The biggest myths about emotions, debunked | Lisa Feldman Barrett | Summary and Q&A

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May 29, 2023
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The Well
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The biggest myths about emotions, debunked | Lisa Feldman Barrett

TL;DR

Emotions are not hardwired reactions, but are constructed by the brain using past experiences to predict and regulate the body.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the misconception about emotions being hardwired into the brain?

The misconception is that emotions are universal and hardwired into the brain. However, emotions vary greatly among individuals, and are not innate but rather constructed by the brain using past experiences and sensory information.

Q: How does the brain create emotions?

The brain creates emotions by using sensory information from the body to construct a story about what is happening in relation to the world. It uses past experiences and knowledge about emotions to predict and regulate the body's response.

Q: What are the implications of understanding how the brain creates emotions?

Understanding how the brain creates emotions allows individuals to have more control over their emotional experiences. By changing present experiences, individuals can seed their brain to predict differently and act differently in the future.

Q: How does the brain's construction of emotions relate to mental health conditions like depression?

In conditions like depression, the brain's inaccurate predictions about metabolic problems in the body lead to unpleasant symptoms. By understanding that these symptoms are not necessarily caused by external factors, individuals can better manage their emotions and seek appropriate treatment.

Q: Can individuals change their past experiences and reshape their emotions?

While it is difficult to change past experiences, individuals can change their present experiences to reshape their emotions. By engaging in new activities and learning new things, individuals can provide their brain with different experiences to predict from and have the opportunity to be different than they are currently.

Q: What role do other individuals play in shaping our emotions?

When we enter the world as infants, other people wire our brains with experiences that our brain will later use to predict emotions. However, as adults, we have the power to make choices about our experiences and actions, either reinforcing or changing the predictions made by our brain.

Q: How does understanding the brain's role in emotions provide hope for individuals?

Understanding that we have control and agency over our emotions provides hope because it means that we can make positive changes in our emotional experiences. It may be unfair that we are responsible for changing things, but it also gives us the tools to heal ourselves and feel differently.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Emotions are not universal or hardwired, but vary greatly among individuals.

  • Emotions are not reactive occurrences, but are constructed by the brain using sensory information and past experiences.

  • Understanding the brain's role in emotions allows individuals to have more control over their emotional experiences and make positive changes.

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