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The Four Types of Emotions | Study of Self
Learn how to distinguish types of emotions and take control of your thoughts and feelings. Thinking and feeling may appear to be natural but they may have toxic influences that keep you suffering.
Most people have a terrible relationship with their emotions, ranging from completely repressed to an inability to regulate. This is because even today there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding around emotions and the emotional center. This leads to all kinds of toxic behaviors and addictions. In this post we will go through the different types of emotions, as well as the consequences of some common patterns of unhealthy emotional regulation.
You can also watch or listen to the related episode on our vodcast.
The 4 Types of Emotions
Thought-based and Artificial Emotions
Natural or Spontaneous Emotions
When we learn to distinguish between these different types of emotions within ourselves, we also learn to deal with each type appropriately. When we cannot distinguish we may be applying the wrong technique to deal with that particular type of emotion which can lead to the development of blockages and toxic patterns.
You don’t need to believe any of the content in this article. All this can be experienced directly within you. I always say:
Don’t believe me, experience it yourself.
This is the only way to really know something.
The Emotional Centers
Before we dive into the different types of emotions, it is important to understand the term Emotional Center. This term comes from the system of The Fourth Way of Consciousness.
What is an Emotional Center?
It is the part within us that is responsible for emotions. Emotions are the result produced when the Emotional Center processes the sensory inputs as well as the current state of the body and mind. This center processes information differently from the rational mind which produces thoughts in response to inputs. The Emotional Center is located close to the physical heart and it is sometimes referred to as the spiritual heart or the heart chakra in the system of yoga.
Along with the Emotional Center, we also have an Intellectual Center and Physical Center. While each Center has it’s location in our body, each center is also split into 3 parts. One part of each Center is present in the other two Centers. This is what allows the Centers to communicate and align with each other. So we have a part of the Emotional Center in our Intellectual Center and another part in our Physical Center.
This is what creates the different types of emotions. The presence of the Emotional Center in different locations creates different types of emotions. These different “Centers” are conceptually explained by The Fourth Way system developed by Gurdjieff. If all this is new to you, don’t worry, we are going to explain the relevant concepts.
1/ What are Instinctual Emotions?
The physical center is responsible for keeping our body alive and moving. It regulates all necessary functions such as heartbeat, digestion, breathing, etc. Within this Center we also have a part of the Emotional Center. So emotions that arise from this Physical Center are called Instinctive Emotions. This means they are emotions that are meant to preserve and protect the body / self.
Instinctive fear and anger are something you have likely experienced many times. We feel instinctive fear when we are in danger, and we experience instinctive anger when we feel our boundaries are being violated. These emotions arise in the emotional part of the Physical Center.
While instinctive emotions are generally beneficial, they may have toxic influences if your Physical Center is not balanced. Meaning that you may sense or perceive danger even when in reality you are safe, and this will create a fear emotion even when it is not required. You may feel violated even when there is no real threat. This is why we may overreact or act out at times. That is why it is important to learn to discriminate whether or not our instinctual emotions are working in a healthy manner. The instinctive center is much faster at processing information than the intellectual center which is why it is difficult to control, but later we will discuss ways in which you can learn to regulate instinctual emotions when necessary.
2/ What are Thought-based and Artificial Emotions?
Emotions originating from the intellectual center are thought-based emotions. They may be “real” or they may be “artificial”. In general all thought-based emotions follow a 3 step process:
Trigger → Thought → Emotion
What distinguishes these from natural emotions is that they arise in response to a thought we had. Even though it happens mostly at a very unconscious level, we literally say something to ourselves that starts producing the consequent emotion. When the thought is not our own, meaning it is a thought or belief that has been given to us by family or culture, we will call it an Artificial Emotion. Because this thought-based emotion is not originating in you, it is planted in you. It may not always be bad but it is externally planted and we must do the work of identifying these artificial emotions and take ownership of them.
We were taught toxic ways to think and feel
We have been handed scripts throughout our life on ways to behave, act, think, and feel. And these scripts are internalized into our unconscious and running our lives. Until we start doing the work of consciousness development we have no clue how much we are governed by these scripts. These scripts are directly responsible for most of the emotions we experience and it may surprise people to realize that most of their everyday emotions come into the category of artificial emotions. And most of the artificial emotions are toxic and produce suffering, perpetuating our addiction to suffering.
Depression, boredom, and several emotions such as anger, jealousy, shame, guilt, fear, can all have artificial versions that are only experienced because of the thoughts we generate. The intellectual center is the slowest of all our centers making it the most accessible to control and change. It is still a very difficult challenge to transform artificial emotions because of the degree of unconsciousness in our everyday lives. The key step in changing is to identify the trigger and the thought. Once we identify this we can develop new thoughts in response to the trigger and consequently change the emotion that is generated.
3/ What are Natural Emotions?
Natural emotions arise from the Emotional Center. This is the fastest center in our body. This is why it is very difficult to control our spontaneous emotions. It is generally not recommended to control our natural emotions because the emotional center can process information and find a solution much faster than the mind and body. And what it cannot do by itself it will do by connecting with the mind and body. When we learn to allow our emotional center to work without obstruction, when we allow it to flow naturally, our emotional center can help us resolve great challenges within a few moments compared to our minds may take years to resolve.
Our emotions tell us exactly what we need to do to deal with situations. The problem is when this information reaches the mind it encounters all kinds of judgements and obstacles in the form of preprogrammed beliefs and conceptions about how we are “supposed to think, feel, act”. If we can listen to our natural emotions we will be able to flow through life much easier.
Emotions can be expressed and repressed. But there is a third option most people do not know about: Emotions can be experienced and felt without expression or repression.
This is the most powerful tool available to unblock our emotional center. When we can learn to feel our emotions without the impulsive reactivity, our emotions will inform us of the best way to navigate the present moment.
Mind Over Emotions
There is a terrible yet powerful belief in modern culture that emphasizes the rational mind has a greater value than emotions. Emotions are outright demonized in many places and said to be the cause of “unpleasantness”. It is unpleasantness that creates an unpleasant emotional response. It is the toxicity in our cultures that causes people to respond in ways that are deemed unpleasant. Emotions are just a way to deal with a complex array of inputs that are overwhelming us. The more we are forced to repress and keep our emotions “in-check”, the greater the build up and higher the chance of a meltdown or explosive reaction.
It is up to us to start creating space everywhere for people to have normal healthy emotional responses to any situation. Our discomfort around someone else’s emotion is ours to deal with, and vice versa. Stop taking the responsibility and burden to make others feel comfortable at the cost of your own emotional health. Give them the opportunity to deal with their own emotions.
You can choose in any moment to stop conforming to the “rational acceptable behavior”. Realizing that a healthy emotional center can help us to navigate life in a much smoother way will give us the permission to feel our emotions in an empowering way.
4/ What are Higher Emotions?
Finally we come to Higher Emotions or Unconditional Emotions. The Emotional Center has a counterpart called the Higher Emotional Center. This higher center is not given to us by nature or available by default. It is something that has to be developed through work and effort. The higher center is developed when we can experience emotions such as love, peace, bliss, joy, and other positive emotions: unconditionally.
The only way to activate and live in our Higher Emotional Center is to Sacrifice Our Suffering.
Sacrificing your suffering doesn’t mean “everything is love and light”. There is still pain and darkness. You simply choose not to suffer because of it. In most cases Suffering is an additional optional component of pain and darkness that can be sacrificed with Consciousness.
The Higher Emotional Center is not a polarized reality that excludes pain and darkness. It is one in which there is complete acceptance of the polarized reality and we can appreciate the beauty of the contrasting experiences. This is what gives rise to an unconditional bliss and peace.
When we choose to stop suffering we gain access to higher emotions. But the unfortunate reality is that most people are deeply addicted to their suffering and will not be able to survive without it more than a few seconds. And you may hypnotize yourself into believing that you are feeling good and you are being positive all the time. But this hypnosis is not real work. Thinking you are positive is not anything close to the higher emotional center. Hypnosis is a form of escape that many people use to convince themselves that everything is ok. But this only produces a lot more suffering at unconscious levels. And this catches up at some point because denial and hypnosis are not sustainable methods.
The work of consciousness development is to go through the painful process of breaking our addiction to suffering. The easiest way to begin is by identifying the conditions you have to experience positive emotions. Some examples:
“I will only feel love for those who treat me the way I want to be treated.”
“I will only feel peace if everything in my environment is peaceful”.
“I will only feel joy when I am doing something pleasurable.”
If you realize what these statements mean, you will start understanding your addiction to suffering. We suffer every time these conditions are not met. And we can say this world is practically designed to break these conditions and expectations all the time. We can also say this world is designed to keep us suffering, because it is also the world that gives us these conditions and expectations, and then disappoints us. The culture defines success, peace, joy, love, in conditional ways and then the world does everything possible to ensure those conditions are always broken. And so we are living in perpetual suffering.
Developing the Higher Emotions takes a lot of work to detach yourself from the conditions and expectations the world has given you and to allow yourself to feel the positive emotions in the face of all challenges. Examples:
- Developing perspectives that allow you to see the beauty in every challenge compared to seeing the suffering in every obstacle.
- To see the lesson in every mistake and failure rather than feeling the shame and guilt of not being good enough.
- To appreciate the uniqueness of every individual rather than criticizing people who do not conform to arbitrary standards.
When we start developing these perspectives and seeing the world from these new lenses, we are in the Higher Emotional Center. And this is not even the highest state of being! After this comes the Higher Intellectual Center which we will discuss another time. But the Higher Emotional state is so significantly and qualitatively different in the terms of life experience it is generally defined as enlightenment. And it is certainly a great degree of enlightenment over the normal order of life in this world.
When we start developing the Higher Emotional Center, that is when we start developing the first degree of real Consciousness, and only here we can start to regulate instinctual and artificial emotions that waste our energy and block us from living our everyday life in a higher state of consciousness.
Only at the level of The Higher Emotional Center do we experience some degree of free will and only at this level do we start having some level of objective perception. Everything below this level, which is where natural human consciousness belongs, is completely mechanical, automatic, and so not in the domain of free will. We are blindly compulsive, obsessively repeating the same patterns of behavior. It is possible to sometimes jump into a higher state for a few moments but this happens accidentally and cannot be sustained for any significant period of time. To have a sustainable and consistent experience of higher states of consciousness it is necessary to put in the effort over long periods of time, there is no shortcut, trick, or youtube / tiktok / instagram video that will enlighten you overnight.
I will repeat: You don’t need to believe any of this, all this can be experienced directly within you. I always say don’t believe me, experience it yourself. This is the only way to really know something.
I wish this post helped you to learn and understand something about yourself. Please feel welcome to reach out directly by leaving a message or scheduling a call, or comment and discuss more on the topic below.
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