by Anna Machura
‘The Power of Emotions’
Emotions seem to be an integral part of each and every experience we have. Whenever we come into contact with various external stimuli, our understanding of reality is, to a great extent, emotion-driven. Personally, I believe that intelligent action results from a harmonious blend of emotion and reason. However, making a fair assumption or drawing the right conclusion in a given situation can be a rather complex task for the brain. Decoding numerous messages in all their complexity requires constant recognition of multiple signs, images, sounds, even subtle gestures and other responses. Our senses play a primary role here – that is, they allow the central nervous system to receive information from the outside world, which can be later processed, recognised and translated.
Due to the repetitive nature of various activities in our lives, our brains create certain pathways (neural connections) that are then further reinforced and, over time, become patterns of individual cognitive systems of perception or behaviour. In short, the subconscious mind and the conscious mind communicate all the time and exchange the data analysed by the ‘control centre’ to make sense of the information flow. Why is it worth mentioning? Well, our comprehension of reality can be a communication barrier. Also, the relation between perception and personal motivation often limits the potential we could discover in ourselves as adults or in children if the obstacles were somehow bypassed.
Although, most of the time, we are well able to decode messages received from our environment correctly (through both verbal and non-verbal communication), some distortions might appear in the process as well. Hence, it’s extremely important to be aware of such systematic patterns of thinking as they continuously shape our reality, in other words, they cause us to view reality in inaccurate ways. What can we do then? Is it possible to control and manage them?
First of all, we can learn how to interpret events without cognitive bias and consciously focus our awareness on avoiding unwanted negative thoughts. Second, instead of creating ‘subjective reality’, based on preconceived notions, we might implement and practise metacognitive skills (thinking about our thinking) such as self-monitoring, self-assessing and self-correcting. As cognitive dispositions or inclinations are related to our memory, attention and other ‘mental errors’, they affect almost every area of our lives, including learning, remembering, communicating, making choices, etc.
The good news is that children as well as grown-ups can develop coping mechanisms by learning more about the workings of the mind as well as the role of feelings and emotions. Emotional intelligence is as important as traditional school subjects. Thanks to such valuable knowledge, young learners are able to set and achieve smart goals themselves, become more aware and empowered, which – in turn – increases their self-esteem and confidence. Emotional well-being in education is key these days.
Below, you will find some common examples of cognitive distortions. CBT – Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – offers effective solutions to identify them and take action to make gradual desired changes in unhelpful thinking or behavioural habits.
What are the most common cognitive distortions?
- Catastrophising / Magnifying or Minimising;
- Mental filtering;
- All-or-nothing / Polarised thinking;
- Discounting the positive;
- Emotional reasoning;
- Control fallacies;
- ‘Should’ statements;
- Labelling & Mislabelling.
There is no doubt emotions affect our cognitive capacities. Even Aristotle noted that ‘feelings are conditions that cause us to change and alter our judgements while emotions are an inherent part of our moral reasoning and being’. What is more, apart from affecting our attention and moods, they also play an important part in memory, namely they help to etch events more deeply in our memories. In conclusion, you do create your reality. Your subconscious mind listens to everything and registers more than you realise. Train your brain, avoid stressors (triggers), let go of thoughts you do not need about things you cannot control. Be careful not to fill your mind with negativity. Instead, focus on the positive, nourish your brain and heart with pleasant, enriching elements – they are going to form one big picture of your everyday life from all the jigsaw pieces you have selected. Remember: ‘You are what you think.’
Anna Machura is a Certified & Accredited Neurolanguage Coach®; Management, Marketing, Law & Business Specialist; Experienced ESL Teacher (Cambridge English); Dyslexia Tutor; Therapist; Professional Translator & Linguist; Business Owner