Emotional Style

There are dramatic differences between people in terms of how we react to life’s experiences.  Meditating is to observe these reactions without reacting.  It could sound a little awkward but to meditate is to learn not to react to our reactions.  By simply being aware of these reactions the brain will be transformed.  To do this effectively though we must be aware of our emotional style.  We all have strengths and weaknesses in life.  What kind of situation throws us off balance and creates the most discomfort in us.  If we are blind toward our emotional style it will be difficult to identify the thoughts towards which we are the most attached therefore the thoughts that makes us suffer the most.  Neurologically these emotional styles are reflected in terms of brain activity.  Therefore to also know what area of our brain becomes active when we react can help us to detach from these thoughts.  We won’t get involve anymore in these thoughts, instead we will observe them a little bit like scientists would study a fascinating subject.  Richard Davidson, a neuropsychologist, after studying people’s brain for years has come up with an emotional style.  He refers to it in his excellent book ”The Emotional Style of your Brain”.  He’s come up with six characteristics.  These are Resilience, Outlook, Social Intuition, Self-Awareness, Sensitivity to context and Attention.  Let’s look at them one by one.

The six Dimensions of Emotional Style

  1. Resilience :  Here Richard Davidson points out at our capacity to regain our calm and composure in life.  We are looking here at small things that happens on an every day basis.  Our flight has been canceled, we get in an argument with our partner, we are stuck in a traffic jam, etc.  These are things that will have the ability to destroy a complete day for some and that will be shrug off by others in a matter of minutes or even seconds.  It can be changed.
  2. The outlook dimension : How easy is it to let an emotional cloud darken our sunny outlook on life.
  3. The social intuition Dimension : How capable are we to read non verbal social cues in life.  Very often people don’t say things directly but the tone of their voice, their facial expression will tell us that they are grieving and would simply feel like being listened to.  Extreme insensitivity to these signals is a characteristic of people suffering from autism.  Where are we on this dimension?
  4. The self awareness dimension : Do we find ourself acting and or reacting without knowing why.  Is our inner self totally opaque to our consciousness.  Or are we acutely conscious of our thoughts and feelings and totally connected to the messages our body is sending to us?
  5. The sensitivity to context : Are we aware of the implicit rules that govern social interactions and that make a behavior that would be perfectly acceptable in one context offensive in another.
  6. The attention dimension : Can you screen out emotional distractions and stay focused on the tasks at hand.  Do thoughts related to the argument you had with your partner in the morning distract you to the point you forget what you are doing.

The following menus of this section allows you to test your own emotional style.  You can answer true or false for each of these statement. Typically if we have doubt about a statement, it means it is likely false (at least for me).