Emotional Fitness: Daily exercise


Humans in societies exercise emotions in their everyday lives.


We exercise emotions by responding emotionally to events around us.  If we are emotionally healthy we tend to use more coherent emotions.  If we are not, then we might find our emotional turmoil inhibits our daily activities and prevents us from doing things we might otherwise want to do.  We are all sensitive to the emotions we have and those of the people around us.  We get emotional cues from other people by looking at their face, or hearing the sound of their voice.  Much or our lives is consumed by this relentless balancing act of emotional juggling.

Benefits of this definition

We maintain our emotional fitness by exercising our emotions through daily direct experience.

The main event

Our individual emotional repertoire is created and maintained via our own experiences. We model our emotional behaviour from the adults closest to us, including our parents, then our school peers and later friends and acquaintances, religion and culture.

Our day to day life includes a constant balancing act between different emotions that spring up in response to events around us.

Humans are social animals.  We tend to crave social interaction.  In so doing we throw ourselves into the vast ocean of emotional energy that is washing all around us.  Often we benefit greatly from small social encounters where nothing apparently meaningful has been transacted.  We greet strangers in the street, wave to neighbours.  Sometimes we just want to talk to someone, or see a familiar face, or gossip.  These all serve emotional needs.  They may well serve other informational needs as well, but there will always be an emotional basis to that too.  Like a duck who loves to swim in water, we love to throw ourselves into the ocean of human emotion that is social interaction.

We consider ourselves to be sentient beings: Beings that have feelings.  To have feelings is to be human.  One of the biggest separations between robots and humans is alleged to be the robots' inability to experience feelings.  We like our humans to be sentient.  We shrink from people who are cold and unfeeling, or robotic.  As mentioned in a previous presentation, screen actors are usually chosen because of their ability to show emotion and create a rapport with the audience.  We like stories with human dimensions and strong expressions of love, anger, happiness and sadness.  A story without any of those is like reading the telephone directory.

In order to be human and to have and express feelings, we need to exercise them on a daily basis, and usually we do, because doing so confirms our sense of self.  If we feel something and fail to act on it, we might feel bad about ourselves, because we didn't act.  If we don't express our feelings the way that we think we should, then there is a possibility we might lose the ability to do so and lose some of our sense of self.  Fortunately our emotional disposition is reasonably robust and consistent, furnishing us with a repertoire of emotional expression that we have little means of stopping, because that is who we are.

As a baby grows into a child and then an adult they learn, with the help of their parents' tolerance, patience, guidance and anguish, to moderate and control their emotions.  An adult human is expected to have the ability to manage their emotions in a way that makes them quite different from children.

Subtle vs Obvious

Obvious expressions of emotion do not necessarily correlate with emotional fitness. An overly emotional person may actually have little control over their emotions and may experience a lot of incoherent emotion.  

People who are able to pick up emotional cues usually only need subtle signals in order to get a strong message.  We all know what it feels like to get a feeling about a person.  We are all the time, giving off subtle emotional cues, usually with our facial expressions, but also body language, and then of course tone of voice.

Personal example

When I was young and emotionally unfit I could tell that people sensed it and being that way limited my social orbit.

Challenge to audience

Staying whole and sane depends on us regulating our emotional experiences to ensure our emotional health.  This is similar to our need to regulate our nutritional diet so as to remain healthy physically.

References and further reading