"I can't say I have control over my emotions; I don't know my mind. I'm lost like everyone else." - Richard Gere
If you haven’t watched Inside Out (sneak-peak https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Cn1pYnAZSE)
a Pixar movie, it’s worth viewing, not only for the pure entertainment value, but also the educational aspect. Imminent emotion Researcher, Paul Ekman, who also helped develop the Cultivating Emotional Balance Teacher’s Training (CEBTT) with B. Alan Wallace, was beckoned to Hollywood to give guidance on the facial movements for the characters in the movie. The movie illustrates only 5 of the universal 7. Regardless of gender, culture, ethnicity, age, we each will exhibit the same macro and micro facial movements for these 7 emotions. They are sadness, anger, fear, disgust, contempt, surprise, and joy (or called enjoyable emotions in CEBTT). Of course, there are many other emotions, more nuanced, that do have cultural, gender, and ethnic differences.
Sociologists suggest the evolutionary function of emotion is to save our lives and to motivate us to engage in behaviors necessary to form relationships. Such facial cuing had to be the same in order for understanding to be passed along our makeup for these reasons and it all happens below the scene of conscious awareness. Even if we are trying to conceal an emotion and blunt the gross movements on our face, there are micro-facial movements that are out of our control. We are caught in the grips of evolution and those around us will catch on via their own attuning networks signaling them “something’s up”.
Antonio Damasio, University of Southern California, has studied neural correlates of emotions and formulated a theory of Somatic Marker Hypothesis. Essentially, there are neural pathways that connect to the brain, going both directions to and away from brain (not a one way street), and it is this that allows us to have the embodied experience or maybe all to often, the un-embodied experience.
Our meditation practice informs us very intimately about these neurological processes if we are mindful and attuning to our meditation experience. If we are having a difficult time with an emotion and not so sure what it is, Dr. Paul Ekman might just suggest to you, grab a mirror and check out your facial movements. Ahhh, maybe you’re not familiar with those facial movements, then watch Inside Out and you’ll very clearly see the common 5 emotions we display on our face. The two emotions cut from the film are contempt and surprise. I think we know what a face looks like when we are surprised. For contempt, not to get overly politically here, but just check out the majority of Donald Trumps photos and you’ll witness contempt at it’s best (universal gesture is lip corner tightened and slightly raised).
Until next blog, enjoy the movie and may your practice be truly an embodied experience and your emotions held with compassion and lovingkindness.
Sherri Aikin is a Fellow of Integrative Medicine, Nurse Practitioner, Sex Counselor, Mindfulness Facilitator, and Life Coach.
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