How Can I Be Happy? Learn Positive Psychology and How Your Mind Works…
Emotional power is maybe the most valuable thing that an actor can have. Christopher Walken
The most embarrassing, shameful, stupidest things I’ve done in my life occurred when my emotional mind was in charge of me…angry, anxious, excited, doubting. As a result, I’ve spent 25 years studying ways to manage my emotional mind.
Analogies are a powerful means to help us understand the emotional mind. One of the best analogies to help you understand your mind – the relationship between emotions, moods, thoughts and temperament is that of an intense broadway play.
If you think of your emotional life as a play on stage, emotions are the actors that move quickly around the stage, speaking in short and energetic bursts. Each of the actors temporarily acts out the role of an emotion such as anger, surprise, or contentment. The actors temporarily embody emotions that are positive, negative or neutral.
Perhaps most importantly, you can feel more than one emotion simultaneously, just as if you have several actors on stage at once. There are layers of emotions…afraid of your anger, guilty about your lust, curious about your pride, and so on.
As an actor, there is room for a certain amount of creativity, but you’re always ultimately going to be saying somebody else’s words. – Daniel Radcliffe
One theory of emotions is that they are action scripts that have been around for millions of years. Intense emotions, such as rage, dictate how one responds to certain situations. In a very real sense, you are ‘saying somebody else’s words.’
The actor is in the hands of a lot of other people, over which he has no control. William Shatner
Emotions are often experienced as a loss of control, something over which we have no control. Many clients have told me that anger overtook them in less than a second. Some have said that they don’t remember what they did while angry. Others have shared that it felt as if they were possessed.
Emotions are short in duration, lasting seconds to minutes. Emotions have a cause such as losing a family pet (grief) or observing earth from space (awe). And emotions have visceral, bodily sensations associated with them (e.g., throat constriction, heart rate increase, perspiration, shoulders pulled back, chin elevation, etc.).
Moods are like individual elements of scenery that are rolled on and off the stage with each scene. The scenic elements “set the stage” for the scene. The scenic elements may create an ominous and scary setting. Or they may create a peaceful, sunny and relaxed environment. The scenic elements change every act and may change many times during the course of the play. Moods are like emotions stretched thin over time. For example, anger stretched thin is irritability. Fear stretched thin is anxiety. Happiness stretched thin is contentment.
Moods don’t typically have a cause. They just are. Some days you wake up in a stressful ‘scene’ and other days a pleasant one.
Temperament is the large screen that serves as the background for the entire first act or the entire play. The backdrop separates the front of the stage, where the play takes place, from backstage, and the area where many activities are happening at a rapid pace to create the illusion of reality out on stage. Temperament ranges from pessimistic to optimistic.
The director is like the rational, thinking mind who has some control over the direction of the actors and the play. The good news is that the director can learn to have greater influence over the actors in the heat of the moment. Yet even the director can be overcome with emotion at times. And when the director loses her cool, it’s best to yell ‘cut’ and take a break so everyone can start anew.
About the Author
John Schinnerer, Ph.D., an expert in positive psychology, is revolutionizing the way in which people make sense of the mind, behavior and emotion. In December of 2011, he was one of three emotion experts (along with Paul Ekman and Dacher Keltner) to consult with Pixar on a feature-length movie in which the main characters are emotions. Much of his time is spent in private practice teaching clients the latest ways to turn down the volume on negative emotions such as anger, anxiety and stress. He has developed a unique coaching methodology which combines the best aspects of entertainment, humor, positive psychology and emotional management techniques. His offices are in Danville, California. He graduated from U.C. Berkeley Summa Cum Laude with a Ph.D. in educational psychology. He has been an executive, speaker and coach for over 14 years. He hosted over 200 episodes of Guide To Self Radio, a daily prime time radio show, in the SF Bay Area. He wrote the award-winning book, ‘Guide To Self: The Beginner’s Guide To Managing Emotion and Thought,’ which is available at Amazon.com. His blog, Shrunken Mind, was recently recognized as one of the top 3 in positive psychology on the web (drjohnblog.guidetoself.com ). His new video blog teaches people the latest ways to manage anger using positive psychology. (WebAngerManagement.com). He is currently working on a destination site to teach individuals paths to sustainable happiness via positive psychology and ongoing practice at HowICanBeHappy.com.