[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Do you consider emotions complex and bewildering?
I wouldn’t surprise me if you did. Many people present them that way, what I call romanticizing them. Making them seem complex and bewildering sells movie tickets, magazines, and books, unfortunately at the cost of making people misunderstand themselves.
I hope this series on the Model simplified and demystified your understanding of your emotions and emotional system. Just because emotions differ from reason doesn’t mean they don’t make sense. The Model helps you realize how each emotion makes sense in the context of its environment, beliefs, and behaviors.
Though each cycle is simple, because they depend on and interact with each other and there are so many of them, all your emotions together can become complex.
Imagine, for example, the simple act of choosing food from a menu (I was sitting at a cafÃ© when I started writing this passage). You might open the menu with the simple question of what you want to eat, feeling curiosity and anticipation. When you start looking at the items, you might start feeling more hunger. If you see several items you might want you may start feeling indecision or frustration. You might start thinking about what you had last time, how much each costs, what you had last time at this restaurant, what other people might have, what you ate recently, and so on to help you choose, perhaps raising more emotions of confusion, impatience, and so on.
You may also thinking about your diet and exercise, if you are in shape or trying to get their. Suddenly you raise thoughts on your identity, maybe your childhood or habits you can’t break. New emotions arise, interacting with the ones already in your mind.
You may also think about your budget, how much you’re spending, whether you should ask your boss for a raise, bringing up new emotions.
Each emotion and its cycle is part of the environment of every other emotion. When one simple emotion dominates your thoughts, you can focus on it. When two or three occupy your mind they may interact, but you’ll generally understand them.
Rock-paper-scissors diagrams don’t represent how emotions interact precisely, but they illustrate how the complexity of interactions grows with the number of emotions on your mind.
By the time you have four or five emotions, you have ten of pairs of interactions, meaning you can’t make sense of all of them at once.
When you have fifteen interacting emotions, you can’t possibly keep track of everything.
Despite the apparent complexity, you can still understand each emotion.
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