Animal Theory of Emotion: Emotion Is Not a Disorder

16
1981

Everyone is challenged by the intensity, frequency, and distortedness of their emotion. Some people are more challenged than others. But no matter how problematic it is, emotion is a normal part of being a person.

Somewhere in the last few decades, intense emotionality has gone from being a naturally difficult part of you to an unfortunate pathology in you. If you have a lot of emotion, even if it’s infrequent, you are deemed a disordered person in need of repair. Your exaggerated way of being—how you are—is rarely considered a basic function of your emotion. Instead, it is thought of as an illness with a designated diagnosis, a medical condition causing you to be feeling, thinking, and behaving in ways that are either complicated and neurodivergent or dysfunctional, imbalanced, and mentally ill.

Woman cover face using paper with emotions sketch, like hiding mask. Private life identity concept. Split inner personalities. Multipolar mental health disorder. Mood change, expressions and reactions

You don’t need to be a clinical psychologist to notice how many people identify as psychiatrically disordered or disabled. Nor do you need to practice in a mental health facility to witness how many people get labelled with “sicknesses” of the mind. But maybe you need to engage in intensive psychotherapy with hundreds of highly emotional people a year, as I do, to know that the “mental illness” out there is not about illness at all.

Too many people see themselves as having mental disorders when what they have is emotion, and in some cases, a great deal of it. When more than half the room has a psychiatric diagnosis of “abnormal psychology” then abnormality is not the problem. Intuitively and statistically, the norm cannot be abnormal. Yet somehow it is. This current “reality” is a gross overestimation of diagnostic assessment and veracity, and a collective mischaracterization of what it is to be emotionally normal—and what it is to be emotional altogether.

Mental health awareness is a movement that has everyone seeking treatment and support for their “mood disorders” and “personality disorders” and “neurodivergency”, but this system isn’t leading to wellness—it’s impeding it. Despite multiple and conflicting diagnoses, years of therapy, mountains of meds, and accommodations for all matters of operations, people are still experiencing intense emotional dysregulation and living messy lives, all while having to manage the medical verdict that they’re fundamentally not ok.

Emotion is a challenge to treat because it’s not something that can be treated—ie. it’s not for treating. Essentially, medicalizing emotion is not the solution, because sickness is not the problem.

You’re not emotional because you’re sick, and you’re not sick because you’re emotional. But emotionality gets characterized this way by MDs, by PhDs, by teachers, by parents, by partners, by children, by everyone. A rich, firmly established culture of mental illness identification has made it something that you and everyone can have –and seemingly does.

Emotion doesn’t need diagnosis. It doesn’t need medication. It doesn’t need special treatment. It needs to be understood.

***

It used to be that when you had an “emotional problem”, you would go see friend, a family member, a counsellor, maybe a religious figure. Now when you have strong feelings, you go to the doctor. A doctor has a job: to remedy that which ails you. If you go to a doctor with a problem, their job is to address the problem with a solution. Since psychiatry is the branch of medicine that manages the mind—and the thoughts and behaviours that emanate from it—its mandate is to address psychological issues with the same intervention approach as any other: first, to identify the “irregularity” and then, hopefully, to provide a way to solve it, heal it, and fix it. Defining what is psychiatrically abnormal is not measurable with blood tests and CT scans.  It needs consensus and group decision. Psychiatric diagnoses are not objectively identifiable entities, they are concepts, ideas and classifications made by small committees of people who believe they know.

Over the last half century, the ever-inflating process of organizing illnesses of the mind has gone from being a preoccupation of psychiatrists searching for solutions for the suffering masses to a classification system used by everyday people to understand themselves. With its something-for-everyone assortment of characteristics, the DSM has become an exciting encyclopedia of self discovery used by everyone who wants to “really understand” themselves. Psychiatric verdicts are not just the property of those who deliver them. They reach far past medical walls, into the offices of psychologists, therapists, counsellors, social workers and the rooms of teachers, parents, aunts, friends, and neighbours. They are for everyone, available to everyone and almost universally used to define, characterize, and diagnose everyone’s periodic and patterned moods.

This is possible because the DSM’s diagnostic criteria is very relatable. The lists of required emotional provisions are everyday human patterns that everyone engages at least sometimes. So much so, for someone suffering with a lot of emotion, a psychiatric diagnosis is not just available, it’s alluring, and often, extremely validating. At last, something official to account for your disturbing ways, to explain why you feel what you feel, why you think how you think, why you do what you do. A self-description with a verifiability so seemingly solid you can immerse your identity in it without question, join the many groups and chats about it, all while formally succumbing to the newly permissible condition of being you.

When you are given the endorsement of “illness” or “divergency” to understand your lifelong emotional state, it does something beyond medically defining you: it finally explains your emotional reactivity. Being identified as a disordered person for having emotional behaviour signals that it makes sense for you to feel the way you feel and act the way you do, but not because of perceived needs and reactivities, but because of abnormal, pathological issues. It makes sense that you’re very emotional—of course, it does, you’re diagnostically ill. All that emotion? You don’t have it for natural reasons. You have it because you’re sick or different, that’s why.

With this comes some degree of triumph. Finally, emotional suffering is receiving the authorized consideration it deserves. Finally, the experiences of the mentally unwell and unique are being legitimately acknowledged without judgement nor humiliation. Finally, messed up emotion has a way of being classified, clarified, and managed. No longer are you alone with your suffering nor are you criticized for having it. After years and years of not being supported for your extreme, “inappropriate” and inopportune emotion and behaviour, now, with this diagnosis from this credible and helpful professional, you finally have a right to feel the way you feel. Learning that your emotion is a disorder that happens to you, removes the fallacy of blame for being “bad” or “weird” or “messed up” or “needy”. Maybe, for the first time in your life, you get the message that it’s not your fault that you feel the way you feel and act the way you do, that you have a disease, and it’s the cause of it.

The initial reaction to having your emotionality validated this way is to ease off it. Without the need to defend yourself, you feel relief. You feel ok, at least temporarily. But soon after this form of validation is provided, you will invariably experience an increase of negative emotion due to the specific paradoxical predicament of attaining relief from being told that, well, you’re sick. Getting informed that you have a “disorder of the emotion” is not like being told you have a disorder of the pancreas or the liver. Your emotion affects your thinking, your feeling, your talking, your being. If your emotion is disordered, it might as well be you that’s disordered.

The pathologizing of emotion is an insidious process that begins with a lot of emotion and, ultimately, ends with more. Emotion is not a disorder, but once you invest in the idea that your feelings and your psychology are a function of an illness—not to mention the mental health system that supports it as such—you are hard pressed to let go of it. Losing your mental disorder means losing the frame that has upheld you with “diagnostic veracity”. It means losing the support of those who have finally acknowledged you now that you’re “legit”. It means losing the sick and special identity it has provided. To adopt an understanding of emotion that emphasizes normalcy removes all the backing that came with being able to address it in a way that people listen: as a medical problem.

For all the positivity that comes with destigmatization and an overall rise of consciousness surrounding maladaptive emotion and debilitating trauma, there is an emerging wariness: mental health recognition is resulting in a whole lot of awareness, but not a whole lot of wellness.

***

Animal Theory of Emotion was developed over the course of a decade, while working with more than a thousand patients diagnosed with “mental disorders”—groups of them, together, seeking treatment for illnesses that most of them embraced for the very reason they “had” them: the need for support, validation, reassurance, and care. The irony was sobering, and it inspired a powerful motivation to rid people of their sick identities by insisting not only that they were not disordered and divergent, but that no one was, with regards to emotion. That everyone has emotion, that emotion is an evolutionary condition, not a medical one, and too much emotion—suffering—is the human condition, a part of being a person that we all must manage in varying degrees. That everyone is subject to emotion because that’s what it is to be a person in need of surviving.

Animal Theory of Emotion is the principle that when you’re emotional, you’re not sick, messed up, broken, crazy—you’re just overprotecting yourself out of instinct: you’re on animal.

Emotion is not a disorder, it is a distortion: an amplified mental mistake that occurs when your evolved mind is hijacked by your primal impulses and has you thinking you need to make a survival move, even though you don’t. When you have anger, you are just fighting. When you have shame, you are just fleeing. When you have disgust, you are just flinching. When you are depressed, you are just playing dead. When you experience fear, you are just freezing. Every negative emotion in your mind maps onto a basic animal move that your ancestors needed for survival in the wild but have no use for you as a rational creature in a civilized world.

Emotion is not a complex thought pattern, it is simply feel-thought—thought had while feeling the urge to survive—that is psychologically produced because of advanced cerebral ability, not survival necessity. You have emotion as a result of being an animal that intellectually advanced to the point of not regularly needing to use instincts. Your mind evolved for civilized living, not do-or-die reactivity, and it can’t manage the raw system of your basic animal. It’s like you have an iOs1 hooked up to an iOs17: it just can’t compute. Your animal’s energetic cues are not needed, but they sound off anyway, and when they do, your intellect is stuck managing them. It spins them and distorts them and, in an effort to make sure you’re fit for survival on abstract levels, insists on engaging your animal energy. The result is an overly energized thought process, circuitous and relentless, known as obsession, rumination, and intrusive thought. The more your mind engages your animal, the more your body prepares for survival, with energy meant for making moves, energy that you feel as feelings, revving up for survival with blood pumping, arteries constricting, gastric juices circulating, etc. This energy drives your thinking, convincing you that you need to make a move for survival. But when there’s no actual danger, there’s just nothing urgent to do: if there was a true life-or-death emergency, you wouldn’t be thinking at all—just acting.

Everyone is on animal sometimes, but if you have intense and frequent emotion, it’s not because there is something neurologically or chemically disordered about you, it’s because you never received the developmental message that you didn’t need protection and that, in fact, you are ok, and continue to protect yourself, needlessly, just in case. Emotion is not something you have as a trait, like height or eye colour or intelligence. It is not modelled or learned from your environment. And it is most certainly not a chemical aberration that makes you sick.

Emotion is your inner engine that activates for your survival. It is a survival process, not a personal, genetic, or medical condition. Classifying emotions and behaviours—and the personality that stems from them—as disorders is essentially defining surviving as sickness.

You don’t skip work because you’re lazy, you skip work because, in your survival state, you think you need to avoid. You don’t punch the wall because you’re crazy, you punch the wall because, in your survival state, you think you need to attack. You don’t spy on your ex-boyfriend for hours of your day because you have a personality disorder, you do it because in your survival state, you think you need to check. You don’t smoke a gram of weed every day because you’re an addict, you do it because, in your survival state, you think you need to change the thinking patterns of sadness. You don’t block-out sound with noise-cancelling headphones because you’re autistic, you do it because, in your survival state, you think you need you need to shut down. You do not “have” ADHD. You do not “have” OCD. You not “have” PTSD. You don’t have it because no one has it, and no one has it because it is not something to have.  You become aggressive, avoidant, disgusted, depressed, and anxious out a perceived animal need to protect yourself.

Animal Theory is the idea that no matter how intense and frequent your emotions and the reactive behaviours are, they are never sicknesses, impairments or even character flaws, nor are they important aspects of the self that require attention and examination—they are simply mental mistakes that need to be disengaged and disregarded.

Challenging the harmful and unproven paradigm of mental disorder, Animal Theory offers a normal, primal explanation of what it is to have excessive feelings and, ultimately, what it is to be emotional at all. Animal Theory is about shedding your animal and recognizing that no matter how legitimate your emotional urges seem, they are always exaggerated and misrepresentative.

So long as you’re not actually in danger, you’re fundamentally ok and won’t benefit from your survival energy. You are never better on animal and will be far more effective navigating your life with calm reason than with raw instinct. The best thing to do when you’re on animal, is to get off animal.

Emotions don’t need to be indulged, investigated, or diagnosed—they just need to be tamed. When you appreciate the distorted nature of emotion, you can grasp the futility of it, and successfully work to reduce it. Ultimately, managing your mental health is an existential undertaking that requires embracing the primitivity of being a person and accepting that, despite the evolutionary discrepancy between you and other living creatures on a cerebral level, you are still just an animal trying to survive, but for the most part, don’t need to be.

***

Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.

***

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16 COMMENTS

  1. My sanity/insanity has been completely determined by the projections of professionals who decide what they are looking for and of course find just that, because of course they couldn’t find anything else because they’re not looking for it. In other words, if the diagnostician looks for my insanity and treats me as if I’m insane, or like a child (I’m still pretty sure after all these years I’m not one), they invariably confirm for themself that they should treat me like a child, e.g., lie to me, manipulate me, try to trick me, all for my own good, and I get confused and in their eyes that’s proof of my mental illness, which, they’re right, it is now. It’s infuriating and it–ironically–drives me crazy. Once in a while someone will wonder if maybe I’m not insane, and when they treat me like that they find that they are right! In that sense, I find this piece very validating.

    That being said, I’m not ready to go as far as the Dr. in reducing human emotions to unnecessary remnants of our primitive animal nature. We should be anxious for our survival as a species, and we should really be anxious about the accelerated process of dehumanization that we are all being subjected to, one which pathologizes so much deviation as “deviant” without considering that maybe these ways of being in the world really actually do tell us something about our world, and are therefore needed, vital, healthy: prophetic. We need to acknowledge the validity and value of our emotions as to integrate them and transcend ourselves that way, not by jettisoning them.

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  2. I don’t see a big difference in this kind of reasoning. Mistake means something is wrong and we need to make it right. Now we are going to say someone is more like an animal and the other is more human – meaning: being more like animal is worse than being a human. To give an example: my depressive and anxious reactions are not only totally logical for me, but mostly very adequate (not exaggerated). Civilized world? What does it mean?

    We do not yet have research that tells us how often people and animals kill out of jealousy or envy. But even if people do it less often in the literal sense, we can kill ourselves psychologically: we slander ourselves, we tell lies about ourselves – can you measure which type of harm is more severe?
    We live in a human world where there are thousands of different approaches to different political and social topics, different beliefs about how to organize life on earth, or what happens after death, many people believe that they have the only right answers to how to manage our lives and we call each other idiots if someone has a different view on a certain topic, e.g. economic management of a given country, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia. In our reality there is a lot of room for different opinions, pluralism and relativism. Unfortunately, this results in endless dissonances, quarrels and clashes. How can you not experience fear, depression and despair in such a “civilized” reality? We have been regularly fighting life-and-death wars with each other for thousands of years in our civilized world. How to stay calm in such a reality? How can we want to send new lives to such a reality?
    No, these are not mistakes or errors either, unless we call sending new beings to this dangerous, unpredictable, painful physics of reality a mistake.
    I don’t believe at all that being a human is better than being an animal. I would love for this to be the case, but history tells us otherwise. Yes we can build planes and even fly into space, that is wonderful. But we can also drop atomic bombs on each other and create elaborate lies to destroy other people.

    Vegetarianism, veganism? Plants are also living organisms, the survival of each of us is built on being a killer. Such philosophical reflections can really lead to resignation.

    Of course, we have to somehow manage our human jungle, but it is still a jungle, civilized in some sense, but the physics of reality is constant. And above all, the reality, the physics itself is the crazy one. I will never send any new being into this world.

    For a long time, I truly believed that the end of World War II was the end of our human “animal” stage. Since the war in Ukraine and in Gaza, I know that these were my illusions and dreams of a child. How, having knowledge about the nature of reality, chemistry, animals or people, do we decide to send children to experience this crazy life-death journey?

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  3. I think you make some excellent points here. But I don’t like what seems to be a wholesale dismissal of emotions as archaic leftovers from our animal existence. Emotions give us information about what is happening. Yes, we need to be able to handle our emotions without flipping out constantly, but it can be very helpful to investigate them, especially if they seem to have patterns. Because that can help figure out the best ways to handle them. I don’t believe it’s helpful or healthy to view our emotions as distorted and futile and reductive: without our emotions, we’d have little motivation to care for anything at all.

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  4. DSM disorders “are for everyone, available to everyone and almost universally used to define, characterize, and diagnose everyone’s periodic and patterned moods.

    “This is possible because the DSM’s diagnostic criteria is very relatable” [but NOT remotely scientifically reliable or valid].

    https://psychrights.org/2013/130429NIMHTransformingDiagnosis.htm

    “The lists of required emotional provisions are everyday human patterns that everyone engages at least sometimes. So much so, for someone suffering with a lot of emotion, a psychiatric diagnosis is not just available, it’s alluring, and often, extremely validating.”

    But NOT for those of us, who had all the legitimate distress, caused by 9/11/2001, fraudulently blamed on an unprovable “chemical imbalance,” in my brain alone … by a psychologist.

    And also NOT for those of us who were DSM defamed, to cover up the sexual assault of our beloved child … because the scientifically “invalid” DSM deluded psychologists “partnered” with the mainstream, paternalistic, systemic child abuse covering up religions, long ago.

    https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2019/01/23/18820633.php?fbclid=IwAR2-cgZPcEvbz7yFqMuUwneIuaqGleGiOzackY4N2sPeVXolwmEga5iKxdo

    https://books.google.com/books?id=xI01AlxH1uAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=
    onepage&q&f=false

    “the DSM has become an exciting encyclopedia of self discovery used by everyone who wants to ‘really understand’ themselves.”

    No, it’s a scientifically “invalid bible” billing system for all who utilize the “invalid” DSM, to profiteer off of covering up, the systemic child abuse covering up crimes, of the paternalistic religions, including the psychiatrists.

    https://www.madinamerica.com/2016/04/heal-for-life/

    No offense, Ilana, but you have a very naive perspective. I was young and naive long ago too … and made the mistake of trusting in doctors, pastors, and my former husband … all of whom were systemic, paternalistic, child abuse and rape cover uppers, of my innocent 3 year old child, according to his medical records.

    The non-medically trained psychologists are just as much to blame, as the systemic child abuse cover uppers of the scientifically “invalid,”psychiatric, DSM “bible” creators.

    I hope you young psychologists will some day understand why we need to get rid of the DSM, rather than try to continue to glorify it. And stop deluding yourselves, that maintaining the DSM (“the status quo”) is acceptable. It is NOT.

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  5. I know this comment will not be approved now, since my original comment has not yet been approved.

    But, Steve, I should have put this quote:

    https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/your-child-does-not-have-bipolar-disorder/201402/dsm-5-and-child-neglect-and-abuse-1

    In between the second to last “paragraph” of my last comment, and my last comment. So, if you can properly edit it that way, I’d be grateful.

    Just an FYI, Steve, your job would likely be reduced – but not eliminated – if MiA goes back to letting commenters edit their comments, for at least 30 minutes.

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  6. I don’t see a big difference in this kind of reasoning. Mistake means something is wrong and we need to make it right. Now we are going to say someone is more like animal and the other is more human – meaning: being more like animal is worse than being a human. To give an example: my depressive and anxious reaction are not only totally logical for me, but mostly very adequate (not exaggerated). Civilizaed world? What does it mean?

    We do not yet have research that tells us how often people or animals kill out of jealousy or envy. But even if people do it less often in the literal sense, we can kill ourselves psychologically: we slander ourselves, we tell lies about ourselves – can you measure which type of harm is more severe?
    We live in a human world where there are thousands of different approaches to different political and social topics, different beliefs about how to organize life on earth, or what happens after death, many people believe that they have the only right answers to how to manage our lives and we call each other idiots if someone has a different view on a certain topic, e.g. economic management of a given country, homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia. In our reality there is a lot of room for different opinions, pluralism and relativism. Unfortunately, this results in endless dissonances, quarrels and clashes. How can you not experience fear, depression and despair in such a “civilized” reality? We have been regularly fighting life-and-death wars with each other for thousands of years. How to stay calm in such a reality? How can we want to send new lives to such a reality?
    No, these are not mistakes or errors either, unless we call sending new beings to this dangerous, unpredictable, painful physics of reality a mistake.
    I don’t believe at all that being a human is better than being an animal. I would love for this to be the case, but history tells us otherwise. Yes we can build planes and even fly into space, that is wonderful. But we can also drop atomic bombs on each other and create elaborate lies to destroy other people.

    Vegetarianism, veganism? Plants are also living organisms, the survival of each of us is built on being a killer. Such philosophical reflections can really lead to resignation.

    Of course, we have to somehow manage our human jungle, but it is still a jungle, civilized in some sense, but the physics of reality is constant. And above all, the reality, the physics itself is the crazy one. I will never send any new being into this world.

    For a long time, I truly believed that the end of World War II was the end of our human “animal” stage. Since the war in Ukraine and in Gaza, I know that these were my illusions and dreams of a child. How, having knowledge about the nature of reality, chemistry, animals or people, do we decide to send children to experience this life?

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  7. Wonderful!! After years of experience with self-empowerment, private therapy and various relational workshops and being a recent witness to the terror wrought on our upset young people by the mental health industry which is so quick to capture and sedate them with highly addictive neurotoxins, this “Animal Theory of Emotion” is exactly what the world needs now. It is so correct. So in tune. So real. Bravo!

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  8. I balk at the idea that emotion should be defined as distorted perception. Such a narrative ignores the roles of trauma and stress. WHY are some people stuck in ‘survival mode?’ WHY are some people unable to regulate their emotions? Are their emotions informative about their lives past and present even when they are extreme? What past and present circumstances contribute to or induce extreme emotionality? What developmental factors contribute to resilience and the capacity to regulate emotions, and what factors disrupt it, so we can produce a healing environment? Is there really such a thing as an emotionless perception at all, and could such a thing really be equated with true perception? It’s so rationalist and hegemonic and patriarchal to say that emotions are beasts to be tamed instead of messengers to be heeded or properly understood. Reminds me of CBT: I get angry when my family abuses me because of my ‘distorted cognitions,’ and I get presently angry when I’m reminded of it because of my ‘distorted beliefs’ (epistemic injustice), and being anxious in grad school has nothing to do the pressure cooker environment and alienating system and my parents demand that I succeed at all costs to regulate their emotions, but with my ‘distorted perception’ that grad school is scary residing in my outmoded ‘animal brain’ (a Neuro scientific myth). It explains nothing, and while taking away diagnostic labels it is simply pathologizing wearing different clothing. It aids my self understanding and comprehension of the teleological function of my emotions and extreme states in no way at all.

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  9. My grandmother had Alzheimer’s, we family – as caregivers – experienced all kinds of reactions and emotions: sadness, dispar, anger, depression, anxiety, extreme states. These reactions are totally reasonable reactions/emotions.
    Over time we have managed to achieve a degree of indifference that I see more in animals than in humans. I don’t know, I’m afraid that in many cases we are in a stalemate, to say the least tragic situation in terms of naming what is healthy, what is sick, what is good and what is bad, what is right and what is a mistake. When I watch nature films that depict the earthly journey of various creatures, I am flooded with all sorts of emotions. When I watch news from our human world it’s the same. Both worlds can arouse delight and terror.

    We all are here to survive and die in the same time, isn’t that crazy?

    There are trillion trillion times a trillion lives in this world, we consume each other to survive only to eventually die. Human consciousness has developed so deeply that we are able to think and analyze everything that is happening. This amount of information and unclear conclusions is overwhelming and evokes a whole range of emotions and reactions. Buddhists say that being an animal is a lower form of existence and I would often rather be a fish or a plant that has no such awareness as a human. Whose life is harder? Better? I think we are all in a difficult situation. It is so hard to compare. It is so hard to be a plant, a fish, a human.

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  10. I agree that there is not illness but emotion. But I don’t agree with the animal theory. The problem of being stuck in a state of extreme emotional upset with intense emotions, isn’t a matter of falling into animal instincts of survival, that you need to pull yourself out of because you’re not really in danger. That’s way off the mark in my view.

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  11. I struggled with depression, anxiety, severe social phobia, adhd, and gender dysphoria for years and years on an ideology close to this one without any success, but when I started moving toward the theory of constructed emotion all that melted away. Like, nah, all my emotions were always subjectively perfectly rational, anything an animal neuron does is physically doomed to be. You change the conditions under which emotional self-flagellation is rational to those under which it no longer is, and bam. I’m still really avoidant but I’m no longer punishing myself and I’m a lot more comfortable in human interaction, transitioning is a hell of a lot nicer when you don’t hate your reflection and no longer fear the judgements of those who refuse to appreciate what you’re sincerely doing, and when you stop telling yourself “I want to but my brain won’t do it” and start telling yourself “I don’t want to”, it makes it much easier to create conditions that make you want to do more things.

    Dividing yourself into tamer and beast is schizoid bs anyway. Just be the beast!

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  12. Illana
    This is spot on…I have been watching some videos by James Francis who began working with abused, neglected horses and other animals. He developed the Trust-Technique. His work is remarkable and clearly has benefits for people.

    Thanks for your valuable insight…

    Jim

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  13. I think there is a contradiction in the article’s thesis. if emotions are just remnants from humans’ animal past and if they don’t have a necessary and true relation to their reality then they would usually be harmful to a person. what a person supposed to do is to understand the ‘meaninglessness’ of their emotions and learn to ‘ignore’ them. but if you accept these premises then very powerful, overwhelming emotions are really ‘disorders’ because what defines disorders other than forcing people to behave in a limited, unwanted way? there is little practical difference between modern psychiatry’s definition of disorders and the article’s definition of powerful emotions. you deal with both by suppressing, bypassing or extinguishing them.

    this theory seems to define human beings as partly animal but then advises people to reject that essential and necessary part of themselves. the animal is the servant and the ‘human’ should be the master. but isn’t what is specific to a human being is just a function of their material being, according to evolutionary biology? how can a single function of an organism rule that whole being? ‘the animal’ is the body. can you transcend or ‘leave’ your own body? in fact the animal defined in this article sounds more like a ‘machine’ than a living being. emotions are just ‘errors’ or ‘malfunctions’. but you can’t fix errors by ignoring them and emotions cannot be fixed or simply abolished. I think it would make much more sense to take the opposite maximalist position and accept that emotions are almost always basically ‘true’ because they relate not to actuality but to possibilities. the possible is more real than what is at a specific moment, actual.

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  14. The first half of this article makes sense.

    The second half set off my BS detector.

    It sounds vaguely sciencey while at the same time sounding vaguely like the kind of stuff being served up by gurus that promise to show us how to master our emotions in order to unleash our inner billionaire.

    Highly creative people are famous for being emotionally messy people. Our emotions and neuroses are inextricably entwined with our intuition and creativity. And yet somehow this fact always seems to be glossed over by those who would characterize emotions as mental mistakes that need to be tamed, even though many creative masters often have little mastery over their emotions.

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