In the first post of this series I explained the way the brain uses Concepts to regulate it’s body budget and construct experience. Check it out here if you haven’t read it yet, it’s a prerequisite to this post.
The second part in the series will teach you why this information is useful, and give you practical suggestions for how to use it to your advantage in your normal life.
When complex feelings and ideas are turned into words (Concepts), our brains are able to use energy more efficiently to both understand situations and share that understanding with others. The natural corollary to this piece of knowledge is that the more varied experiences we can label with concepts, the more about life we can understand. This is cool because it means that simply by increasing your vocabulary the internal and external world begins to make more sense to you!
The internal world is the world of emotions and feelings. Based on the context surrounding us, we construct emotions like any other concept. Emotions aren’t fixed or universal entities, they are interpretations and constructions of the sensations in our body and the context surrounding us. Anger is only anger because the word exists with all its associations. So what if we made new words, with new associations, and added them to our repertoire of ways that we can experience the world?
Make more sense of the world
Conceptual combination is when you take two concepts/words and combine them to form something new. The complex networks of ideas become connected in your brain and help to make more sense of the world. An example of this kind of combination is the concept Hangry. Combining the concepts of hunger and anger is a relatively simple thing to do, and as soon as you do it you have a new tool to use to describe your feelings. Imagine doing that with more feelings. Here’s a feeling that I just conceptualised to help myself understand my own experience better:
Bodyfold – The feeling of having known you should do something, and the past version of you wanting to have done it, but you break the decision to do it because of some bodily drive or small excuse without properly thinking about it. It’s the moment of loss of self control where you give in to your body’s base desires and feel immediate gratification and also a bit of self-annoyance and guilt, generally excusing it by saying you’ll do it next time.
So that was conceptual combination/creation, what’s another thing you can do to regulate your body budget and deal with life more fluidly? Reframing sensations.
Conceptual combination is really easy and versatile. It connects networks of ideas and feelings that perhaps we previously unconnected and helps to construct an internally more connected world while also making up some really useful and fun words. Another one I’ve come up with is Hungersumption – the feeling of hunger just because you are around food that you want to eat and people who are eating, even though you know you aren’t actually hungry. It’s the feeling of just wanting to consume something for the sake of it.
All of our emotions are created based on the reactions to the sensations we experience in our bodies and the contexts that surround us. From the information we receive we construct experiences. What if we could choose how we construct those experiences, or reconstruct them? We can. We have 2 possible responses to these sensations and contexts that can be utilised. One is simply not to react – don’t let the sensations turn into emotions that then take control of you, remain equanimous. This skill is difficult to develop but well worth it, although can be mixed with suppression (which has a negative effect). Generally this is developed through meditation. The other option is to turn the interpretation of the sensations into a feeling that is more useful. For example, you might be constructing feeling nervous from the context of the fluttery feeling in your stomach and the school setting and the people around you acting visibly nervous about the upcoming test. Make the butterflies fly in formation. That is, reconstruct that nervousness by turning the debilitating aspects of it into tools. The fluttery feeling? That’s also what excitement kind of feels like. Readiness to face a challenge, preparedness, willingness to push yourself, the desire to do something well. You can reconstruct the nervousness from the test into all these feelings. They are just as contextually relevant, they are still interpretations of sensations, but they become useful interpretations.
All emotions share something with all other emotions, and they are all simply interpretations. If we begin to realise and use this, a kind of power opens up, a kind of alchemy. Turn the energy that would be going into fear or anger into motivation or love. Transmute any emotion you want – all you have to do is be aware and consciously choose. It’s a hard path, and I’m nowhere near being even good at it, but I hope you can try it out and that it helps you. The book How Emotions Are Made will really help you out of you want to learn more about the way we construct emotions, and I highly recommend it.
I want you to flourish.
Lots of love,