|This was an easy topic for me
to pick, since I feel it's the one I personally need to work on the
most. So much energy can be wasted on the types of negative
emotions discussed in our book that it can have serious negative
effects on any subsequent communication. Simply being aware of
these emotions and working on improving one's outlook can create
much better outcomes in tough situations.
On page 140 of our textbook, debilitative emotions are defined as emotions which detract from effective functioning. It is interesting that it's also pointed out that, in small quantities, these emotions can be helpful if they lead to a positive outcome or provide a bit of extra motivation. I've noticed that at certain times I'll become somewhat angry, but that if I'm constructive in my actions the anger was a postive force. For example, I've received a bill where there was an incorrect charge that I thought had been resolved. Seeing that the particular company was still trying to separate me from more money than they should have instantly motivated me to call and get it resolved that moment. Without that bit of an edge, perhaps I would have set the mail aside and forgotten about it, only to not have success in rectifying the situation at a later time since it would be too late.
According to our text on page 141, there are two sources of debilitative emotions: physiology and emotional memory. In this context, physiology simply refers to what we were born with. As I've gotten older, it's very obvious that this is spot on. When we're younger and perhaps in a state of rebellion, who hasn't thought to themselves(or out loud) "I'll never be like my parents!" But for better or worse, it is apparent that our emotional makeup is inherited. I find that, thankfully, I'm a mix of both my parents as it relates to many of the traits mentioned in our textbook, such as assertiveness, shyness, etc. I've been with my wife for 18 years, and it's interesting, to say the least, when she'll occasionally say that I'm acting in a manner which reminds her of my mother or father.
The second factor in debilitative emotions is our emotional memory. This is defined as a 'harmless event which triggers a debilitative feeling because it bears at least a slight resemblance to a troublesome experience from the past'. To me, this type of memory and it's effects are challenging to conquer, because of some negative perceptions that are hard-wired into my brain. Education is a perfect example for me. In high school and my one attempt at college, I fared poorly because I wasn't interested and didn't have a specific goal in mind. It had nothing to do with my intelligence, but for many years I've struggled with a faulty perception that it was because I wasn't bright enough. Now that I'm much older, and (hopefully) wiser, I'm doing very well thus far in my studies and recognize that my past grades weren't a reflection of my aptitude or abilities.
Another reason this topic appealed to me is that I'm interested in Eastern philosophy and religion. Religions such as Buddhism place great importance on our emotional state as it relates to our well being. Places like the Mind and Life Institute study this link and the effect it has on each of us. Instead of simply being a negative emotion, these debilitative feelings are viewed as "mental afflictions" that are "disturbances to the mind's equilibrium". If one has too many of these types of thoughts, their physical being will be harmed as much as their mental condition. One of their observations that I've found interesting is that they point out that when a child is born, they are free of these negative thoughts - it is only through conditioning they been to acquire these difficult emotions and negative self-talk. Being aware of this is the first step to gaining control of the mind and acheiving more positive outcomes from our actions.