The Machinery of Upset
(Emotional) life is great when we feel enthusiastic, contented, peaceful, happy, interested, loving, etc. But when we’re upset, or aroused to go looking for trouble, life ain’t so great.
To address this problem, let’s turn to a strategy used widely in science (and Buddhism, interestingly). Analyze things into their fundamental elements, such as the quarks and other subatomic particles that form an atom, or the Five Aggregates in Buddhism of form: feeling (the “hedonic tone” of experience as pleasant-neutral-unpleasant), perception, volitional formations, and consciousness.
We’ll apply that strategy to the machinery of getting upset. Here is a summary of the eight major “gears” of that machine – somewhat based on how they unfold in time, though they actually often happen in circular or simultaneous ways, intertwining with and co-determining each other.
The point of this close analysis, this deconstruction, is not intellectual understanding or theory, but increasing your own mindfulness of your experiences, and creating more points of intervention within it to reduce the suffering you cause for yourself – and other people.
This will be more real for you if you first imagine a recent upset or two, and replay it in your mind in slow motion.
- What do we focus on? What do we pick out of the larger mosaic?
- What meaning do we give the event? How do we frame it?
- How significant do we make it? (Is it a two on the “Ugh” scale . . . or a ten?)
- What intentions do we attribute to others?
- What are the embedded beliefs about other people? The world? The past? The future? In sum, what views are we attached to? -> Mainly frontal lobe and language circuits of left temporal lobe Self-Referencing.