up in passionate “love at first sight” may experience a palpitating heart, sweating, shaking, dry mouth- all the same sensations as sheer terror. Think how many people have a first date in a restaurant, only to find that they can hardly eat the food in front of them! And think how many people “bail out” at the last minute, “running away” from the one they love as if they were a mortal enemy. Even the “pre-emptive attack” is a common reaction to the “love” sensation, just as to the “fear” sensation that it so resembles. Most people have had someone being extremely rude to them, only later discovering that this person was greatly attracted to them.
Whatever name we give to an emotion, the problems arise when we react automatically to that emotion, without using our intelligence. If you study the biographies even of great geniuses, you will see how their intelligence flies out the window as soon as their emotions are aroused. If we can control our emotions we can control ourselves, and if we can control ourselves we will have a better chance of controlling our own destiny and choosing the sort of life we want to have. By naming a sensation as “excitement” rather than as “fear”, we are opening up different possibilities of how we could react to it. Most people enjoy excitement, whereas they see fear as something to avoid.