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Related Words, Beliefs, Background for Choice #20

Worldview Theme #18A: Passionately Impulsive                       Worldview Theme #18B: Rational / Dispassionate

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: passion, impulse, neurotransmitters, instant gratification, emotions and consciousness  

for a summary read these 5 entries in order: rational choice theory, conscious vs. unconscious behavior, stoicism,
stoic wisdom, serenity  

adrenalin-- is a hormone famously connected to the “fight or flight” response. It is produced in response to a powerful emotional signal—fear—sent out by the amydgala inside the brain.  Before adremalin primes the body for a fight, the nervous system has already responded dramatically. The amydgala’s  production of excess norepinephrine and dopamine neurotransmitters floods receptors and opens channels. This disconnects links between neurons in prefrontal lobes and effectively turns off conscious thinking. Control is ceded to an older automatic limbic brain regulated nervous system. The details of this have been described in terms of “allowing emotionality and impulsivity to take over”.  In other words: thinking gives way to feeling and doing

aggression, origin and types of -- an offensive action, either physical act, verbal assault, bodily attack, display of hostility, or threat. If directed against an individual, it can do physical or psychological damage, reduce fitness, and limit freedom. The attack can be unprovoked and seemingly senseless, or it can be motivated by frustration, fear, or a desire to induce fear -- perhaps even flight -- in others. If the aggression is verbal, nothing more than a strong desire to advance one’s ideas, position or interests may be behind it. Or its origin may be rooted in a special situation or circumstances. Some of these types of aggression have been named, including 1) altruistic aggression -- aggression to protect others, 2) displaced aggression -- aggression directed at a person other than the person directly responsible for the grievance, 3) maternal aggression -- aggression by a mother to protect her children, 4) territorial aggression -- aggression to protect one’s territory

anger--a strong emotional reaction often accompanied by various observable changes in measurable  physiological quantities, body language, facial expressions--and verbally or physically aggressive behavior. This response follows some triggering stimulus, chain of events, or wide variety of situations--which the person who experiences it or them may think of as "what happened to me": being strongly displeased, inappropriately restrained, treated unfairly, harassed, threatened, attacked or something similarly happening to one's loved ones or personal property.  While some anger may manifest itself immediately, sometimes it can build slowly, simmering before erupting.  

anger, constructive expression of--Expressing anger constructively, being objective, blaming or not blaming others as appropriate, but maintaining self control and avoiding furious rages can be a real challenge. Before such expression, its goal--often to affect behavioral changes in a person, persons, or institution deemed responsible--should be clearly formulated.  If individuals with whom the angry person has an ongoing relationship are involved, good communication and choosing one's words carefully in expressing anger are important.  Use of "I statements," of the form "I feel or felt _____ when you do or did _______ ,helps others empathize with you. The degree to which a person can express anger constructively provides an important measure of emotional maturity. 

apathetic--lacking in feeling, emotion or concern; see also apathy

apathy -- characterized by a person’s lack of feeling, indifference, lack of interest, or general unresponsiveness to a situation where a much greater response would normally be expected.

conscious vs. unconscious behavior--distinguishes between behavior you were aware of and that which happened in such "automatic response to environmental stimuli with your unthinking brain taking over" fashion, that your conscious mind was unaware of it. This can be related to Freud’s distinction between the conscious and unconscious mind. If someone asks about what you are thinking / feeling or exactly how you did something, you have access to some information or details and can give them a report. But much involving bodily processes or mundane routines happens automatically. Information or details regarding these are unavailable to you--you certainly couldn't provide them in a report! 

creative thinking -- thinking that happens without words or logic, and can involve images, intuition, emotions, and bodily feelings.

delaying gratification--the ability to postpone receiving some reward and control impulses pushing for instant gratification.  Those possessing this are believed to be more emotionally mature than those lacking it.

discounting the future -- doing or having (consuming) something now, rather than waiting , or rather than investing the money you would have spent and getting a high return on the investment. 

dispassionate--calm, not showing emotion; objective,  lacking in bias

dreams--a series of thoughts, images or feelings --particularly of anxiety or aggression--that one experiences during sleep. While dreams have a long history--the Bible provides accounts of  several seemingly prophetic ones--researchers are unsure as to how to explain them.  Various scientific explanations have been offered: that dreams allow the brain to consolidate memories, consider thoughts / memories / feelings  that would otherwise be repressed, aid creative thinking, anticipate future contingencies, etc. Vitalists postulate that dreams are one way spirits communicate. 

emotional intelligence--a term first described by Mayer and Salovey in 1990, and popularized by Daniel Goleman in a 1995 book. Of interest to both psychological researchers, and the general public, its meaning is still evolving. According to Mayer, etal in a 2008 Annual Review of Psychology article, emotional intelligence concerns the ability to carry out accurate reasoning about emotions and the ability to use emotions and emotional knowledge to enhance thought."  Goleman's latest conception of emotional intelligence sees four abilities as contributing to it: the ability to 1) be aware of one's own emotions, 2) control those emotions, 3) sense, comprehend, and respond to other's emotions, and 4) help other's emotions develop in the context of a relationship.  Some feel that EQ (emotional intelligence quotient) is as important as IQ in predicting a student's future success.  The last decade has seen many schools mount efforts to help students build emotional intelligence. 

emotions -- another one of those difficult to define terms. Here are three definitions: 1) a catch all term for subjectively experienced states dominated by feelings; 2) the affective or feeling aspect of human consciousness; 3) ancient survival mechanisms to protect us from danger that have evolved to also include (as Steven Pinker puts it) " mechanisms that set the brain’s highest level goals."

emotions and consciousness--certain basic emotions that have survival value--fear, anger, parental love, and perhaps others such as happiness, sadness, and disgust--can function without consciousness.  Such primary emotions can trigger fight, flight, or appeasement without conscious decision to do so.  More complex emotions arise only after processing by the conscious mind and information exchange within the brain. 

emotions and the brain--stimuli are registered most immediately by the amygdala--part of the brain's limbic system, which is sometimes referred to as our reptilean brain since (in evolutionary terms) it is older than the frontal cortex it is connected to. This "alarm system" part of the brain can instantly prepare the body for a basic fight, flight, or (less dramatic) appeasement response.  A quarter second or so later--if time permits--the cortex can evaluate the alarm it receives, put it in context with other information, and more rationally decide to activate a full blown survival type response, or to put the damper on those preparations.  Conscious emotion thus involves this direct connection between cortex and amydgala, and indirect connection / feedback between these, the hypothalamus-- which produces and releases brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) and hormones--and the rest of the body.  Those chemicals can produce physical effects like increasing blood pressure and heart rate. It is this feedback which fundamentally distinguishes our emotions from our thoughts.

empathy -- concisely it refers to “fellow feeling” , that is imagining that you are in the other person’s shoes and experiencing his or her feelings, struggles, etc.  Emotionally immature people, in particular those who after experiencing so much pain as children have learned how to block it, may not feel compassion for other's pain. Empathizing with others thus requires being in touch with your own feelings.

Enlightenment, Age of—A period in Western European  history spanning roughly two centuries that emphasized reason and evidence of the senses over the supernaturalism, faith, and religious authority. It grew out of  Renaissance Humanism  and the scientific revolution—the threshold of which many put at the year 1600.  While one can argue that liberalism and democracy emerged out of it, one can also look back 2000 years earlier to ancient Greek science (the Ionian Enlightenment) and experiments with democracy.

envy -- painful or resentful awareness of someone who is more fortunate or enjoys some advantage

epiphany or darshan--the Sanskrit term refers to an intense experience that provides a vision or awareness of the divine. For Hindus, such an epiphany may be experienced when viewing sacred art, in a temple, or in the presence of a revered holy person.

fear--a strong, primary emotion associated with unpleasant anticipation of danger and pain.

hormones–bodily substances, produced in a specific gland, organ, or as pharmacology products, typically travel in bodily fluids and serve as chemical messengers responsible for triggering effects elsewhere. 

impetuous--impulsive, rash, hastily done   

impulse--in a behavioral sense refers to an act or response R triggered by an event or stimulus S in which R essentially follows S with little or no conscious control or direction. See also the next entry. 

impulse control disorder -- a condition characterized by being unable to rein in impulses or resist temptation to engage in behavior known to be (or potentially be) personally risky or harmful.

instant gratification -- the thrill that comes when you immediately get a desired something. Driving this is a childish “I want that now!” force. For some, this force is powerful enough to overcome the opposing force: a rational, restraining adult attitude that questions whether the desired something is really needed and whether there is money to pay for it.

insecurity -- lacking confidence and assuredness, feeling uncertain and unsure -- perhaps even unprotected and unsafe. Feelings of anxiety often accompany feelings of insecurity.



introspection -- the process of looking inside one’s mind, recalling events, memories, sensory experiences, etc, and after this mental examination, perhaps reflecting on the experience, and formulating action. This only gives an illusion of free will, behaviorists and determinists would argue.

intuition -- immediate insight that occurs without conscious awareness. To some intuition is an almost mystical process, or others a response to very subtle cues and stimuli received unconsciously.

jealousy -- fearing loss of either the exclusive attention and devotion of a person, or some status or possession , anxiety develops, followed by intolerant hostility directed toward the rival who is perceived to be the threat.

love--one of those difficult to define terms, since its meaning varies between cultures and, within a given culture, there are typically many different types of love. Here we limit the discussion to the kind of love that exists between people.  Whereas the ancient Greeks had different words for altruistic love (agape), love between siblings or friends (philia), and desirous, sexual love (eros), in English, this single word can refer a range of emotions ranging from compassion to lust.  While dictionaries may have multiple definitions built on degrees of and reasons for attachment or affection, attempts at providing universal, single sentence definitions of love are harder to find. Here are two: 1) "that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own" (from Robert Heinlein, in Stranger in a Strange Land, and 2) "the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth" (from Scott Peck, in The Road Less Traveled).

measured -- refers to behavior that is deliberate and calculated, not rash and impulsive.

neuron-- the specialized conducting cells of the brain, nerves and spinal cord--they consist of a cell body, dendrites, and an axon.

neurotransmitters--short-lived chemicals released by one neuron and received at a receptor site of a second neuron: an event which triggers a nerve impulse. They relay, amplify, and modulate signals between neurons--often leading to simultaneous activity in millions of such interconnected cells.  While a few are chemically simple, the rest are typically peptides, amino acids, or monoamines (including dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin.)  Generally speaking, neurotransmitters act much faster than hormones. (see hormones

Noble Eightfold Path, The--a practical prescription for behaving ethically, gaining meditative discipline and wisdom. The Buddha taught that following it was the way to end suffering.     

opportunity cost–an economics concept that puts the cost of resources used in a certain way at the value of what these resources could have brought in or produced if they had instead been used in some alternative way (deemed to be the best).  It represents the most highly valued opportunity forfeited when a choice is made

passion -- violent, intense, overpowering feeling--anything from eager emotionally-charged highly motivated interest, to extraordinary enthusiasm, compelling need for something to enfold, compelling desire, etc. If the latter is of a romantic or sexual attraction nature, the term lust is more appropriately used.  

pathos--a quality of something that triggers feelings of sympathy, pity

peak experience--a term used by Maslow and of interest to him in connection with a person becoming self actualized. Peak experiences are times when an individual feels a profound sense of being alive, clear headed and fully functioning, connected with his or her surroundings, harmony, spontaneity, and joy.  

pheromones--scent signaling chemicals excreted by insects, plants, and animals that trigger behavioral responses in members of the same species which use them to communicate. In humans they help explain certain aspects of sexual attraction and romantic behavior.   

rational choice theory-- holds that every choice that is made involves first considering the costs, risks and benefits--something perhaps true at times for especially measured individuals. Individual decisions are based on individual preferences and constraints (this gets at the choices available to them) and shaped by one's worldview (beliefs, values, etc.) It includes belief that the collective aggregate of all those choices is what drives societal behavior. See also measured and delaying gratification

rationalism–a philosophical orientation that links finding ultimate truth to employing reasoning

right brain / left brain--the two hemispheres of the brain are specialized for performing different functions. Understanding verbal communication, speaking, reading and writing, along with analytical reasoning, abstract and critical thinking are left brain centered. In contrast, the right brain is predominately at work during strenuous physical activity, non-verbal communications, dreams, and is called on for assessing spatial relationships, three dimensional vision, face / pattern recognition, and in making intuitive / wholistic leaps. It has been hypothesized that whereas the left brain processes information sequentially, “bit by bit“, in linear, ordered fashion, the right brain stores and retrieves whole patterns, in “all at once” fashion. Some associate different types of consciousness with each hemisphere--the analytical left brain’s being one very much aware of the passage of time, the mystical right brain is “in the moment” and “lost in space”. Emotionally, the left brain seems connected with positive feelings like love; the right brain with negative feelings.  It is important to realize that the human brain is incredibly complex, and that the above picture of right brain / left brain is too simplistic.  Thus it has been argued that only heterosexual, right-handed males exhibit the type and degree of specialized brain hemisphere function described above. In females, where the corpus callosum connection between the two hemispheres is typically thicker, signals travel more readily between the two halves of the brain and supposedly bring more “right brain” emotional responses!  

Romanticism-- a late 18th century  intellectual and artistic movement that loosened the grip of the so called Enlightenment period on western Europe. It was characterized by rebellion against various things--the rationalization / mechanization of nature, and social, political and aristocratic convention, in particular. Besides valuing rebellion, both in philosophy and art, romanticism promoted the display of intense emotions, spontaneity, heroic vision, and viewing nature with a sense of sublime awe.

self control -- generally this refers to exercising restraint over one’s impulses, desires and emotions. Often it can involve deferring a reward or delaying gratification. -- an ability that many cite as a sign of emotional maturity or even intelligence. Some see the process of exhibiting self control as involving a battle between different parts of the mind.

serenitythe state of feeling calm and peaceful, lacking in agitation or feeling disturbed. See also next entry. 

serenity prayer—from Reinhold Niebuhr: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

stoicism--in modern, popular conception this term means indifference to pleasure or pain, but its classical meaning connects with a whole philosophy. Ancient Greek and Roman stoics taught the importance of self-control, reason,  and courage in maintaining clear judgment--especially during tumultuous times when one might otherwise succumb to destructive emotions.  In general,  stoics seek to maintain inner calm, and have their lives flow smoothly and evenly.  Like Buddhists, they believe that life is potentially full of suffering brought on by passions and desires.  They stress that removing these--especially distress, fear, lust, and delight--is the key to having freedom.     

stoic wisdom / serenity / tranquility--"Tranquility is a certain equality of mind which no condition of fortune can either exalt or depress. There must be sound mind to make a happy man; there must be constancy in all conditions... True joy is serene. "  Seneca in Letters from a Stoic; "It is in the power of the soul to maintain its own serenity and tranquility and not to think that pain is an evil."  from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Book VIII;  "This is the proper goal, to practice how to remove from one's life sorrows and laments, and cries of "Alas" and "Poor me", and misfortune and disappointment."    Epictetus  in Discourses;  "Freedom is secured not by the fulfilling of one's desires, but by the removal of desire."  Epictetus; "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."    prayer adapted from Reinhold Niebuhr

stolid--impassive, lethargic, slow, showing little emotion

task oriented -- used to describe a person who focuses attention and personal energy on completing a particular task. Often such a person is goal driven and may care more about the cognitive aspects and mechanics of completing tasks than about related emotional or esthetic concerns that others might find important.

trust--with respect to extending this to another person, it refers to relying on the integrity, character, and ability of that person.  The degree of that trust is in proportion to the belief and faith one has in the honesty, good intentions, and competence of the person to be trusted.

trust and distrust--the biochemical basis for --Recent research suggests that the neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin plays an important role in people trusting )or not trusting) other people (including strangers) and co-operating with them. Oxytocin is released in humans by the pituitary gland during breastfeeding,  childbirth labor, sexual and other activities. Lab studies indicate this chemical and a related hormone are important to prosocial / joining behaviors—especially as related to pair bonding and reproduction. Oxytocin has variously been called “the bonding hormone,” “the love drug,” “the cuddle chemical,” etc. But recent research suggests it also has a dark side. Besides increasing a pair-bonding trust—what can be called “in group favoritism”—it also seems to promote “out group derogation” of those perceived as “other.” As one report put it, Human ethnocentrism—the tendency to view one's group as centrally important and superior to other groups—creates intergroup bias that fuels prejudice, xenophobia, and intergroup violence. Grounded in the idea that ethnocentrism also facilitates within-group trust, cooperation, and coordination, we conjecture that ethnocentrism may be modulated by brain oxytocin…” Other research suggests that those who are untrustworthy, or  have difficulty with social interaction, may have oxytocin receptor dysfunction. 

vivacious--full of life, animated, spirited


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