Marc KahnThis past Saturday I attended the first ever Psychologies Magazine Readers’ Workshop at the beautiful and picturesque Groot Constantia. I had only picked up one copy of this magazine and enjoyed most of it. It’s exactly my cup of tea. One thing bothered me though was that this magazine is aimed at women. And I quickly sent off an email to the editor. Only to find out that there was letter from another man published asking the same question. Why this is a magazine for women because many men are interested in psychology. For god’s sake Freud and Jung were both men!

Anyway Marc Kahn was the first speaker and dazzled the stage with no presentation. I’m still in two minds about when to use a presentation and when not. He used a very simple structure for his talk on emotional intelligence and the word picture were vivid. There was also a lot of audience participation which is always wonderful to observe and participate in.

So the key question Marc began with is whether emotions are good or bad. In fact this is a common misconception he said as he proceeded to outline how perceived negative emotions can have very practical and useful benefits indeed. Emotions have thousands of textures and at the core are mad, sad, glad, bad and fear.

So now we can proceed to unpack them…

  1. Mad: you feel upset, anger or even pissed off. The colour frequently associated with it is Red. You feel hot inside like there is a rise in the energy-in-motion (e-motion). Your heart beat increases; your muscles tightens and the word that comes to mind is “No” or “Stop” and so it allows you to set boundaries. When you have poor discretion anger becomes destructive and you can experience Intermittent Explosive Disorder.
  2. Sad: When you are sad you withdraw into a place of comfort. You go inside to attend to yourself and to heal. When you hold back, you build up the baggage inside. So allow sadness to run through you because it’s nature’s way of healing you. The colour associated with sadness is most often Blue/Grey. Like with all emotions there are different shades of this one. One of the tragedies is that boys and adult men are not able to experience sadness as it should be experienced. It’s the old adage: boys don’t cry that leads to a tremendous amount of emotional baggage built up in grown men, and more often that not the anger that emerges is directed at their fathers. In women anger is often blocked because it’s considered, again contrary to what’s healthy emotional response, not ladylike to express anger.
  3. Glad: You feel happy, excited about life and like you want to celebrate. The colour associated with this emotion is Yellow. Think of the sun shining and wanting to jump for joy. The word associated with this emotion is “Yes” because you always give yourself permission to feel glad. The opposite is where you feel miserable – you don’t get excited and you feel afraid.
  4. Fear: This emotion makes you feel like running away. You can experience an adrenaline rush because you sense danger. It warns you to be careful. People who ignore fear take many risks and live dangerous lives. Living in fear leads to paralysis and that’s not good either. (Ramon’s own comment: someone gave me this excellent definition of fear once: False Evidence Appearing Real) Capitalise on fear by challenging those feelings. The colour most often associated with it is White.
  5. Bad: This where you feel guilt or shame. The colour associated with this emotion is often Black. Marc proceeded to deal with guilt and shame separately:
    • Guilt: This is when you feel what you have done is wrong. When you feel no guilt you become sociopath and you live out of line with what’s considered socially acceptable in human behaviour. When you are riddled with guilt this leads to neurotic behaviour.
    • Shame: You feel embarrassed about yourself and is often a reflection on how you see your self image. When you never feel share you become arrogant or a narcissist. Use discretion especially in what you say when you talk yourself. That little voice inside your head is always talking.

After the review of the 5 core emotions Marc took some questions and discussed briefly Depression. This is something which hits home for me because I’ve experienced it twice in my life and managed to overcome it. As Marc described it I realised how accurate that was: Basically it’s a complete suppression of emotions both “positive” or “negative” ones. And it often leads to feeling fatigue and your mental state becomes numb or empty. You feel flat. Freud called it the frozen fear because you are afraid of the consequence of allowing yourself to feel anything. So emotions are an entire landscape which to draw from. Most of use receive at least 12 years of education about using our minds but very little education about our emotions. Remember your emotions are like a tap and with education and with practise you can learn to open the tap slowly and close it fast when needed.