Thursday, July 21, 2016

Emotional mismanagement

Calm down!  Maybe not…

You may have  noticed that exhorting people to calm down is not very effective.  It's basically as effective as telling a child "Stop Crying!"  Every parent knows how well that works.

It turns out, according to a study published in  the Journal of Experimental Psychology and covered in The Atlantic and, that telling yourself to calm down is just as useless.

Instead, they found that if you are anxious, reframing your mood, via self-talk, as excitement led to better performance.

The conclusion is that transitioning one's mood from anxiousness to excitement is easier than transitioning from anxiousness to calmness, presumably because they are more similar.

This begs the question -- can this be applied to other emotions?  I can think of plenty of emotions that you might want to transition away from.  For example, when angry the advice you are usually given,  as with anxiety, is to calm down.  What would be a good state to transition to from anger?  It seems to me that similar states without the downside of anger might be "determined"; "motivated".  In fact this kind of emotional transformation is seen in sports, where coaches often counsel their athletes to turn their anger into determination to win.

What about depression or sadness?  What  state might you transition to?  In the two above examples you are transitioning from a negative high energy state to a positive high energy state.   Depression and sadness are low energy states, so perhaps we could transition to passive states such as awe, or wonder.

Of course, all this assumes that you have the self-awareness and the desire to change your state.  The foundation for that may come from awareness practice (some form of meditation).

Lots of interesting questions here!

Coverage in The Atlantic

#Psychology #Emotion #Performance