Short-Circuiting the Brain

Emotions move us. What happens when we feel them strongly? Do we just move quicker?

Jonathan Haidt, a psychology professor at University of Virginia, researched the emotion that is the opposite of disgust (which causes us to withdraw and is usually caused by things associated with blood or poo). He came to term the emotion "elevation", which is the goose-bumps we get when we observe or participate in a great moral act. One thing I found intriguing was that when this emotion is most intense it can temporarily disable the part of the brain that monitors our physical boundaries (where our bits and pieces are in space), which causes the person to lose their sense of self and feel as if they have been absorbed into humanity and are intimately connected to all of mankind. Let's call this state ONENESS and define it as an intense feeling of elevation that causes us to lose our sense of self (and time?) so that we can become completely involved with humanity.

Mike Csikszentmihaly described FLOW as a psychological state characterized by the loss of awareness of self and time as the person becomes fully engaged in the activity. I was thinking that maybe the same phenomena is occurring within the brain here. We feel engaged with an activity, and if that engagement is felt intensely enough then we suddenly just start to FLOW. So maybe FLOW is a state that occurs when engagement is intensely experienced, and it temporarily disables the part of the brain that monitors our awareness of both self and time so we can become completely involved in the activity.

So maybe emotions experienced in any amount lead to actions (broaden and build theory), but emotions experienced intensely short-circuit the brain in order to get us out of ourselves (in the case of positive emotions at least). Now let's imagine this is true. What is joy intensely felt? Ecstasy. What is contentment intensely felt? Serenity. What is appreciation intensely felt? Awe. What is amusement intensely felt? Hilarity. What is interest intensely felt? I'm not sure... Finally, do these intense emotions short-circuit the brain and get us out of ourselves so that we can become one with something?

I'm going to be thinking about this. I'll blog when I come to some more conclusions.

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