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Written by Alex   
Saturday, 02 October 2021 10:25




The relativity of understanding – emotional stability

Emotional direction and emotional stability are very important aspects of NH, but I have not approached emotion thus far in this book for practical reasons; it is impossible to practice emotional control if you have no former experience of the practice of control itself. You need to know how to mode switch, and get enough practice at directing yourself and your input, before you are able to do emotion control. If you jumped straight in at this chapter and haven't done what came before, that may be a bummer, but at least all the information is still there so you can catch up, ok? 

You need experience of what 'control' feels like, awareness of what it means and how to use it in concrete physical ways before you can expand the technique into different and more abstract domains like emotion. It is most important to drop the idea of control as any sort of restraint, and to frame it as more like a kind of game controller. You don't restrain yourself from using the controller. Sure, you'll make mistakes but you'll learn from them, and the more you practice, the better you get at using the controller and the better your game-playing becomes. 

To work effectively with your own emotions you need two things: this experiential understanding of what control is, and an experiential understanding of what emotion means.


Strange problems – misinterpretation

An explanation of what emotions 'mean' and what they are trying to achieve becomes necessary here, because our understanding of emotion is powerfully relative to our own experience, even though we assume and behave as though it isn't.  

That is, what I personally mean and what I personally feel when I say 'love' or 'concern' is very likely not the same thing you mean or feel when you say those words, but if we were talking together as strangers or acquaintances we would be highly likely to automatically assume that it is. We assume it is because biology expects it to be, since emotion is such a very important part of communication of information, memory and learning and hence one of our best resources for survival and thriving.


This relativity of our understanding - and consequent misunderstanding - leads to a lot of emotional communication difficulties in relationships. We tend to assume we understand people; that we are both expressing the same concepts with the same words, and often we only discover the gap in our understanding when something unexpectedly unpleasant happens between people and we realize someone is not the person that we thought they were, or doesn't actually have the personality that they appeared to have.  

Sometimes it's mutual; we do or say something they think is rude or creepy and they do or say something we think is rude or creepy. Most often both parties are left disillusioned and baffled about what on earth is going on (or if anxious, eager to blame each other for 'lying' instead of seeking out the actual truth). If all appears to be going smoothly in a relationship, we may remain unaware of the ongoing misunderstanding, and get a truly unpleasant shock when we finally do detect it. 

Why does this misinterpretation of each other's feelings occur? Starting at the beginning, what does 'emotion' even mean? In Latin, before it got to French and English, 'exmovere' meant ‘to push or move things outwards' i.e., to motivate. A bunch of stuff we feel on the inside (emotion) motivates us to say and do stuff on the outside (behavior). That seems a clear, simple description of the process that most of us can easily relate to through personal experience. Emotions certainly do motivate us to do things. 

And we all share emotional experience, worldwide. Our faces and body chemistry reflect the same inner generic experiences even when the words we use to describe them are so very different and even contradictory. Humans rarely agree on descriptive terms when they talk scientifically about emotion either, but this is not entirely their fault. 

Our culture, which gives us our language and its meaning, should also provide us with our emotional language terms and their meanings, however this is another area where societal conditioning has gotten badly in the way of culture, for instead of the everyday cultural examples of healthy emotional expression biology expects as a guide from the adults among us, we experience society's televised examples of fictional characters behaving badly, whose false sentiments are portrayed as normal and are modeled by real people who don't know they're doing it. 

If that sounds a bit strange and confused, we are. It's another double whammy of wrong input together with lack of good input. A domesticated organism develops a domesticated (fake) emotional vocabulary based on the input it is given. We've all heard about animals 'imprinting' with the wrong candidates (the chicken raised by ducks which thinks it's a duck, or the baby geese that imprinted on a human who ended up having to teach them to fly by taking up a microlite); and in effect this is what we do. We calibrate our emotional behavior according to whatever input is given. People copy the models of 'emotion', behavior and most importantly, 'normality' from a set of fictional constructs presented in popular media. We fail to distinguish between biological fact and portrayed fiction. We become very good at modeling fake, often melodramatic sentiments, and we call them emotional responses. They aren't. 

It may feel to you as if you just have to look at someone's face or hear the tone of their voice and you 'just know' how they feel. But in fact your brain is guessing, and it's using your own personal (and almost certainly parochial) input experiences from the past to make those predictions. You are the architect of your own experience and your own interpretations. 

So, how we see emotions on another person's face or from their behavior or tone of voice depends on our pre-conceived views of how we understand what these emotions are; on the unique, personal conceptual beliefs we hold.[1] Each individual, depending on which type of media and real life examples they are most regularly exposed to, will grow up with individual, isolated ideas of what emotions they (and you) are feeling, how these feelings are described in words, and which emotional expressions and behaviors are considered polite, acceptable and normal in this society (or sometimes, even limited to 'this particular family' or peer group, and their ideas of what is 'ok' and normal). If you watch characters on TV more often than you watch real people, you'll wire up your brain to copy those fictional responses and apply them to real life. If you listen to real people copying TV, shouting all day, moaning habitually, bullying each other, or yakking away on their 'phones on public transport, you'll come to think of this as normal and acceptable behavior everywhere. Some people only discover that it isn't after getting arrested abroad.


So, note at this stage in your studies that 'normal' does not mean good or healthy. If all pedestrians ran around naked throwing spears at cars, or everyone jumped off cliffs at age forty, that would be 'normal' for that society, but it would not be good or healthy. Likewise, 'natural' does not mean good or healthy either; smallpox, anthrax, hydrogen sulphide and cholera are all absolutely natural things with no artificial ingredients. We need to drop these stereotypical associations of 'normal' and 'natural' before we can really understand our situation and grasp the fundamental importance of input control; it is behind every form of control that there is, including emotional stability.  

Genuine emotional stability is absolutely natural, but in conditioned individuals it is not normal; we tend towards emotional instability unless we learn how not to. The only way to avoid emotional confusion due to past conditioning is via input control, in which you are doing two things: using new role model examples of healthy emotions; and categorizing new good input experiences to base your future predictions on. Emotions and thoughts can alter neural pathways in the brain in relatively short amounts of time and also affect processes like gene expression and aging, so do try to get the hang of implementing this as soon as you can. After you complete this chapter, you will know enough to recognize both healthy emotions and unhealthy sentiments, so can improve your input choices. 

We need awareness of these issues in order to understand a working model of emotion and relationships.


Personal experience and associations are also highly subjective. Input that's distressing or joyful to one person may be very different to another. A type of emotional expression or behavior that one person approves of may be offensive to another.

Across languages, interpretation of generic emotions loses coherence. Do I mean the same thing when I say 'love' as the French dude who says, 'amour' or the Turkish dude who says, 'sevgi'? Are we experiencing the same emotion? Does the concept of love imply the same feeling to me as it does to you? How can we tell?  

Between different societies, emotional expectations are often very different. For example, a wedding in some societies is considered a solemn, serious, grave occasion where laughing and happiness would be considered very rude. This is not a case of emotional suppression; those raised in such societies would not be feeling happy in the first place; they would be feeling grave and serious. Emotional responses, like all other types of learning, are subject to plasticity and adaptation; each individuals personal emotional associations adapt via input to what is considered 'locally appropriate'.


To add to all this general confusion, the specific words we use to describe our emotions locally also change over time. Here are some old english words for emotions/states of mind and behaviors:



Amity (friendship; affection, peaceful harmony, empathy) 

Care-full (full of care, compassionate, kind, gentle)

Couth (appropriate; polite, well known and familiar)

Gainly/gainful (gracefully, graceful)

Gormful/gormy (heedfulness, paying attention, alert)

Gruntled (comfortable, satisfied and happy)

Gusty/gusting (wellbeing, enjoyment, tasty, tasting)

Kempt (well-groomed, tidy, neat, clean)

Listful (desirous, lusty)

Nice (appropriate, fits in well)

Rectitude (rightness of principle or conduct; moral virtue, integrity, correctness, probity, politeness)

Ruthful (rueful; compassionate, empathic)


We don't encounter these words very often any more, but we still experience the emotions and perform the behaviors. Some of the opposites of these words (e.g., ruthless, uncouth, disgust, ungainly, enmity and listless) are also still with us, although they tend to be used to describe types of behavior rather than emotions, feelings or states of mind.


There is another strange area of confusion about the line between describing an emotion and a behavior; between what we feel and what we do. For example, we all know what it means to be patient, but who can describe 'feeling patient'? Our ancestors may have viewed patience as a part of rectitude, or or tenacity (staying power; resolve, fortitude, perseverance, determination), but we no longer view patience as an emotion in quite the same way. Likewise, we tend to view rectitude or moral uprightness as a type of polite behavior rather than an emotional experience. Caring, loving and persevering are all things we can do as behaviors, but if we achieve congruity they are also things we are able to experience as the emotions of care, love and patience.


Societal traditions also impact on emotional expression by normalizing cliches in lieu of actual feeling, for example when the neighbor says, “How are you?” they don't really want to know, and when you say, “Fine” in response you may well not mean it either. It's an automatic thing we are conditioned to do, so that everyone thinks we're nice and normal and we get less hassle. We become accustomed through this habit to disconnecting feeling from verbal expression, which creates both incongruity and a rift in those all-important front-to-rear connections discussed earlier.

'When you say, “Hi, how are you?” why does everybody say, “Fine and Dandy”? -Today I might be feeling fine, but not dandy...' (George Carlin)




When we lived in groups small enough for everyone to know everyone, and everybody roughly got along, if someone asked how you were they were genuinely interested, often because they were your close relatives or because they wanted a regular heads-up on the groups state of wellbeing in general. In a small group, there are sensible reasons to ask these things and to answer honestly. When everyone is a stranger, we don't really give a crap about honesty; in fact unconsciously we'd rather they didn't know if we're not fine and dandy...

Stranger problems - unconscious expectations 


'I have no heart to lie; I can't pretend a stranger is a long-awaited friend' (Neil Peart)




Many of us reading this live in a situation where part of our everyday input is encountering a constant stream of strangers. It's important to know that this badly confuses the unconscious, which evolved to believe that in general, too many strangers around can be dangerous.

We know unconsciously (and these days, perhaps more consciously) that cramming any living creature together with too many of its own kind, poor quality food/hygiene and not enough space results in disease, scarcity of resources, conflict, death and pollution. That innate unconscious awareness makes us ever-wary of overcrowding and most especially of too many strangers. Most particularly we do not feel comfortable around strangers when we are doing private things, such as having sex, going to the lavatory, suffering an illness or giving birth. We feel especially vulnerable during such times, and the unconscious deems that having strangers around is just not worth the risk. 

It's unfortunate therefore that these days most of us are strangers to any doctors or nurses we may have to see, and they are strangers to us. This adds a huge amount of stress to discussing our personal problems with them and being treated by them, and sixty to eighty percent of us consequently lie to our doctors, yet still confide in our friends or family with the truth about medical matters. 

If you ask people why they lie to medical staff, which after all is against our own best interests, most say that they want to avoid being judged, and don't want to be lectured about how bad certain behaviors are. More than half say they are simply too embarrassed to tell the truth. Sadly, doctors can't offer accurate medical advice or reliably diagnose problems when they don't have all the honest facts. [2] 

Teachers, too, have the same problem; most teachers are strangers to those they teach; it is rare to find a teacher known and liked by everyone before they start to teach. And the problem for us as children is that the unconscious drives us to show no weakness in front of strangers, so we can't easily admit to not understanding anything or to making mistakes, because we are surrounded by strangers and unconsciously fear displaying any vulnerabilities. Often, the reasons are the same as those affecting our relationships with medics – we just feel too embarrassed to admit any failing. 

And sadly, even many parents are largely strangers to their children, because they send them away at the earliest opportunity (kindergarten, daycare, school, college, work) – and when they get to the work stage, they've probably moved out. So we tend not to confide in them much either, and can often become closer to friends that we are to our own families.


There is a deep biological reason for all this reticence and apparent paranoia – the unconscious knows that for the whole of human history, openly telling strangers about any weaknesses has been a very bad survival move. For thousands and thousands of years, people who honestly communicated their weaknesses to strangers got invaded, robbed and/or killed. Strangers may also bring sickness or infection that locals have no immunity to. Sick people are also unconsciously considered dangerous, period, and unless they are the people you know and love, the unconscious feels a strong aversion to them being around.  

The unconscious rule is simple: we don't trust strangers because strangers are dangerous. Even nomadic peoples expect to see the same faces in the same places each year as they pass through, and a sudden influx of strangers in any known area would be alarming.


We have traditionally made one exception to this rule; we suspend our suspicion of strangers for large public gatherings at, for example, annual festivals where groups from many regions came together to trade, cooperate and party; because for as long as there have been humans, we seem to have been determined to party.


Such gatherings were (and still are, among tribal peoples) usually self-controlled with pre-arranged rules in mutual interest, giving groups a regular opportunity to meet strangers in a safe environment; a place one can boldly go to conduct barter and exchange, share news, take drugs, play music, dance, meet cool new people, have sex with exotic foreigners, etc. 

In context of large assemblies then, such as tribal gatherings, rock concerts, new years' eve bashes, free festivals and so on, we feel a lot safer meeting strangers. But outside these group cultural events, we unconsciously feel that having strangers around all the time is dangerous. 

This powerful, unconscious, uncomfortable-with-strangers feeling is seriously at odds with the way society requires us to behave, and it is also responsible, in those who are paranoid or anxious, for a good deal of racism, sexism and the like. 

Biology first notices if there are too many strangers around when we are around four months old, and babies make a good deal of fuss about it, much of which is ignored or missed or deemed 'normal' by clueless adults, and some of which can affect cultural interactions years later. It's a biggie, and accepting that your unconscious gets stressed out by too many strange faces is not easy to do. The idea appears to contradict moral ideals that we value, such as not being prejudiced and accepting societal diversity and variety as all equally valuable. But it's not really a contradiction; understanding that we are not naturally comfortable with strangers does not demean strangers in any way; it just demeans human overcrowding and overpopulation. 

Strangers don't feel comfortable with us either; that's what tolerance and understanding means. It doesn't mean that we like others or even feel comfortable around them; it means we mutually tolerate each others' strangeness because we understand that everyone is different and different people believe different things and behave in different ways. 

So rationality moderates our conscious awareness, but we never lose that unconscious unease. The unconscious 'difference' between known persons (regardless of race, sex or age) and strangers (regardless of race, sex or age) runs so deep it affects our fundamental brain processing; our brains literally do not bother to run facial recognition programs when many unfamiliar faces are around. It's a hard-wired case of 'they all look the same to me'. We look at groups of strangers the same way we look at groups of sheep; we can't easily tell one from another because the brain doesn't bother processing them in depth.[3] 

Research of anonymous interactions suggests that humans even switch off their automatic inclinations to co-operate and share, when dealing with strangers. We also tend to believe things and trust more that things are true when somebody we know is saying them.[4]


A second important thing that the unconscious believes which conflicts with societal values concerns reproduction. As far as biology is concerned, monogamy (the same two people reproducing regularly) is a really bad idea.



For gene pool diversity and robustness in a species like ours, offspring of multiple varied partners is the safest option, much as practiced by Bonobos, our cousins. If we aimed for optimal genetic health, most families would look like the example here.


Whilst most mammals tend to favor a dynamic variety of sexual partners, societies on the whole much prefer their citizens to stay in long term static situations such as individual monogamous relationships, and most of us are familiar by experience of many of the incongruous emotional dilemmas this causes.  

This biological/societal conflict leads to a great deal of deceit and lying in order to get any sex, followed by disillusion and a more than 50% divorce rate, plus a plethora of ongoing 'affairs' (ie, 'adultery'). Any society that invents marriage automatically invents adultery, because biology isn't having any of it; it will drive us to fulfil its needs even if we have to do it in secret and deceive those we genuinely care about.


The problem with this, apart from a lot of bad feeling, is that biology favors long term partnerships for raising children, and because we are no longer living in small groups restricted to specific areas, many of us 'lose' a parent during childhood. Maybe 'the one who used to be daddy' only moved a short distance away, but to a child's unconscious they might just as well have gone to Mars. 

From biology's pov, a solution for couples 'splitting up' would be for ex-couples to live next door to each other and allow the kids to choose where they want to be and when, but that's unlikely in a situation governed by the demands of work and school, let alone emotional anxiety. Ideally, biology prefers us to maintain stable, open relationships wherein those who want to raise kids raise kids, whilst everybody is free to have sex with whom they please. That's extremely unlikely to occur for as long as most of us remain so anxious and insecure, and so firmly conditioned to think in terms of our partners as objects or 'belongings' over whom we have some reproductive 'rights'.


This is a peculiar 'WEIRD' habit that does not go on elsewhere in the world. For example the rate of extra-pair paternity (where a child is born to a couple, but the man is not the biological father) found among Namibian pastoralists is 48%; a high percentage of couples (70%) have at least one child who was fathered by someone outside the partnership. They are absolutely aware of this and have adopted the attitude that any child born to a stable couple is legally theirs, regardless of whomever else was involved in the biology of the thing.  

Consequently the only 'single parents' in this society are those who are widowed, and they probably won't stay single for very long. There is no such thing as adultery, no jealousy, and a great deal less stressing out about parenthood.[5]


Personal = important

Yet another thing we fail to consciously understand is biology's idea of value; whereby 'personal' also means 'important', whereas in society this is not the case.

For example, society values the loss of large numbers of people as always worse than the loss of small numbers of people, regardless of who the people are; whereas if it's the lives of your nearest and dearest on the line, you'd almost certainly happily sacrifice large numbers of strangers in order to save them. Your own child getting hurt in an accident seems a lot worse than strangers' children getting hurt in an accident, because biology knows that your own allies are far more likely to contribute to your chances of survival and thriving than are a bunch of complete strangers. This tends to be the case across the mammalian kingdom. 

We will also put up with a lot more hassle and nonsense from those individuals we care about; most especially from our own youngsters, who can get away with doing stuff we wouldn't let anyone else do.



These three examples of biology's conflict with societal values show you something of the magnitude of the gap between society's ideals and biology's ideals, (in the incongruous, the gap between our conditioned, conscious ideals versus our biological unconscious ideals); and helps explain why genuine emotional communication and interpretation is difficult and why our emotions, so closely linked with our unconscious awareness, can be so powerful in affecting not just our everyday behavior but the course of major events in our lives.


understanding emotional reality

Our brain system learns by constructing unconscious maps and models of reality, fine-tuned and modulated by input. I'll explore maps and models in later chapters, so for now just consider that every internal map and model the brain imagines in order 'to get the hang of things', make associations and categorize things can only access the data input that is given. 


Variety in input data is not a problem for the system; biology knows that some creatures will live in deserts and others will live in forests, on coasts or up mountains; and a huge variety of input is acceptable as long as it's recognized. However, if the input data are unrecognized or wrong or missing, the map or model of reality (in this case, emotional reality) ends up inaccurate, and the system is then dysfunctional. Our system misinterprets others' emotions based on our own erroneous conscious (conditioned) beliefs. 

Emotion perception involves a great deal more than labeling multimodal expressions of experiential feeling with words that imply distinct emotions. The way that distinct emotional expressions relate to each other - that is, our accuracy in general emotional communication - is also critically important.  

For instance, suppose we found that emotions of love, joy, and lust could be accurately identified in two different people. If one person believed the experience of love was similar in meaning to that of joy, but nothing like that of lust; whereas the other individual believed the experience of love was more similar in meaning to lust, this would reveal a potentially important personal (or societal) difference in the emotional meaning attributed by each of them to the three expressions. Each has learned a different meaning for the same word, but each assumes the other uses the same interpretation as they do. Each would assume that their meanings for the word 'love' were exactly the same. You can see how confusion over this sort of thing happens in the following example:


Bob and Alice are teenagers who live next door to each other. Bob has emotionally stable, fairly sensible parents. Alice's parents are emotionally imbalanced, insecure and anxious.  

When Bob's mum is late home one night, Bob's dad becomes agitated. Bob starts to feel alarmed and asks what's wrong, and his dad explains that he is concerned for mum's safety, because her phone is turned off and that's very unusual. 

Over at the neighbors, when Alice's mum is late home one night, Alice's dad becomes agitated. Alice starts to feel alarmed and asks what's wrong, and her dad explains that he is jealous that mum may be having sex with somebody else, because her phone is turned off and that's very unusual. (More likely in real life, Alice's dad would lie to Alice and just say everything was fine, despite body language and other signals to the contrary).


Alice and Bob experienced exactly the same series of events and personal feelings as each other, yet one has been told the appropriate emotion they should be feeling is 'alarm and concern' and the other has been taught the appropriate response (and what they are feeling) is called 'jealousy'. 

Later, Alice and Bob begin a sexual relationship with each other. If one is late home, what is the other likely to feel?


During Bob & Alice's burgeoning relationship, both partners feel healthy lust as well as friendliness. Alice is well aware that it is lust, and wonderful it feels too. Bob feels just the same, but thinks it is love. That's what his parents told him these feelings mean. Bob has a faulty inner map of 'emotions' conditioned by examples given by dysfunctional parents and reinforced by soap operas on TV. He will misinterpret not only the emotions of others but also his own, by using this faulty emotional map.

These are the only input data Bob has been given. When his partner is concerned for his safety, he will think it is jealousy because that's what he would feel in the same situation. When someone fancies him, he will think they love him (especially if they tell him they do). Alice, on the other hand, may not even notice Bob's jealousy because she will interpret it as 'concern for her wellbeing' – according to her own emotional map. This is how emotional misunderstanding begins: with mutual ongoing misinterpretation based on parochial (or in this case, familial) emotional models.  


Our emotions and the words we use to describe them are relative; that is, they frame events in a specific context relative to the emotional state of the participators (and that of any observer). If we are taught to frame events with a dysfunctional interpretation based on anxiety, we misinterpret what others are feeling in terms of our own limitations. We do not all feel the same way about events or about each other, but we assume we do.


We all automatically assume that if we speak the same language we must therefore understand shared meanings, but this is far from being true, most especially with regard to emotions, beliefs and personal experiences. Example and experience shape our conscious language meanings, but we do not share an innate universal conscious meaning database, even though we do share an underlying unconscious categorization program.  

This happens to some extent with language itself; dictionaries attempt to consciously categorize and fix word meanings, but their usefulness is temporary for two reasons: very few people read dictionaries; and languages, like their speakers, are dynamic not static; that is, humans keep inventing both new words and new meanings for old words, all the time. Emotional terms are equally subject to reinterpretation as each generation struggles to express in words the experiences of what it is feeling.


We also vastly underestimate the importance of input from example and experience. Conditioning constrains and retards (slows down) our processing of meaning in terms of emotional language use. Consequently our ideas about emotion may well be parochial or familial, and our successful emotional communication may be restricted to those who interpret (or who appear to interpret) their feelings exactly the same way we do. On top of this, we also learn our responses to emotions by modeling, and if you model dysfunction you get dysfunction. Conditioning someone to call their 'concern' response 'jealousy' is like conditioning them to call a blue light 'red'. Either way, they're going to make a faulty perception map of reality.  

This is not particularly a problem for the unconscious; because the system can only respond to congruous, recognizable input, it is the frequency of the light (or the changes in brain chemistry) that are going to affect the actual system; it doesn't care about the details of what we call stuff. No; the area where this matters is in conscious human communication and interaction, because when you tell somebody else that you see a red light when it's actually blue, or that something measures an inch instead of a centimetre, misunderstanding begins, with all its attendant problems and confusion. 

If we're stuck in protection mode, we are particularly susceptible to modeling dysfunction and overwriting genuine emotional expression with the conditioned dysfunctional responses we come to think of wrongly as both 'normal' and 'the same as everyone else'. This is why anxious people believe, despite the evidence, that nobody can control their own emotions – because they personally can't, and so they assume it must be the same for everyone else.


To combat this, to re-educate our emotional intelligence or even to know whether or not we are making conditioned or genuine responses, we need a clear and simple map of the emotional system, what it does, and how it performs in a healthy context.  

This is the usual way of going about things in science: you assemble a baseline model; for example physicists and chemists have their Standard Model and a coherent periodic table of the elements to work from despite the complexity of the physical universe; so why don't biologists and most especially biopsychologists have a similar arrangement and 'standard model' for explaining the complexity of our emotional responses?


...Because, just like in quantum mechanics, none of us can ever be an impartial observer; whatever we see or hear or think we recognize as an emotion, we still interpret it via our own neural maps, and of course some of the scientists working on such a model think like Alice, and some think like Bob. Some people will label a facial expression 'surprise', others will label the same expression 'alarm' or even 'shock'. In any society where conditioning happens, experimenters will obviously disagree on interpreting what others (or themselves) are feeling. One researcher thinks a person looks angry, another thinks they look confused, or anxious, or embarrassed. Another researcher who is particularly paranoid thinks all the faces look threatening; even the smiling one looks like it's laughing at her in a mean, sarcastic way.


So we get a lot of disagreement about what emotions really are, about what they 'should' be if we're healthy, and about what is and what is not dysfunctional. If you're anxious, you'll interpret the face on the right as slightly unfriendly. If you're feeling happy and calm, you'll interpret it as mildly friendly or neutral. You're a participator in your own emotional experience; you're not an impartial observer.


The resulting lack of a 'standard' basic model (or indeed, a standard human experience) hampers research funding, since no useful products or services to assist emotional health may be safely developed without such a model. But a dysfunctional system can't map a functional system. That doesn't mean it's unmappable. If the world's greatest physicists believed quantum mechanics was undecipherable or some sort of divine magic, we wouldn't have that standard model of physics (or, incidentally, any GPS).  

So how do we construct our model of emotion? We can of course objectively observe human chemical responses, fMRI scans, body responses, facial expressions and brainwave patterns and ask people what they are feeling, but such experiments run into the known problem of around eighty percent of people lying to strangers and being wary of revealing any weaknesses. The idea of strangers being able to 'read' what we are feeling automatically puts up an unconscious red flag, so question and answer responses are unlikely to be reliable.


For practical NH purposes, what would be most useful is establishing a coherent, simple model of emotion based on measurable unconscious responses so that we can interpret emotional experiences in a reliable, coherent way; recognize when something is going wrong in the system, and understand what to do about it. So I have put together such a basic map; of an assumed healthy emotional system in growth & repair mode, with logical biological interpretations for what we experience as emotions. Despite the difficulties of interpreting what others are feeling when they are having an emotional experience (because we do not know their level of anxiety or their internal model), it is possible to form a basic coherent, congruous picture of our own emotional system and what biology is trying to do.

Removing emotional conditioning and tuning in to what your system is genuinely feeling is for some people the most challenging part of NH, but for me is certainly the most rewarding in terms of understanding ourselves and our responses and having more self-direction in our everyday lives. So in the section below I share with you this model of emotion which makes sense in terms of biological imperatives and, if I have defined my terms with sufficient clarity, will also make sense in terms of conscious experience. This provides a model for emotional wellbeing that focuses on specific skills which can be learned, based on scientific evidence that they can be cultivated through practice in daily life.

Operational moods – the elements of emotion



When biology designs whole system sections with dedicated processors, it does so only in according to need. So what functions are required of an emotional system?  

Every biological system evolved because it gives its species a better chance to survive and thrive. Imagination uses emotional code to indicate meaning, value and importance in our awareness and experience. 

Emotion is a code that speaks to both system and user, unconscious and conscious, inducing both physiological and psychological responses in congruity to maintain appropriate responses and direct attention, motivation and memory as events unfold. 

Emotional code attached to input is essential for perception, motivation and memory (and hence for learning, creativity, intellect, communication and all the rest). It is a 'biggie' in our system and in our lives.


Emotion provides us with the motivation to perform behaviors. Learning to associate pleasure with a tasty food, or aversion to a foul-tasting one, is a primal function key to survival.[6]  

Emotion also provides 'numinosity' or an hierarchy of 'importance' for perceptions and memories (the more strongly we feel emotionally about something, the more important and thus memorable it becomes to us). 

Every living creature has to be able to compute basic behaviors (move towards benefit/move away from danger; gathering together and moving apart); in order to survive. These are the sorts of simple behaviors one can program computers to reproduce and which can, with very little code, achieve complex effects like flocking, seeking, fractal splitting and scattering behaviors. 

To these basic unconscious behavioral controls, conscious emotion adds detail. More complex creatures like us discriminate between details of the type of thing we like or dislike. 'Desire' is no longer basic arousal; it can be lust or curiosity or inspiration or fascination or hunger or thirst or fatigue. We can feel desire to do all sorts of things but underneath all the details, there's still the basic command; 'attraction', 'move towards', 'gather together', because that's the code for the unconscious which has to move your body around to perform the required behaviors. Some basic behaviors motivated by drives require instinct programs, some more complex behaviors require learned patterns, and some behaviors need both. 

Emotion uses neurotransmitters to tell the brain what to do, and hormones to tell the body what to do at the same time. According to whatever imagination believes is going on, the brain may be directed to shift operational mode and the body must cooperate; programs have to respond to programs.


You already know about operational modes; both primary (growth & repair/ protection) and secondary (stretch, relax and salience; or if you prefer, closed mode, open mode and salience). From your own experience of being in these modes, you also know that there appear to be 'operational moods' that occur during each mode. For example, in open mode when relaxing we tend to feel emotionally contented, comfortable, satisfied and happy; in a laid-back, gentle kind of mood. It's an 'after dinner' kinda mood, and it's relatively hard to get into open mode if you are physically uncomfortable or hungry.  

Conversely in closed mode, when we are stretching ourselves, we often feel excited, aroused, motivated, inspired and energetic. We hardly notice discomfort and can even forget or delay sleep and hunger for a while. During salience, we may experience feelings of uncertainty or certainty, a sudden shift of interest, or that 'not sure' ambivalent doubtful mood in making decisions.


These 'moods' result from the system generation of the emotional states it imagines are most appropriate to whatever it computes is going on. Every emotion provides 'weighting' for memories, and the type as well as the strength and endurance of emotion are taken into account by the system. Emotions prime not just the brain but the entire body for behavior appropriate to the context and events, because emotions don't just prompt us to remember things, they also motivate us; they prompt us to do and say things. They make things seem 'important' or 'not important'; valued or irrelevant and ultimately, whether you do anything at all relies on emotional weighting. If an item has no weighting, if it has no emotional significance, it doesn't matter to you. If we are depressed, memory weighting and perception go awry because it 'seems' as if nothing matters and life 'seems' consequently boring, dull and pointless.


Emotion, then, is the way we compute relevance; which gives us the motivation to perform different kinds of behaviors as well as enabling us to remember things and prioritize things. Even having an interest in something has its basis in emotion; it is the desire to learn; curiosity, which motivates us to explore. All science and all art emerge from humans feeling nosey, awed, curious, inspired, inquisitive, intrigued, attracted or baffled by something.


How operational moods relate to operational modes and motivate basic behaviors

Modes, moods, behaviors and emotions are designed to synchronize and remain congruous, providing the optimal performance for different behaviors. If there is incongruity (for example if you are good at something but really don't feel like doing it today), performance will never be optimal. 

All archetypal behaviors (things that all humans do and that humans have always done) emerge in the same manner as learning, remembering, creating and perceiving; that is, they follow an algorithmic cycle as discussed in previous chapters. Emotion is no exception. Being creatures that thrive in dynamic circumstances, the system cannot tolerate boredom. It knows that remaining static causes decline, so when we have had sufficient time in open mode having cool ideas we start to feel an urge to act on our ideas. From there we pass into salience – 'what should we do next'? And the consequent decisions shift us into closed mode – we are now performing behavior A or B. 

Emotion synchronizes behavior and feeling, for smooth performance and optimal results. You feel good around someone or something, and you smile and move closer. You feel dislike for something, you frown and move away. When emotion performs as it should, life is enhanced and easier.


Bearing in mind the functions of healthy emotion, and the way in which all major system processes proceed, here is my model for the emotional system:




3 basic processing behaviors:


Gathering together


Spreading apart




3 operational modes in growth & repair:














Each basic behavior controls four detailed behaviors;

2 concrete (c) and


2 abstract (a)


Serene & Clean (c)


Create & Cooperate (a)


Seek & Squeak (c)


Assess & Impress (a)


Befriend or Defend (c)


Coordinate & Communicate (a)


And recruits four emotions required for these behaviors:
























That's it, but obviously, to explain this model I need to explain the terms used in it:


the behaviors:


'Serene & Clean' behaviors are for motivation in concrete physical domains such as self-care, child care, personal hygiene, grooming, cleaning and maintaining a comfortable safe space. 




'Create & Cooperate' behaviors are more abstract; motivating the psychological state that enables things such as skill-sharing, group cooperation, tenacity, communal activity, designing, play, humor, synthesis of ideas and creativity.


 The predominant operational mode for these behaviors is open mode. 


'Seeking' behaviors emerge from basic concrete drives like hunger, thirst and sexuality; exploration, mapping and marking, hunting and courting. In species like ours, seeking includes abstract information, techniques and abilities; the basics of human culture.


'Squeak' refers to behaviors conveying the warning of danger or other important information; the communication of alarm or concern from one to another of the same species. We feel an urge to share information that might concern others; this is a major form of graphic communication for humans.



'Assess' behaviors are abstract and consist of things like self-assessment, introspection, analysis, administration; the system self-checks and updates in response to assessment feedback. 'Impress' behaviors are about presentation; innovation, display, morality and output control. 


The predominant operational mode for these behaviors is closed mode.



'Befriend or Defend' behaviors kinda speak for themselves, and also cover the domain of input control.



'Coordinate & Communicate' behaviors include diplomacy, celebration, judgment, conflict resolution, decision, problem solving and executive control. 


  The predominant mode for this group of behaviors is salience.


The emotions

Each pair of emotions serves to motivate specific behaviors relevant to the context. These are archetypal behaviors; things that the unconscious knows all humans everywhere have done for as long as we've been here. For example, desire and alarm are needed for successful 'seek & squeak' behaviors.


Emotions that are required for abstract behaviors only appear in our conscious awareness with maturity, whereas emotions required for concrete sensorimotor behaviors appear to be 'hard wired in' and are present right from the start.  

To get a clearer understanding of this, in the diagram below are the six basic emotions we start with, hardwired in for concrete behaviors, with additional descriptive terms:



It is clear how this first onboard set or 'starter kit' of emotions supports our operational modes with operational moods right from the start. It's also easy to see how these basic emotions support archetypal animal behaviors and our early simple categories of infant memory formation such as comfort/discomfort, 'move towards' and 'move away from', like and dislike. 

We rely on this system as a method of communication before we become capable of using words, and a foundation for abstraction later. Most higher mammals have this starter kit, but as humans develop, so does our emotional system; we get a whole new layer on top:



Some of these develop quickly during our first few years of life with experience; such as love, empathy and antipathy; others, such as gravity, confidence and self esteem, may take many years to develop and in some, may not develop at all. 

Before going further, I should point out for newbies the danger of imposing either polar categories or value judgments on emotions or in emotional maps. If you look at both sets of emotions working together (which is what a healthy mature intelligence should have at its disposal) the initial temptation is to associate and categorize emotional experiences in pairs of 'opposites', for example; joy/sorrow, gravity/levity, and so on; but before you race ahead of me making your own model based on these associations, consider what the system is doing: it's using chemical-electrical signaling to produce appropriate emotional mind/body states which must be variable in amplitude as well as frequency, with a dynamically changing effect appropriate to events and contexts. Things are not as simple as first impressions would imply.


The system 'producing appropriate emotion' is kinda like improvising music and lights for a play when you don't know the story or what might happen on stage for much of the time; because in real life 'the story' is only just being written. Looking objectively at basic opposites such as like/dislike or happy/sad, we find they could be applied to most pairs of emotional experiences in terms of value judgments, (for example, 'happiness = good' and 'sad = bad'). However, value judgments are relative to contexts, not emotions. It is NOT good to feel happiness and no alarm if your ass is on fire. Grief is not 'bad', because it helps us to process trauma which could otherwise have harmed us. Emotions in themselves are not intrinsically 'good or bad'; they are just necessary, since coping with harmful things is just as important for our survival as coping with beneficial things, so all healthy emotions are 'good' when appropriate to the context. Some experiences, like surprise, may be nasty or nice depending on context and events, and we may like or dislike an experience depending upon the context and events.  

Likewise, many of these emotions could be labeled 'happiness' or 'unhappiness'; or 'attraction and repulsion', because the basics (our input from associations, drives and instincts) always underlie the details (our outputs like emotional expression).


The only meaningful correlation to biology is the one between system signaling and system response, which it expects to be congruous. Unconsciously we therefore categorize emotions as they are wired; absolutely ergonomically; in terms of opposing behavioral triggers. 

Imagine a light dimmer-switch with a single slider, wired up to two lamps A and B like this: 


A FULL ON, B OFF <-----------------> B FULL ON, A OFF


That is, as light A is turned up, light B is automatically turned down. That's how increasing one set of neurotransmitters for triggering specific emotions and behaviors automatically reduces the opposing set. Just like you can't be in open mode and closed mode at the same time, quite sensibly the system can't make you feel comfortable and uncomfortable, or certain and uncertain, at the same time.

For a model of emotion to be congruous, then, it must agree with our unconscious awareness as well as be rationally coherent to our conscious understanding, so the next diagram incorporates our unconscious emotion-categorization into our conscious understanding of opposing behavioral triggers and their motivating emotions:



Comfort shares a circuit with Disgust, to enable 'serene and clean' behaviors. Disgust ensures discomfort because as it goes up, comfort automatically goes down. The neurotransmitters and hormones required for one state are reduced or canceled out by the neurotransmitters and hormones for the other.  

Desire shares a circuit with Alarm, enabling 'seek and squeak' behaviors. 'Seeking' kinda speaks for itself; 'Squeak' refers to warning others of danger. We use these behaviors to calculate personal risks and benefits. 

Empathy, Amity or Friendliness share a circuit with Antipathy or Defensiveness to produce 'befriend or defend' behaviors (for dealing with friend or foe). 

Levity and Gravity share a circuit to enable our 'create and cooperate' behaviors, such as diplomacy, creative expression and humor. 

Certainty and Uncertainty between them produce our 'assess and impress' behaviors. Self esteem, self-presentation and self confidence are strongly affected by this circuit. 

Joy and Sorrow, (or love and grief if that makes more sense to you,) modulate 'coordinate and communicate' behaviors. The system uses the ratio of these experienced as feedback to compute whether our contexts are impoverished or enriched. Simply, Joy indicates ultimate gain and Sorrow ultimate loss; Joy gives numinous feelings of 'belonging' and Sorrow brings hopeless feelings of 'abandonment' and isolation. At their core are the issues of unity and separation, which is why I have labeled them thusly in the diagram. In the centre of the diagram are the roots of all motivation; our three secondary operational modes; stretch, relax and salience, described in terms of behaviors. 

It's easy to see how these experiences of different emotions motivate us into various specific behaviors. Each pair of behaviors and their related emotions shares one main processor (there are six main processing hubs in the brain) and each pair uses different signaling gradients of the same chemicals to motivate behavior. If you want to look more deeply into this, consult references.[7] 

I here anticipate a couple of questions; one, but haven't you missed out 'fight & flight' behaviors? Well, you can count them as covered under 'defense' if you like but strictly speaking, fight/flight/freeze are responses to emergencies, initiated only during primary protection mode, whereas this is a model of emotional responses in primary growth & repair mode for a healthy system in a healthy situation, in order to give us a baseline 'under normal healthy circumstances'.


Two; but what about all the other stuff like greed and fear and jealousy and hatred, to name but a few?

Expressing healthy emotion relies on having optimal levels of hormones and neurotransmitters, which means their levels stay within the green zone of 'just right'. If chemical levels become too low (not enough) or too high (too much) the system expresses 'sentiment' instead of emotion. 


The difference between sentiment and emotion

Sentiments are pathological; based on insecurity, fear of loss, paranoia and chronic anxiety, and I have categorized these harmful feelings separately in order to clearly mark their difference (in terms of neurochemistry) from healthy emotion. Here's where we can make things a lot easier by framing the model within the following definitions: 

1 Emotion is a chemically transmitted response to input, prompting beneficial behaviors that increase our probability of survival and thriving in some way. In short, healthy emotional responses are helpful. They would not have emerged if that were not the case.


2 Sentiment is a chemically transmitted response to input, prompting harmful behaviors that decrease our probability of survival and thriving in some way. In short, these responses are harmful (and they are literally harmful, often deadly, to both body and mind).  

Don't confuse sentiments with so-called 'negative emotions'. Disgust and grief are 'negative emotions', anger and jealousy are sentiments, and also warning signs for mental illness.


3 In every case where we find a sentiment, it is replacing a healthy emotion and the system has jumped into (or is stuck in) protection mode.


The table below shows the green zone for healthy emotional chemistry and what happens to our feelings and behavior when our neurotransmitter levels stray outside it. You can see which healthy emotions are being replaced by which sentiments:  




wrong input = sentiment



correct input = healthy emotion



lack of input = sentiment

Hedonism, sloth, inaction, lassitude


(satisfaction, contentment, pleasure, gratitude, security, safety, serenity, relief, fulfilment)

Anhedonia, dissatisfaction, frustration, discontent

phobic fear


(repulsion, revulsion, discomfort, nausea, grossed out)

Apathy, fatigue, self-neglect

obsession, greed, craving, envy, compulsion, yearning


(excitement, eagerness, sensuality, interest, lust, hope, curiosity, fascination, anticipation, enthusiasm)

Boredom, disinterest

Panic, denial



(concern, startlement, surprise)

no sense of danger, temerity, foolhardiness, complacency

possessiveness, jealousy, adherence, insecurity


(amity, friendliness, fondness, warmth, cordiality, goodwill, amiability, geniality, affability, caring, kindliness, affection, cameraderie)

alienation, loneliness, exclusion

anger, rage, hatred


(defensiveness, dislike, offense, contempt, coldness, discord, resistance, indignation)

timidity, fear, nervousness

Hysteria, histrionics


(playfulness, mirth, light-heartedness, cheerfulness, high spirits, joviality, amusement, humor)

Cheerlessness, gloom

pomposity, megalomania, 'control freak'


(seriousness, resolve, stamina, dignity, honor, integrity, rectitude, respect, bushido, tenacity, propriety, determination, staying power)

irreverence, carelessness

Arrogance /unjustified confidence, hubris


(confidence, pride, self esteem, assuredness, gregariousness)

shyness, embarrassment, guilt, shame

Confusion, Paranoia/unjustified doubt


(doubt, suspicion, caution, wariness, prudence, incertitude,)

gullibility, self-delusion

Dysmorphia, mania


(unity, bliss, awe, belonging, ecstasy, love, oneness, elation, enlightenment)


Misery /unconsolable grief


(separation, grief, loss, distress, anguish, sadness, dismay)



I have used some common names for healthy emotions in brackets alongside their core emotion associations. I have included common behavioral disorders in with their associated sentiments, to give a clearer idea of the states of mind involved. 

All of the sentiments (in the two outside columns) usurp the neurotransmitters required for healthy emotions. For example whenever there is paranoia, there is an imbalance causing too much suspicion and doubt (and consequently – remember that slider switch - not enough confidence or self esteem). 

In the left hand column ('Too much'), wrong input has left the system chemistry spiked with a cocktail of anxiety steroids, notably Cortisol (this is also the case in ADHD, mania, schizophrenia and OCD). Aggression, dictatorial behavior and mania may occur. Individuals who over-focus on intellect at the expense of emotional health have a higher risk for slipping out of the green zone in this direction.


In the right hand column ('Not enough'), lack of input coupled with chronic anxiety has led to downgrading of both transmitters and their receptors (or these may never have developed), and limited neurotransmission cannot evoke the intended (appropriate) response. Connections have either failed to form or have literally burned out, thus blood cortisol (plus various other transmitters) may be low even though anxiety is present (often the case in PTSD, unipolar depression and dementia-related conditions). Lack of response, apathy and social problems may well occur. Individuals with poor emotional control and lack of intellectual input have a higher risk for slipping out of the green zone in this direction and often think of themselves as 'victims'. 

I'll explain how to overwrite sentiments with healthy emotional responses in the techniques section below. 


The big system error we all experience

The underlying culprit causing system error here is unconscious anxiety, because as discussed above, nothing makes human beings quite so unconsciously anxious as interacting with other human beings who are strangers. When emotions are running high, anxiety can prevent both accurate memory weighting and emotional modulation via frontal lobes as we go into protection mode.

Most of us don't notice this happening consciously; those who do may try to calm down and get their intellect back on track, but few really know how to succeed (because success relies on experience and experience is lacking). What usually happens is that the system jumps out of the green zone for healthy emotion and into protection mode and sentiment, sending out a further anxiety-hormone rush as it does so and thus accidentally exacerbating the problem, getting us stuck there going around in circles in salience or locking us into protection mode.

Output in terms of conscious decision then falls prey to the results of the system error; we cannot consciously tell that the problem is internal (a system error) so we look around for the most likely external cause and that's usually another person. Just like the plump lady on the subway whose bottom was pinched by her own corset, turning around and slapping the face of the man behind her; we mistake extrinsic causes for intrinsic causes and react against the wrong causes. 

What that means:

An extrinsic cause for alarm is an approaching hungry tiger.

An intrinsic cause for alarm is food-poisoning.

If you've got food poisoning (an internal bug) and you react as though you would if facing a tiger (an external threat), running away and hiding, for example, your efforts are ineffectual because there is no tiger. You've gotta stop focusing on the imaginary tiger and take time out to deal with the bug. It may seem hard to believe that we could make such fundamental perception errors but we do. Not so long ago we used to blame stomach ache and nausea on witches, and we're still happy to blame it on what somebody said when they 'split up' with us. 

If you've ever tried to reasonably interact with someone under the influence of sentiment, you'll know from experience that it doesn't work very well. People stuck in protection mode say and do things they later say they 'didn't mean' to say and do, which doesn't make sense from a cognitive rational POV and only causes more confusion (and secret thoughts of, well, is this a sign of mental illness?) 

As with most dilemmas, there is information missing. You need that extra information to comprehend what's really going on in order to make sense out of it. This is what is really going on: 

Anxiety mucks up our hormonal and neurotransmitter balance and pushes us out of the green zone in terms of brain chemistry, immediately affecting the emotional system and putting the wrong weighting on everything. System control is lost and we slip into protection mode, rapidly disconnecting the fast 'emergency services' run by the rear networks from the energy-hungry, slower frontal lobe processing. People are not usually consciously aware that they have lost control, but we are unconsciously aware of it. Losing control is a serious threat to survival, but decisions cannot be rationally made because we can't get into salience mode. Nor can we have congruity, since this also requires the connection with frontal networks. Protection mode only works well in genuine emergencies where response speed is all that matters.

Without congruity, we are left with half an emotional system, because the unconscious mind adds emotional weighting to experience and the conscious mind adds emotional regulation, modifying the weighting for a coherent, appropriate perspective before permanently storing a memory. With half the circuitry disconnected from the other half, we are left with raw, unmodulated emotion at one end and over-rationalized thoughts in words at the other, often in apparent conflict. We feel we want to do or say something, but think or believe we shouldn't. Thus, overall we are unconsciously aware there is a problem but the system can't tell where it's coming from.  

 Then the bug kicks in – in protection mode, the system has to assume the worst – it is being attacked. Thus we try vainly to regain control in the situation by attacking whatever we think it is on the outside that must have made us lose it – we think THEY are the source of the anxiety.


Once we understand that the real source of the defensive feelings and anxiety is loss of inner control; it's a lot easier to know what to do – give the system time to address the inner problem first, and get out of protection mode. Then, access to frontal cognitive reserves is granted and what we thought was a purely emotional issue can be approached with conscious awareness, creativity and reason. We are back to healthy emotion instead of sentiment. 

So the key thing to remember when this happens to you is: the problem is internal and unconscious, not external and conscious. By focusing attention on the real problem, removing the inner anxiety, you enable conscious reasoning to resume. You mode shift on the surface, and all the complex processing work goes on underneath. 

An example: 

Alice went drinking with Bob, and Bob behaved like an asshole. Alice got anxious and felt angry. Bob thinks she felt angry because he behaved like an asshole. But Bob is wrong.

Alice knows she felt angry because anxiety causes sentiment, and she got anxious when exposed to the stressor of Bob's racist remarks. When she took time out to calm down and get herself back on track, Alice realized she had miscalculated Bob's degree of maturity and the benefits and hazards of hanging out with Bob, to the extent that she had exposed herself to bad input and sentiment. And she also knows that she failed to block the bad input and ended up sliding into sentiment and losing control herself. Bob did the wrong thing, but so did Alice. This loss of personal control was unexpected, a nasty surprise, because it means Alice isn't as resilient as she assessed herself. Alice was anxious about Alice! 

In short, finding out that we have been overestimating ourselves and our own degree of control is always a bad shock to the system, which knows our survival depends on assessing things accurately, and that's the real cause of Alice's anxiety – it's internal; not external. Alice realizes she made the classic system error we all make; blaming something going wrong in somebody else on the outside for something going wrong in ourselves on the inside. But in this case it doesn't matter, because this experience was good practice for Alice in learning how to stop the system error from proliferating and build resilience against it happening in future. 

What Alice knows she should have been feeling at Bob's behavior is offense and disappointment and maybe a little sadness, which is what she feels now. Bob was rude, but his behavior has nothing to do with her; she's only responsible for her own behavior. The sane response to rudeness is offense, but a good way to end the offense with interaction would have been to cut short the night with a polite excuse, and in future not to hang out with Bob when alcohol is involved. 

It doesn't matter if Bob comes around next day and says he's sorry and didn't mean it and 'won't do it again' (of course, he will do it again due to lack of control). All apologizing does is confirm Bob's lack of control. Eventually, Bob will find all the intelligent people he knows drifting away, leaving him with friends who have a similar lack of control and equally offensive behavior and think it's normal. Alice will drift away to hang out with friends who are more self aware and behave more maturely. She literally won't have time for people like Bob. But unless Bob gets more awareness of himself, he'll be stuck believing that Alice 'split up with him' because he got drunk and 'made her angry'. 

Emotional stability relies on your accepting responsibility for the way you feel; not blaming your feeling on somebody else's behavior. You have free will; you are free to choose whom you hang out with. If you choose to hang out with, talk and listen to people who challenge your ability to maintain stability, consider dropping some relationships or work on maintaining your own stability in different circumstances. If you don't accept responsibility for your own emotions, you won't get very far with stability. 

Like any other part of the system, the best input for emotional stability is companions who challenge you just the right amount emotionally. Too much and you get overwhelmed, not enough and you get bored with the conversation. So you can choose which companions challenge you just the right amount and slowly increase your resilience against unpleasant behaviors.



Other people's behavior should not be a cause of anxiety for us as long as we are mentally healthy ourselves and there is no clear and present danger.


The internal/external error is one type of projection; blaming something on the outside of the system for what is going wrong inside the system. Usually we blame someone else.



In a state of anxiety, if we have an unconscious concern or anxiety about ourselves, we justify it consciously and voice it as a concern for others. 

For example:

Alice has an unconscious awareness that she has personal control issues with regard to alcohol and smoking. Alice tells Bob and various other friends that they smoke too much or have a drink problem. She might even start trying to coerce others to quit, when in fact they have no such problem. 

Projection is a type of defense strategy for the unconsciously anxious. You shouldn't need to be concerned about these kinds of defense mechanisms occurring, as long as you are able to switch operational mode and prevent anxiety. But you should be aware they occur all the time in most people and most of us are targeted by someone else's projection at some point in life. 

The most frequent sentiment we all misidentify

...is the type of common confusion that we call embarrassment. We seem to have a nearly phobic fear of embarrassment, and will go to great lengths to avoid it. Something as simple as mispronouncing a word or dropping your drink in a restaurant or walking into somebody or tripping up on a crowded street, or as complicated as being harassed by unknown nutters when with your friends. No matter the blunder or issue, our response is instinctive: Hide, pretend nothing is happening, hope no one notices and move on. Embarrassment makes us all feel we want to get away from something and what we don't realize is that the thing we want so desperately to get away from is the embarrassment. It makes us feel 'stuck', with no way to get out that doesn't cause us to remain outside the green zone due to anxiety.

The word 'Embarrass' comes from 'imbarrare' (to confine within bars) and that really is how it can feel. Westerners spend a lot of time feeling embarrassed, and we cover it up with various facades and cliches because we find the state fairly unbearable. Why does it happen?

We have a deep unconscious awareness of the power of association. We get embarrassed when circumstances or misunderstandings imply our personal association with things we find offensive, especially in public.



Would you be embarrassed to be associated in public with this?   

Was the poodle? 

We have no lack of certainty regarding what is unpleasant, disgusting or offensive to us; we just have a lack of certainty about what we should do. There seems no way out; anxiety has shut down access to salience mode, so we can't make a reasoned decision, and the system really doesn't like not knowing what to do. In cases of chronic anxiety, paranoia and delusions can occur due to embarrassment. 

In our current lifestyles, we get into embarrassing circumstances now and again; notably at work or school and usually involving other people. What's more, the more consciously aware we are of what is going on and of human circumstances in general, the more difficult to get rid of embarrassment can seem. Too much uncertainty retards our ability to interact; it's just confusion. 

Embarrassment particularly plagues teenagers, who due to conditioning and fluctuating hormone levels tend to get over-concerned about their 'social reputation', and don't want to be associated with a lot of things, often including their relatives. 

Embarrassment comes from a lack of self esteem, and improving our own confidence can do a lot to waylay it. If we get stuck in embarrassment and we are anxious, anger, shame or guilt may rapidly follow. Those who are more secure in themselves, and who may well laugh at their own bouts of clumsiness, become much more resilient and are enabled to deal with others' embarrassing behavior with greater rectitude and a minimum of fuss. 

You can use the same method to avoid getting stuck in all sentiments, which is explained in the techniques section below.

The most frequent emotion we all misidentify

...is the type of desire that we know as lust. Many of us either mistake it for, or lie about it being, love. Usually, we lie about what we feel due to insecurity; someone we are having sex with, or want to have sex with says, 'I love you' and we automatically say 'I love you too' even if we have not even considered how we really feel about them. This paranoid reaction is driven by fear of loss (or fear of missing out on sex) if we don't give the 'correct response', as though it were a movie script. Most of us don't mention that we are probably not long-term monogamous, but some of us automatically assume monogamy is supposed to be 'where it's at' for both parties in a regular relationship. Anxiety makes liars out of us faster than anything.  


 Lust is a powerful, essential, healthy emotion that enables our species to reproduce. 

Lust is seriously underrated, as emotions go. Most consumerist societies have weird ideas about sex, and lust is often made out to be 'dirty' or 'wrong' despite the fact that none of us would ever exist without it.


Lust is exclusively pertinent to one behavioral domain; sexual interaction. It can occur entirely on its own without any other emotion. It can be brief, intermittent, or long lived. 

Love, on the other hand, is a multi-domain phenomenon like bonding, and we can experience love in many different contexts; for example in friendship, between parents and children, playmates, siblings, humans and animals, student and master, sexual partners, us and the natural world, activities, places, things and ourselves. Unlike lust, love does not occur on its own; in every case, love comes alongside another emotion; it may be amity or levity or contentedness or desire or confidence, but if you ever find yourself wondering whether or not you love someone, ask yourself what other emotions you feel about them. If it's only lust, ask yourself, would you really remain interested in hanging out with them if you knew you could never have sex with them? Answering honestly can save a lot of wasted time and bad feeling.


Emotions words and behaviors

All emotions prompt behaviors; that's what they're supposed to do. Lust prompts lusty behaviors. Love prompts loving behaviors. Caring prompts caring behaviors. Friendship prompts friendly behaviors. And the words we speak are supposed to convey the congruity of our feelings, ideas, behaviors, expectations and beliefs.   

However, you can't immediately tell what someone really feels just by hearing what they say or watching what they do, because people lie about their reasons for doing things all the time, often unknowingly even to themselves or due to lack of awareness ('eyes-closed' deception.) Nor can you 'trust your intuition' if anxiety is an issue. The pressures of what society expects can force the anxious to construct fake personalities and intuition is only reliable in context of the real one.  


Alice is a care assistant. If asked why she chose this career, she would probably say (and think) it's because she wants to help people, or 'make a difference', or 'has a caring personality'. 

The truth: It's one of the easiest jobs to get into without any qualifications, others think well of her, she gets some free time away from the kids and from rows with her partner, it's slightly more money than welfare and relieves her from the constant hassle to get a job, and she can skive a lot on night shifts. Alice doesn't actually care much emotionally about people; she just practices caring behaviors. But being honest about her reasons would probably get Alice fired.

The only people who seem to be consciously aware of and honest about the reasons for their career choices are creative folks, who will happily admit to wanting to win a Nobel prize, or discover something new, or create a masterpiece, or figure out how to get to Mars, or get lots of sex and drugs and rock & roll; or more usually admit that they just love doing it, whatever it is, and to be honest find it difficult to stop.  


Sometimes, incongruity is blindingly obvious to everyone except those stuck in it. But often it takes a lot of experience and observation to spot incongruity between people's emotions, words and behaviors. There are techniques for doing this, for example discourse analysis and co-counseling,[8] but they are not easy to use on oneself, and to be honest when you start down the road to developing intelligence you won't need them unless they appeal to your personal interest.

If you want to keep things simple, the main point is to understand that a lot of people don't have a clue what they are really experiencing emotionally because they rarely pay attention to it; feeling like emotions are often 'thrust upon them' rather than directed in any way. And it's true; if you have no experience with directing your own emotions and you have never seen any examples of how to do it, how can you even know they are controllable? 

This is why experience matters so much, and when you first approach emotion control, bear in mind that it can't be used to control others; it's about being self-directed and enjoying free will. The only brain you are able to develop is yours.

Personality perception

Popular media portrays 'personality' as a mixture of 'traits' we display in behavior. The brain, however, doesn't measure personality in that way at all; it assesses what it thinks someone is like via unconscious input cues, past association and prediction; just like it assesses everything else we perceive. 

Consequently, our behavior is only one aspect of our perceived personality, which includes (unconsciously) odor and pheromones, physical appearance, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, aesthetics of appearance, apparent cognitive ability, association with archetypes (or stereotypes, in the anxious), and – most importantly for the mind – emotional expression. 

How you express your emotions is the biggest factor in how other peoples' brains assess your 'personality', although a great deal of what people conclude about you depends on the relative mental state of the observer, as discussed previously. Two different people will interpret the same person in different ways; one seeing you as having a good sense of fun whilst the other, more anxious one sees you as mocking them. And so it goes on; one seeing you as funny and the other seeing you as mean, a third thinks you're facetious and a fourth thinks you're probably drunk. There is nothing you can do about this; just be aware of it and adjust accordingly. When you are around anxious, insecure people, gravity can help you; humor may well backfire. 

Be aware that the relative state of mind factor also affects how you see yourself and others of course, which is why most of us believe we are smarter, harder-working, more honest, more trustworthy and mentally fitter than average. Clearly, somebody isn't doing accurate self assessments. ...Could it be, everybody? 

Once you're a neurohacker, there's no longer any excuses such as, 'I just have a shy/lazy/retiring/loud personality', or 'I have a paranoid/extrovert/competitive nature'. You gotta drop the BS and get used to the reality that you construct your own personality day by day based on previous input examples, current input, and imagination. If you want to change your personality, you change your input.

Doing so won't affect how others see you if they're anxious or paranoid or have limited attention. It's pointless trying to change to suit others; this is about changing to suit yourself.



Programs use emotion to connect input with associated memory and biological imperatives with output behavior. Emotion arises through the integration of the tactile feelings of bodily processes and associative cognitive contents.[9] 

The emotion system serves as a conduit between unconscious knowledge and conscious behavior. Once cognition extends beyond the automatic and becomes conscious, biology has to have some way of ensuring that organisms have some kind of motivation to fulfil their programs successfully. Emotion; inspiration, motivation, interest, curiosity, desire, fascination, attraction and so on all prompt us to carry out conscious behaviors. So do disgust, repulsion, aversion, antipathy, alarm and discomfort, but they only need to happen if we're in danger of harm. If all is going well, natural interest will guide us to the relevant behaviors for further development (including new learning). 

If we do not respond to biology's behavioral prompts within a certain period of time, or if we block or ignore them due to fatigue or 'other demands', anxiety and illness will result. It's as dangerous as ignoring your need to eat, sleep or go to the toilet. 

Biology uses an array of chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) to affect communication of and motivation for appropriate behaviors. To the system, emotion is weighting and categorization ('valence') code. System code and formats will be explored in a future chapter, so for now all you need to remember is that emotion and graphics are the only types of 'universal' code that can be read and interpreted by both unconscious and conscious system processing areas. 

Emotion forms a 'bridge' between unconscious responses and conscious awareness. When we experience emotion, we are aware of physical responses or 'feelings' which we associate through experience or modeling with psychological thoughts; for example if you tread in a dog poop, you wrinkle up your nose, your stomach muscles tense, your tongue flattens out, and you may say 'yuck!' or something similar. You describe the emotion you are feeling as 'disgust', and you move away.

Exactly the same circuit is used for abstract disgust -for example moral disgust. When we witness behaviors that violate our moral norms, our brain signals the neurons that control our stomach and tongue movements—just as it does when something tastes bad.[39] Moral disgust, therefore, is not just a consequence of thought processes and mental cognitive abilities but is connected to physiological and emotional responses. 

'Disgusting' describes not only the taste of rotten or non-edible food but also any behavior we perceive as revolting because it violates our moral norms (or, if we're conditioned, society's moral norms or parochial system of values). Most creatures can be conditioned to believe that beneficial input is 'disgusting' and harmful input is 'good', and that's largely why we find ourselves in the current situation in western style societies. A part of our task as neurohackers is to ensure that we're programmed by ourselves and remove any prior conditioning that causes harm. 

Several other subprograms clearly assist emotional coding and communication; notably theory of mind, sync, empathy, modeling and bonding. I have already introduced modeling and sync in a previous chapter, so will discuss the other three here.


Theory of Mind (ToM)

Every day, humans engage in a wide variety of interactions to achieve a diverse set of goals that include acquiring information, responding appropriately to others and maintaining emotional intimacy through sharing our thoughts and feelings. Integral to an individual's success in these encounters is their ability to reason about the thoughts, beliefs, and feelings of others; in order to predict 'probable' behavioral responses in others and perform appropriate responses ourselves. This ability to figure out what others are 'probably' thinking, feeling or going to do has been termed theory of mind (ToM). [10] 

How does a program accurately infer the mental states of others from current input? By combining (1) past informational knowledge of the shared context, (2) general experiential knowledge (how to recognize and interpret present behavioral cues), and (3) predictions about future behavior. 

As children, our ability to implicitly understand the intent or intentions as well as false beliefs of others is already present around the age of 1 year,[11] while “full-blown” or “explicit” ToM and the understanding that a person can hold a false belief develops between the ages of 3 and 4 years and is fully developed (in westerners) only at the age of 5. Once we have ToM, we can play those fun little childrens pranks, like hiding our sister's shoes in the fridge because we know that she will go look for them in the shoe cupboard. [12] 

Theory of mind is a key cognitive ability assisting our survival drives to befriend allies and avoid foes, but it also enables us to learn, be creative, and solve problems. In good mental health, ToM gives us a clear ability to imagine people as mental beings; as minds who have beliefs, desires, ideas, emotions, intents and intuitions, and whose responses and interactions can be interpreted and explained by taking account of these mental states. 

Closely connected to the existence of ToM is our capacity to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information and the formation of trust. This includes habituation to repeated false information (“false alarms”).


Don't stand so close to me!

The difficulty of programming an AI with ToM is immense, yet without this sort of awareness, at first we built robots that either annoyed people or would unintentionally creep them out. Simply not knowing how far away to stand from a human or how loudly to speak when communicating is something machines find very difficult to assess, and an early complaint from the general public about all sorts of automation (including software answering 'phones) was that 'it's rude'. This implies that a lack of emotional awareness in their output causes an imagined lack of 'politeness' and somehow, of morality in the input we get from them. Interactive robots these days are programmed to take into account emotional interaction and human ideas about politeness. Your GPS no longer sounds like Stephen Hawking or the warder from a women's prison.

Although we blame our emotions quite often for breaking societal morality rules, it seems we unconsciously believe that machines cannot be moral without them. But ToM's influence on general cognition is much deeper than that.



Without ToM, our own biological systems fail to understand why people do what they do or what they are currently doing. Others' behavior makes no sense to us, appears unpredictable in the extreme and life seems horribly confusing. If anxious or insecure, we often assume the worst. 

We use Theory of Mind for prediction all the time – if you see me move towards the bookshelf with a book in my hand, you predict that I'm going to put the book away on the shelf using this program. If I start to eat the book, by Theory of Mind you conclude that either you are hallucinating or that I am crazy.



Clearly, theory of mind, which enables sympathy, is closely related to empathy. Empathy specifically, however, includes experiential affective understanding (“emotional resonance”) with others, whereas ToM and sympathy in general are limited to cognitive data. That is, we may think somebody probably feels bad and agree that that's a bummer, but we don't experience feeling bad with them or know what to do about it unless empathy is engaged. The ability to use ToM without engaging empathy is clearly essential for emergency workers and surgeons!



If somebody yawns, Theory of Mind enables us to understand intellectually that they're probably tired. Empathy makes us yawn with them.


Although an integral part of emotional processing, empathy may be looked on in its own right as a powerful application of imagination and as an extension of modeling into an extra domain. 

Where modeling enables us to replicate motions, postures and behaviors of others, empathy enables us to replicate their emotions and states of mind. The system imagines what another is likely to be feeling by modeling their emotional experience and reproducing an 'echo' of it in ourselves. This enables us to understand through imagination what Theory of Mind does not provide – shared experience. Empathy gives us shared experience of emotion as well as cognition. It allows us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. We understand by feeling, as well as thinking. 

Empathy programs run in response to chains of interactions linked to intent, and provide a powerful biological foundation for the evolution of culture.[13] Empathy is how we are able to get all caught up in stories and movies and 'share' the feelings, experiences, responses and behaviors of the characters. The 'echoing' of other people's emotions in movies has been shown to depend on the fact that the same brain regions are activated in the observers when they feel an emotion and when they see someone else experience a similar emotion, but whether we see a movie or read a story, the same thing happens: we activate our bodily representations of 'what it feels like' to be the characters – we 'behave as though'; and that is why reading a book or viewing a movie can make us feel an 'echo' of the emotional experiences the characters are going through.[14] 

I have called empathized experience an 'echo' because the empathic effect of shared emotion is not a literal 'to scale' experience but what might be termed a 'watered-down' experience of another's – or a fictional character's – emotion. The imagination is 'playing at' feeling a certain way in the same frame of mind we 'played at' being Batman. The system 'behaves as though'. And it learns mental skills and habits from others in this way, in the same way that we learned physical skills by 'behaving as though' we were Tarzan or Batman or Zena the Warrior Princess. 

Empathy is thus a vital tool in learning and at the heart of all successful 'behave as though' style hacking. The more accurately you can imagine how something feels, the better your empathy skills. Increasing empathy also augments creativity, emotional expressiveness and open-mindedness. 

I'll discuss using empathy to enhance learning in the techniques section below.





Bonding is a process that uses multiple applications; sync, empathy, ToM, embodiment and modeling; to achieve a high quality interactive communicative state of connection between individuals and other individuals or animals. 

Bonding aids animal survival. Alliances involving bonding provide the foundation for all human development. 

There are different types of bonding and different benefits. 

Mammals can bond 'interspecifically' which involves organisms of the same species, or they can bond 'intraspecifically' which involves organisms from different species. This can happen in any period of life, anywhere, and bonds can be weak or strong, permanent or non-permanent. 

Animals bond for many different reasons; amongst them are hunting, mating, raising young, skill-sharing, resource-sharing, friendship, cooperation, creativity, defense, fun and comfort. Bonding does not require romance or sexual interaction, although it can take place alongside both. Bonding enables adult creatures to take care of each other and their young. 

To effectively interact with others, we must establish an empathic connection as well as Theory of Mind in order to swiftly and accurately infer each other's goals and intentions. This works best if we coordinate our behavioral and bodily responses. We have a natural tendency to get in sync with others and tend to automatically imitate those we like, including when laughing and yawning, and we engage in complex unconscious patterns of coordinated eye gaze, touch and motion. All this helps align our hormonal chemistry. But when we bond with others, it is as if our entire body engages in a 'silent dance' which enables us to more easily feel what each other is feeling and think what each other is thinking. Two systems can effectively function as one.



What makes bonding happen?

Bonding is a major goal for the system because we learn most easily and thrive most easily within bonded relationships. That doesn't necessarily mean face-to-face with other humans; bonding is a process that can include people you have corresponded with but never met, animals, and even natural environments. Bonding is available across many domains and rewards us with emotions of great joy, love, inspiration, levity, rectitude, unity and belonging.

Physical and mental synchrony, mutual embodiment and empathy are the hallmarks of person-to-person bonding. Synchronized heartbeats, circadian rhythms and neural synchrony (when brainwaves from two people follow predictable patterns with respect to each other) all occur. Bonds between musicians, dancers, sports teams and performers are what makes good performers great. Bonds between student and master or children and parents enable very rapid learning, which is why we prefer to learn from those we know and trust most. Bonds with an environment modulate behaviors that benefit both the environment and ourselves.



Bonded individuals behave as though they are the same person. They interact like a dance, where partners take their own steps but move in concert, continuously adjusting and adapting. Body language signals such as eye contact, hugging and touching heads (a behavior delightfully called 'bunting' in felines) are associated with increased synchrony and improved cooperative learning.[15]

When we do things like holding hands, hugging and kissing, we are helping the system to align our microbiology, as well as sharing hormones and pheromones. Sync calibrates our chemistries to more resemble each other. Physical bonding starts with close physical contact (skin to skin) and personal interaction; breast feeding is a good example that provides both, sex is another, friendship is another. 

Eliminate familial safety and touch with its pleasure and joy, send children away with unfamiliar strangers, and expansive exploration is curtailed; impeded, as the child dissociates in isolation and anxiety, outwardly remaining polite but inwardly retreating into protection mode. The biological imperative that affectional bonds be established at birth and nurtured throughout life is thus largely crippled by society. 

Conformity is a learned and acquired set of society-survival strategies. We are conditioned from birth to employ these strategies and must employ them if we are to survive society itself. These are conditioned behaviors that all parents induce in their children for fear of their own and their childrens' societal censure. Worst case scenario? If you don't conform (for example you give birth at home without telling anybody, or you practice home education and don't adhere to society's curriculum) you can end up in prison and/or lose your kids. Thus the current western imperative is that this complex set of predictable-controllable behaviors must be learned by every child, at the expense of bonding and development. 

All relationships, social, personal, interpersonal; and all learning, spontaneous or sought after, are adversely affected by the negative inhibition induced by lack of bonding. To get back into a headspace where it can happen may take years, so the sooner you start the more there is to enjoy. 

Psychological bonding starts with self-congruity; the literal bond of dense neural connections between your frontal brain networks and your supporting rear processing areas. Without accomplishing this in yourself, you won't have the equipment to bond psychologically with another, and sadly it won't work if they don't have it either. Both parties must be fully wired up for psychological bonding to succeed. So, as always, your ability in this domain begins with yourself and your own congruity.

Sentiment prevents these programs from running because when sentiment occurs, we are in protection mode, from which they cannot be accessed. So if you want to use them to your advantage, your own emotional stability must come first.


WARNING! Growth & repair/Open mode access is essential for empathy or bonding programs. Trying to engage them when in protection mode is dangerous and should not be attempted as trauma and psychological damage may well result.  

Bonding, empathy, modeling, embodiment, sync, all these programs are achieving the same effect across different domains, and that effect is to become more closely adapted to higher quality interaction. Because interaction is the very best input for all development, that's what the system is always working towards. And I'll be looking at that in the next chapter.





evidence based techniques


key techniques 5 - emotion control

Emotion control is essentially directing the way you perceive, understand, express, and manage emotions. Emotion control can mean the difference between a good interactive response and a bad action or reaction to circumstances. People who lack emotional control are more likely to just react automatically, without giving themselves the time to weigh up the pros and cons of a situation and really thinking things through. 

People who are less able to direct their emotions are also more likely to have difficulty forming healthy relationships, which can exacerbate depressive feelings and lack of self esteem. And awareness of your own emotional 'weather' is important because the more you understand these aspects of yourself, the better your mental health, behavior and personal relationships will be. 

It might be that controlling and directing your emotions is something you never really thought about – which can be the case for a lot of people. Or it might be that these are skills you know you need to work on. 

If you're a complete newbie, here are the requirements for emotion control: 

1 You need to be able to think about your own emotions without getting anxious. If you get anxious, you're going to go into protection mode and it's not possible to access the required operational modes for emotion control if you're stuck in protection mode. 

2 You need to enjoy rising to a challenge. If you are able to recognize anxiety or sentiment in yourself and see difficult situations as a challenge, learning from mistakes, focusing on the improvements and persevering in practice, you'll become adept quite quickly. 

3 You must be able to cope with snapback. Of course, there are times when anxiety and sentiment can overwhelm you, but if you are able to persevere and recognize snapback, it is likely that when it happens you will have the skills needed to bypass it and treat mistakes as a normal part of learning.


4 You must understand that unconscious means unconscious. If you've ever seen someone accidentally cut themselves and then feel faint or pass out, or faint at the sight of blood, that's the result of unconscious shock. They may not feel consciously shocked at all; they may well be thinking, 'Dammit, I've cut my finger, I'd best go wash it and find a plaster', they may be experiencing very little emotion and not very much physical pain. There may be very little blood loss. But the automatic response of the unprepared unconscious is shock, and consequent loss of consciousness until recovery. This serves as a good example that what the system is doing is often inaccessible to your conscious awareness. Unconscious anxiety is anxiety you're not consciously aware of, so don't expect to notice it anytime soon; the trick is to assume it may be there and behave accordingly, and don't underestimate the stressors you are exposed to. Unconscious trauma is cumulative, so it can take some time to repair. Resilience to unconscious anxiety and shock is only built through practice as experience (if it wasn't, surgeons would be passing out all the time). 

5 You need to know how to change operational modes reliably. If you can meet these five requirements, off you go. There are several strategies that can be used to direct emotions; for example, reframing, reappraisal (changing how you feel about something) and attentional deployment (redirecting your attention away from something). But the first step in emotion control is building an awareness of what your system is supposed to be feeling when it's healthy. If you take a look at the green zone emotion & sentiment table in the text above, and seek out any sentiments you have been troubled with, you now know which green zone healthy emotion they are usurping. 

Useful things to do: Make a copy of the table and put it on your desktop in a folder called, 'WTF?' Anytime you find yourself feeling really confused about wtf just happened or wtf is going on now, consult that folder. What emotions or sentiments were at play in the confusing scenario? 

Don't use the green zone table to try to figure out what's gone wrong with somebody else. Unless you have a brain scan of them and a chemical assay of their neurotransmitters, you don't know how anxious they really are, and that affects everything. Use the table only for yourself. 

Get used to the idea that it's OK not to know stuff. It's ok not to know what's going on, as long as you're honest about it. Admitting that you're totally confused often leads you to find out why you are confused, and usually it's a lack of information plus a social impediment to getting it (for example, it wouldn't be polite to ask), which leads to embarrassment or frustration. Not knowing wtf is going on is not a problem; all scientific knowledge comes out of not knowing what's going on in a particular domain, and only cautious experiments and patience enable the answers to be found.


how to overwrite sentiments with healthy emotional responses

Experiencing the healthy emotion is the correct input required to overwrite the dysfunction and 'remind' the emotion circuit of what it is supposed to be doing. So, whenever you catch yourself feeling a sentiment, find it on the table and look at the green zone alternative in the centre column. That's the pathway the 'bug' is currently using, so when you find out what that circuit is healthily used for, you can stop the buggy code from running by deliberately seeking out input which evokes that emotion in you. Alternatively, you focus on thoughts which evoke that emotion, and you interact with that input until changes occur (usually, fairly fast; I mean in minutes or hours, rather than days).

This may at first glance seem like the equivalent of simply distracting the system by doing something totally different, but this is not a random choice; it is a shortcut back to system parameters returning to the green zone. 


It's best to get the idea of this technique with an example:


Although not tired, Alice is feeling like she can't be bothered to do anything, even though lots of things need doing. The best description she can find on the table is 'apathy'. The associated green zone emotion is disgust.

And here's the hack - Alice now deliberately goes into open mode and looks for some input to interact with that she can be disgusted and uncomfortable about.



Any accessible input will do; mucky washing up, the contents of a long-neglected fridge, removing slugs from the garden, absolutely anything which evokes those emotions in Alice. 

Interacting with this input kicks off a process. Alice has jump-started her mind out of apathy and 'reminded' this particular emotion circuit of what it is supposed to be doing. Internal feedback (which is also input) has switched from apathy (a state harmful to the system) to disgust (a state that can benefit the system); then the object of disgust is removed and the system automatically goes, 'well done you!' and rewards Alice with a higher dose of the neurochemicals causing feelings of comfort and fulfilment (and an automatic rise in self esteem). Motivation is reawakened. From here, the next developments for Alice rely, as always, on input. 

This technique is in fact another application of 'behave as though'. Instead of dwelling on the apathy and getting 'stuck in a rut', we deliberately invoke disgust, behave as though our mission was removing something disgusting, and there are enough points of similarity for the system to bridge the gap between the pathological sentiment and the healthy emotion, and shift from one to the other. 

For best results, you should treat using the emotion/sentiment table and doing this hack as you would playing a game. The more you play, the better you get at using this type of emotion control in real time. If you play often enough, the system will start to recognize sentiment and the required changes will become automatic. You just have to train it what to do by playing the game, and give it enough practice to learn to do it for you. 

Of course, it takes self awareness to define clearly what we are feeling. If we are anxious, our definition of our own emotional state is much less accurate, so it's necessary to start this hack in open mode. When you first start to practice this, if you're getting a lot of snapback during the process, it's usually because either you didn't get into open mode and calm yourself sufficiently before starting, or your attention control needs practice. 

most common NH problems 5

Lack of emotional control


The above hack is best done after the events causing the disruption are over, rather than during the sentiment attack itself. Hormones and neurotransmitters take a while to wear off much like alcohol, so you do have to give the system time to readjust to growth & repair mode. If you have good attentional control, you can do the hack without allowing recent past events to distract you. The more anxiety is present, and the more you pay attention to anxious thoughts, the more easily you are distracted from repairing the system. 

When something shitty happens and you get caught up in sentiment, the system is flooded with anxiety hormones and it takes time for these to fade away so that you can return to growth & repair mode. If you don't allow the system enough time to recover, you can end up going around in circles trying to figure something out and getting more and more distressed along the way. 

Lack of emotional control is not the same thing as lack of behavioral control, but the former can lead to the latter and vice versa. People describe 'getting carried away' by their feelings, or say, 'I just lost it' or 'I don't know what came over me' and, 'I didn't mean it!'. Anxiety and sentiment can thus make it appear that we have lost free will. So what may be done during distressing events to prevent 'getting caught up' in the first place? 


Multiple NH approaches: bottom up, middle ground and top down

At this stage you can consider three types of hacking: bottom up domains (physical, sensory & behavioral approaches) middle ground domains (physiological or chemical approaches) and top down domains (psychological, creative or intellectual/cognitive approaches). All of these may be implemented separately or together in emotion control, but they are much more powerful when used together. 

The 'overwriting' hack above uses a bottom up behavioral technique coupled with emotional awareness on a cognitive (top down) level to invoke a change in the middle ground (the chemical/physiological target of this hack). But it's not necessary to think of things in these complicated terms. All you need to remember is that we can use approaches in all the different levels or domains to get faster, better results. If something isn't working well for you, that means you can choose a different domain approach to improve results. Below is a brief guide to each domain. 

Physical/sensory domain, aka sensorimotor domain

All the basics (food quality, sleep, exercise, hygiene) constantly affect your emotional health as well as your physical health. Nobody feels mentally happy and contented when they have physical problems, aches and pains or fatigue. Likewise, when the emotional system goes wrong, it can cause physical problems. So always address the basics first, to make sure you have a firm foundation to work from. Input control should provide your sensory needs for good emotional health.

Addressing the basics first can save a lot of time in NH, because issues there are the most frequent causes of anxiety, leading to a multitude of problems. Something as simple as not having healthy gut bacteria, or missing too much sleep, or being too sedentary, can throw you out of the green zone and initiate mood swings.[16]


Behavioral/ physiological domain, aka spatial domain

Emotions motivate behaviors; that's what they're designed to do; but due to feedback circuitry behaviors can also motivate emotions. Behavioral control uses things like posture, facial expression, types of movement and body language to influence your own emotional system. 'Behave as though' you are happy and confident, remind yourself to smile (not in a fake way; think of things that genuinely make you smile or use comedic input.)

There are other physiological techniques such as massage, yoga and martial arts, all of which can help with attentional focus and system control generally. 

An important thing to remember about behavior is that if it is undirected in emotional situations, it will always pull you towards what biology wants, with complete disregard for societal norms. When working to improve our own performance, we always have to work with biology or hacks won't succeed. It's no good, for example trying to use behavioral control to stop yourself being sexually attracted to someone, unless your solution is having sex with someone else (preferably someone new, because biology needs novelty as much as it needs food and sleep and even more than it needs sex). 

Novelty (experiencing new things) is so important because at the root of our unconscious survival awareness is the knowledge that any system remaining static most of the time will degrade and eventually break down. So big red biological danger flags arise wherever mundanity and repetition predominate. This affects sexual relationships more than other kinds, because (whether we think it is permissible or not), biology knows the best way to keep a species' gene pool healthy is for multiple members to exchange genes. There is a goldilocks zone for ideal sexual partnerships – not too many, not too few; one at a time is fine, but only one in a lifetime isn't. 

When society says 'no' but biology says 'yes', you get incongruity and an ideological dilemma in the system; and biology almost always wins, especially if alcohol is involved as it is an emotional amplifier. It's handy to know this ahead of time, because it's why we have such a prevalence of personal relationship problems and a lot of frustrated people feeling guilty a lot of the time. 

New and diverse experiences are linked to enhanced happiness, and new relationships are associated with greater correlation of brain activity. The novelty factor also affects our enjoyment of working; people simply feel happier and are more productive and creative when they have more variety in their daily life —when they go to novel places and have a wider array of experiences. The beneficial consequences of environmental enrichment occur largely because of the constant change inherent in nature. Breaking up mundanity and repetition with even small changes that introduce greater variability into the physical or mental routine—such as exercising outdoors, going for a walk around the park, and taking a different route to the grocery store or pharmacy—potentially yield similar beneficial effects.[17] 

Chemical/emotional domain, aka environmental domain

Your body chemistry obviously affects your emotions, and this remains one of the most popular 'general public' route for hacking. You get a headache, you take a painkiller; that's hacking. You feel 'more like yourself' when you have a drink, or feel you 'calm down' when you have a cigarette. You 'don't feel awake' without a morning coffee. All this is chemical/emotional hacking, and we all do it, all the time, some of us on purpose but most of us without awareness. 

It's not possible to determine across the board, 'which drugs are best'. Everyone is genetically and epigenetically different, so we all use different substances to self-medicate and help ourselves feel as good as possible, usually through trial and error and positive reinforcement (the brain likes it when anxiety goes down, and rewards us for achieving this by any means with pleasant feelings). We also all change epigenetically over time, so you may find that whatever works for you at age twenty does not still work at age forty, or may work better, or something that didn't used to work suddenly will. 

So beware of people who recommend their own favorite medications to others, claiming that they work really well. Nobody knows what a drug someone else finds beneficial is likely to do to you, unless they have an up to date log of your epigenome and a database of known genetic drug responses and even then, not all predictions are accurate. The only way you know what anything will do for you personally is by experience, which is why it's sensible at first to try small amounts of anything you haven't tried before, including any food that some people are allergic to. This is how you find out if you're 'some people'. 

Not all neurochemistry solutions come via drugs. Simply talking things through with an impartial listener helps a lot of people to deal with difficult emotional issues. This may be something as simple as talking with a friend over a bottle of wine, or as complex as a series of counseling sessions.[7] 

Music can do a lot to change your emotional state, forms a big emotional impact in movies, and is a great tool for enhancing emotion control. Once again, different sounds will suit different folks, but when choosing music remember to practice input control because music can also induce sentiment and accidentally get us stuck in a rut, wallowing in melodrama.   

Likewise with companions and your choices of where to go; rather than grimacing as you endure yet another storm of somebody else's emotional angst against a background of repetitive, loud, unintelligible lyrics, be more strategic about the situations that you find yourself in and the company you keep. Make a greater effort to plan ahead and seek out the people, activities, entertainment and places that promise more beneficial input from the natural world. Never make choices out of habit or passive acceptance of other people’s suggestions.[18] 

A good input control program for surroundings, entertainment, the company you keep and self-care each day can do wonders for your brain chemistry. 


psychological domain aka cultural domain

All healthy mammals play. The state of mind required for play is an optimal state of mind for mental development.



That doesn't mean computer games are good for mental health (although they can be), it means that light-heartedness, a sense of fun, interest, excitement and giggling are good for your mental health. So any game that gets you annoyed or upset or angry or raises any other sentiment will not help you at all; it will slow down your learning abilities and tend to raise anxiety.



Gaming must above all be fun, make you laugh, challenge your response speed or other skills and present new puzzles to solve along the way. Input control means you therefore choose your games wisely. Co-operative games are much more useful than competitive games, and games where you have to be creative are better than those which demand repetition of simple behaviors. 

Nor do games need to be computer games. Everything from chess to jigsaws to role playing in costume is out there and there is something for everyone to play with. Acting is a wonderful way to practice healthy emotional responses in a safe space, but once again don't forget your input control; never choose characters who display sentiments or you'll just practice those. That probably means you can only play the heroes, or that you have to write your own screenplays portraying healthy interactions. It isn't too hard to do this if you start out thinking, 'What would (insert your hero) do if.....?'

Creative hobbies are also great input for psychological emotion control. It's difficult to be creative in protection mode, so doing creative things tends to automatically adjust operational modes. The system assumes, quite reasonably, that you would not be using energy for creativity if protection were currently the priority. 

Self hypnosis and self suggestion work really well for some people and not at all for others. You can only find out if they are helpful to you by trying them out.[19] 

Meditation, and in particular mindfulness, have had very good results for a majority of people with regard to emotion control and are discussed in earlier chapters. 


'Best possible self intervention' method:

Practice in expressing an optimistic viewpoint can enhance your progress on all fronts. Spending half an hour or so imagining yourself in a future where everything has gone as well as it possibly could, where you have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all the goals of your life, is a truly beneficial thing to do. Even if you're totally wrong, you are likely to live a longer, healthier, happier life compared with those who make a habit of imagining a darker future ahead. With practice, optimistic points of view will become habit, which means you really can learn to see the future more brightly.[20] 

Creative writing can be surprisingly useful as a tool for 'decompressing' after high stress or after an anxiety attack. Just writing down factually your days activities, how you felt, what was beneficial or harmful, etc., helps you to keep perspective on different states of mind and mood-triggers. The more aware you become, the more you can direct your mind into more beneficial situations and input.

cognitive domain aka mind domain

Can reason overcome passion? Not very well, but we can be passionate about being reasonable, and that works. We are obviously deeply emotionally invested in remaining alive and healthy, and being passionate about being healthy is not the same thing as obsession. It is what drives us to improve ourselves. 

Cognitive approaches to emotion control may be as simple as learning awareness-related facts (such as, sentiment often occurs following unexpected alarm; right after a shock or unpleasant surprise if we are too anxious); or as complicated as a course of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 

Reason, inspired by a strong desire for wellbeing can help with emotion control and most usefully with self assessment for emotional health. In terms of emotion control, CBT has probably helped just as many people as CBD. Once again, though, results always depend on the individual. In terms of self assessment, techniques such as discourse analysis can help many to reveal sentiment and false beliefs.[19] 

spiritual domain aka entelechy domain

This is not about religion; by 'spirituality' I refer to the peak experiences in our lives that trigger powerful emotional states of mind or 'highs' in terms of our conscious experience. We feel such things as awe, joy, bliss and 'unity'; a numinous sense of absolute belonging.

Many of us experience these states on various drugs of one sort or another, they also happen to us spontaneously in response to scenes of great aesthetic beauty in nature, and are induced all over the world by practices such as chanting, dancing, light & sound technology, sensory deprivation or enhancement, meditation and ritual, and other 'trance' related behaviors. 

Regular experience of these states is a strong factor in brain health, mental wellbeing, and even lifespan.   

As with all else, the method which is most likely to induce such experiences in you personally depends on you personally. But it isn't difficult to try out these things without going anywhere near churches, synagogues, temples or mosques unless you want to enjoy the architecture. 


Now, although all of the above can be useful for emotion control, if you're new to the idea there are some universal basics that work for all of us.

...Here's one: 

understand the order of events in emotional direction:

1 learn to recognize when sentiment is present.

2 learn how to stop the current program from running; call 'time out' and get into open mode.

3 Know what healthy emotion to replace the sentiment with and interact promptly to induce it.   

The green zone table hack helps you define what you're feeling, and assists you with the final step. It can't direct your awareness to observe when you're feeling sentiment – only you getting personal experience and practice at spotting bugs in the system can do that. Nor can it give you the self control sufficient to stop yourself mid-rant and take 'time out' to reset your emotional system. It takes regular, persistent, patient practice to get this process automatic, but once you do, it will serve you well for the rest of your life. 

So learn this process: When in distress, stop 'the movie'. Call 'time out'. Switch attention from the movie (where the sentiment seems real) to reality where you recognize the system has a bug. Now you've stopped empathizing with the buggy program! Look up the most likely candidate sentiment caused by the bug, refocus attention on the adjacent green zone healthy emotion – even if its a negative one like grief or disgust – and deliberately invoke that emotion. Now you've got control back, assess what might have caused the sentiment to arise in the first place. -Do you need to make input-control changes to avoid it happening again?

All of the methods listed above can help you with 'time out' – they help to give the system enough time to reset your chemistry and fix itself, with your guidance and direction. 

...and here's another: 

Empathy control is at the core of emotion control.

Empathy modulates the relativity of understanding. 

A 'relationship' is about how you relate to something or someone, and we relate to things according to our memory, current input and ongoing predictions. If any of these induces empathy it adds extra emotional weighting to our experience and we feel that we 'relate' to others better; we understand each other more clearly. 

When we turn off empathy we no longer relate – this is another meaning of 'the relativity of understanding'. And sometimes, not relating is an important thing to do.

Turning empathy off to avoid bad input

In everyday life, empathy enables us to comprehend people and their behavior rather than just understand intellectually how they might feel or what they might do. It is thus important to learn how and when to switch empathy off, since we obviously don't want to be empathizing with anxiety, bad input or dysfunction.

If you work in emergency services, the military, forensics, medicine or science, you'll most likely have been trained or learned from experience how to switch empathy off, but even if you haven't you probably already know from experience how to do so. 

You've almost certainly done it before. You're watching a great movie and you're all caught up in the emotional experience... 


... when the pizza-delivery guy knocks at the door.



Suddenly you're emotionally flat and thinking about receipts and whether the order is correct and do you have any loose change for a tip... and then you're opening the boxes and settling down to eat... 

...What you just did; that's how you turn empathy off. Even if you've only done this in a switch from fictional context to reality context as in this example, you've still done it. You have experience of doing it, you know how it feels to do it. 

Hold on to that thought. If you look at what you're doing, you'll realize when you're watching a movie, you're in open mode. There's a moment of salience during the first part of an interruption; the knock on the door, the part where you think, 'What?' and then remember that you ordered food, or decide it might be a friend, and then you're into closed mode, going through the required behaviors to get your friend and/or pizza inside and get back to having a fun time. You may think this is a simple thing to do but in reality, you've just demonstrated some remarkable unconscious attention control through a series of complex mode – and mood – changes. 

To turn empathy off if you find yourself surrounded by bad input, follow the same process consciously. Behave as though you've just been interrupted by something more immediately important or interesting (you have; it's your intelligence).

Next, perform a series of steps to direct your attention away from emotional responses into practical matters. The details of what you do are not important; it might be making a discrete exit and going home. It might be going to the bathroom to wash your hands, or feeding your pet, or making a hot drink, or stepping outside for a smoke, or taking out the garbage. The details of these steps will be determined by your circumstances, but the process is always the same: take your attention OFF the distraction (in this case the emotional, subjective issues), engage closed mode and focus on the distraction task.

When we're in open mode our attention is free to float about from idea to idea, and we practice attention control in preparation for closed mode focus on specifics. The specifics you focus on in this hack are simple practical matters which you make sure that you perform correctly and ergonomically. 

We are all able to do this. It is how we change babies' diapers, slaughter meat for eating, clean the dog poop off our shoe or watch an operation without throwing up. By engaging closed mode and focusing attention on non-emotional, practical matters, we can partially 'separate' ourselves from our own feelings and emotions.

Like anything else, this takes practice; a fact well understood from experience in training emergency services staff. It's harder to concentrate if we're feeling strong emotion, but for less emotive things it takes less practice, so begin your practice by training yourself to do those 'distasteful' jobs you'd rather avoid, without getting grossed out. Remember this is NOT about suppressing emotions; it's fine to recognize how nasty something is, the trick is to focus on something else that's more important, which actually increases some emotions such as gravity and rectitude and determination, in order to get the job done. 

Don't pay attention to the emotional issues; direct your attention. Keep your conscious mind aware that this is for the benefit of all concerned, then concentrate on playing your part in improving things, removing or avoiding the bad input (and remember, no input is also bad input). 

Turning one type of emotional response into another is in fact the secret of this technique. We can turn disgust or dismay at something unfortunate or unpleasant into determination, tenacity and inspiration for beneficial behavior. We stop focusing on our own inner feelings and focus attention outwards to apply our practical knowledge. 

Focusing in closed mode to turn off empathy works all the way up the spectrum; from getting interrupted during a movie to pay for a pizza, to performing emergency surgery during a crisis. 

Whether you are trapped in a collapsing cave, accosted with someone else's emotional freakout, or stuck in a bad disco, it can get you out of there. 

Only knowledge as experience can develop this ability; no matter how much knowledge as information you have read, it won't stop you feeling weird when you see unpleasant, especially nasty things. Only practice can do that. And it's well worth practicing, because the same skill can be used to improve healing speed and learning speed, as you progress.


focusing attention

Control is almost always purely about where and how you focus your attention. System basics, such as attention, relaxation and concentration; always modulate or control system details – including what programs are running at any given time.

Learning volitional control of programs such as sync, empathy and bonding is based on paying attention and your ability to direct your own attention to where you want it to go. 

All of the following have been shown to measurably improve focused attention with practice:

Awareness, or attentiveness to one's environment and internal cues such as bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings; connection, appreciation, gratitude, kindness and compassion; insight, curiosity, self knowledge; and purpose, understanding your unconscious values and motivations. 

Many of us have thought we were hardwired to be 'whatever we're like', and a frequent excuse for crappy behavior and sentiment is, “That's just my nature”, or worse; “That's human nature”. Bullshit. The reality is that properties of mind such as attention and control are much more trainable and malleable than many think. People can teach themselves how to weather life's ups and downs with resilience, and the brain and body can change and adapt accordingly.[21]

Our attentional system consists of three subsystems that are mediated by anatomically distinct neural networks: awareness, orienting, and executive control; all can be modulated by changing your operational mode: 

The awareness function is associated with maintaining states of readiness for interaction – engage open mode. 

The orienting function is linked to the selection of sensory information and change of attentional focus – engage salience. 

The executive control function is involved both in the ignoring of irrelevant, distracting stimuli and in top-down attentional control – engage closed mode.[22] 


Access denied?

Emotional control won't work if you're anxious, because you cannot access any of these modes. Get yourself out of protection mode before proceeding. 

using empathy to enhance learning

In terms of quality of input for learning, empathy works best as an enhancer in real life, when people are interacting face to face. Virtual reality and videos remain shadowy substitutes; they still work, but it takes longer as only our long range senses (sight and sound) are getting any input. When VR goes tactile and includes odors, kinesthetics and tastes, then it's getting somewhere with regard to inducing empathy.[40] 

Professional athletes and coaches, who often use mental practice and imagery, have long exploited empathy perhaps without knowing its biological basis. Observation of others working out or practicing skills on video directly improves our own muscle performance via empathy. But face to face real life examples always work faster. 

The strength and duration of your memories rely on emotional weighting being attached to the things you are trying to learn. Thus, it is very easy to learn anything that you are very interested in or intrigued by. It's also easier to learn anything that makes you laugh, gives you great pleasure or fulfilment, or that you think is very important. As far as biology is concerned, that's exactly what you should be learning.


Anything you're not really interested in is a hard slog to remember, and the memory of it tends to fade rather fast because you don't go back there and do it regularly, whatever it is, if you don't enjoy it and it doesn't interest you. This is a big problem for schools, since nobody has enough time to be interested in everything, and most of us are much more interested in playing, which develops our intelligence, than in schooling, which doesn't. So when you are learning, find sources of input that you feel a connection with; that's the prelude to empathy. You don't have to try to make empathy happen; you just create the conditions for it to

flourish, getting into open mode, focusing your attention and awareness, and the brain will do all the work whilst you interact with the chosen input sources. Over time you will find yourself 'thinking like' and 'feeling like' the master who is your input source. 



We learn best of all from those we love and respect. Empathizing with a master or an experienced role model enhances learning because the emotional investment includes your interest in the person whom the information or demonstration is coming from, as well as in the subject. 

Establishing a bond with them (or even with a fellow student who has the same interests) speeds up learning a lot. If you think the master's performance is awesome, everything they say or do will have extra meaning for you; you will pay more attention, remember more easily, and your modeling and memories will be more accurate. Conversely, if you don't like the teacher, you'll tend to shy away from the subject unless it truly fascinates you, at which point you will turn to other teachers or to personal reading. 

We remember best of all when our initial imagining of concepts is most accurate, and we achieve this best when we are in open mode, free from anxiety, engaging empathy and feeling safe and comfortable. Practice, of course, is still required; just less of it. And there are a lot of things that can help enable or improve empathy and bonding; not just in terms of learning ability but in terms of personal relationships and general awareness. If you want to improve empathy with someone, consider all the following:


Shared operational modes (doing the same things together can induce this). Embodiment, sync, Theory of Mind and modeling (any of these you can practice with another will inevitably increase empathy and bonding).



Close physical proximity and physical contact. 

All mammals have an intuitive and universal language of social touch consisting of a core set of gestures that can be used to communicate love, attention, happiness, sadness, gratitude and calming.[23] Skin-contact with another even reduces our sensitivity to emotional pain.[24]

Emotional pain is mapped in the brain by the same mechanisms that encode real physical pain (which is why people use prescription or over-the-counter painkillers to ease emotional, rather than physical, pain); and emotional pleasure is wired similarly via physical pleasure networks. Basically the signals that tell the brain that we are being stroked on the skin have their own direct route to the brain, and are prioritized even if the brain is receiving pain impulses from the same area. This is how stroking, hugging and massage are able to deaden pain impulses.[25]



Touch; stroking & cuddling, mutual massage or grooming, sleeping together (with or without sex) all increase the likelihood of bonding. Affectionate touch is pleasurable. Being held as a baby, nursing at the breast of a pleasure filled mother, hugging friends, feeling close and safe, all lays the foundations for loving sexuality later in life; full of pleasurable sensations and associations. Pleasure, love and happiness provide the “glue” that attach and bond human relationships. 

Eye contact also helps brains to sync with each other and anything that induces synchrony will improve empathy.[26] Circadian rhythms sync and biological systems sync occur naturally with enough time spent together. So does shared microbiology and shared immunity (via close contact, kissing etc, and also via the same diet in shared meals, etc.)

Neural synchrony occurs in minds just as biosystems sync does in the body. How well our brainwaves sync up with those of another person appears to be a good predictor of how well we get along and how engaged we are; to the extent that brain-to-brain synchrony is a possible neural marker for success or failure in everyday interactions.[27] Brain-to-brain synchrony is increased when people interact with each other; especially when they play or solve problems, such as puzzles, together. Tellingly, the stronger the brain-to-brain synchrony, the more problems people can solve. There is also increased brain-to-brain synchrony when people talk to each other. Engaging in activities together, such as solving problems through play or simply having a conversation, should therefore always be seen as opportunities to strengthen bonds and help ourselves develop vital cultural, emotional and cognitive skills. There is stronger brain-to-brain synchrony during both puzzle solving and conversation when people take more frequent turns; meaning that they perform the task or speak alternately—or in succession. The same is true when all parties are able to more strongly engage in the task instead of being led by others, and so have more autonomy. 

Conversely, bonding diminishes during puzzle solving when anyone is anxious or stressed out. In such moments, taking a short break and engaging in self-care may be beneficial for all. 

Odor and pheromones. Always bathe and change clothes after a bout of anxiety or extra stress. Unconsciously we detect anxiety hormones on each other and they can induce similar anxious reactions in ourselves. Don't smother your natural scents with stinky deodorants and products if you want to get good hormonal connections with another person.

Communication. The brains of speakers and listeners become synchronized as they converse and this "neural coupling" is key to effective communication and learning.[28]


Experiencing fun with others; smiling & laughter help to get us in sync. So do activities such as dancing or playing music with others. 

Emotional interest, caring, and the desire to make connections is obviously essential for empathy, as is freedom from or ability to control anxiety. Our ability to 'make a connection' and bond with others relies on our being in growth & repair mode, free from anxiety.[29] Emotions change the connection between two individuals at a neural level. This applies to all types of affiliative bonding; including between couples, close friends and siblings, where each person is highly attuned to the other. The strength of the effect is likely to depend on how well the two people know each other and the level of trust between them, but if anxiety is present bonds will be tenuous at best.



Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds.”

Carl Sagan 


MDMA, marijuana, oxytocin, serotonin, alcohol, LSD, magic mushrooms, opiates, cannabis, Prozac; all have been cited by different people as helpful in empathy and bonding. BUT everyone is different, and some things don't work for some folks, or worse, can wreck relationships via drug-induced misunderstanding or disillusionment. When something works, it tends to work well. If it doesn't, don't waste time.


Shared experience in general is very important.


When people watch an emotional movie or sing together, their heart rates and respiratory rhythms synchronize. When masters and students have a good rapport, their brainwaves fall into a similar pattern. And when romantic couples, close friends or parents & children are simply in each other's presence, their cardiorespiratory and brainwave patterns sync up.[31]


Undergoing an experience with another person—even if we do it in silence, with someone we met just moments ago—intensifies that experience. When people are paying attention to the same pleasant thing at the same time, the experience is much more pleasurable.[32] With enough interaction, bonded people can even develop interconnected memory systems.[33] 

Shared emotional experiences such as humor, fun, creativity, play. 

Brains 'sync up' during play.[34] 'Team flow,' which occurs when a group of people reaches 'the zone' while working toward a common goal, is associated with a distinctive brain state and synchronization of teammates' neural firing.[35] 

Cognitive awareness of emotional vocabulary can also help empathy and bonding. The words you personally use to describe your emotions are an indicator of your mental and physical awareness, health and overall well-being.[36] Using a larger negative emotion vocabulary—or different ways to describe similar feelings—correlates with more psychological distress and poorer physical health, while a larger positive emotion vocabulary correlates with better well-being and physical health. In short, people who use more names for sadness grow sadder; people who use more names for fear grow more anxious; and people who use more names for happiness grow happier. Awareness of the power of positively naming emotions is growing in clinical contexts. Your own words are input too!


Self counseling for emotional stability


With a good grasp of the basics, a person has the ability to address their own anger, anxiety, addictive bad habits, conditioning and past emotional trauma.

Many of us practice some “self-counseling” skills innately already. Listening to or reading your own notes in open mode, looking for clarification, and probing around options can help the majority of people improve emotional direction skills. Dealing with deep-seated emotional trauma and past conditioning can also be mastered if one learns the process.

Self counseling can be viewed as having a counseling session on paper or with recordings. You can use exactly the same counseling questions on yourself as you would if counseling another. You don't have to keep the notes or recordings and nobody else will ever see them. 

All you need to proceed is the counseling process, so here it is: 

Start by thinking about what you’d like to achieve

Are you hoping to learn techniques for managing anxiety? Looking to stop sentiments before they start? Do you want to work on developing some positive current behaviors? Get rid of a past trauma that keeps on bothering you in the present? Clarifying your aims and goals will simply make your own priorities and objectives easier to understand.

Examine what obstacles are in the way

To work towards your goals, you need to develop your understanding of problems and issues that may delay them or get in their way. Upstream diagnostics can help you work this out. All problems have causes, in biology sometimes multiple causes, but if you trace them far enough it comes down to biology's needs not getting met and usually it's input needs that remain unsatisfied. 

If you can't cope with the smell, get out of the sewer

Don't fall for the anxiety-based belief that 'somebody else' is responsible for your feeling bad. YOU are responsible for how you feel as well as whom you hang out with, and if certain inputs throw you out of the green zone, avoid those inputs until you have built more resilience. You don't respond to a sports injury by continuing to stress the muscles; you avoid the sport and build up your resilience until you are strong enough to return to practice. So don't keep exposing yourself to things which cause emotional imbalance until your resilience has been improved enough to practice. 

Know yourself: study your own emotions and behaviors more closely

Take a closer look at how you frame problems. Would you call it a behavioral problem, like wimp or bully behaviors? Or are you framing it as unwanted feelings, like anxiety or irritation? Does reframing give you a broader perspective on what is going on emotionally? 

For self counseling purposes, studying your own behaviors or emotions at a more in-depth level can involve exercises such as these: 

Describe the feeling or behavior: what were you thinking, how intense was the feeling, and did you feel anything else? 

Recall times that you felt or behaved a certain way. Try to take an objective approach to recount where you were, who was there, and alternative interactions or emotions you might have experienced.


Keep a record of when and where sentiments, wimp or bully behaviors pop up. Are you able to discern any patterns? Are there certain situations that lead to the problems? 

Identify and explore any incongruous associated self-talk, thoughts, or beliefs

Very often, irrational or incongruous cognitive mental bugs are behind unwanted feelings and behaviors. Anger, anxiety, depression, and even relationship difficulties can often be addressed by identifying the incongruous self-talk or distortions that may go on in emotional problems. 

Challenge irrational thoughts, incongruous internal dialogue, or beliefs.

Regardless of which direction you choose to take your self counseling, the goal is to gain emotional control. Incongruity gets in your way. How much evidence as proof stands behind the things you believe? Consider some things you believe, including what acceptable behavior is and what healthy emotions are. What evidence do you base your beliefs and ideas on? If you believe a certain behavior or feeling is good, what proof do you have that this is so? If you believe something is wrong, what proof do you have that assumption is true? The rationality behind your interactions should match up with the emotions involved. 

Invoke the core conditions for successful interaction

Interaction is a pattern of events between individuals that enables more and different kinds of behaviors. The result of full interaction is that all parties capable of interaction benefit. In a partial interaction, some but not all benefit. Successful interaction requires an attitude of honesty, empathy and respect, which are known as the 'core conditions' for interaction. The core conditions are absolutely necessary, and they are all that is necessary. I'll go more deeply into core conditions during the next chapter; all you need do for now is remember what they are. 

Replace irrational thoughts, behaviors or beliefs

Reframe beliefs and behaviors in terms of facts, your goals, core conditions for interaction, and the prime directive: no coercion. No coercion means you should not be wasting valuable time and energy on trying to get other people to do things. Other people are none of your business! You are responsible for yourself and your own behavior only. Take your attention off others and their behavior, mind your own business and start looking at the real world and yourself in relation to it. 

If you need to interact with others, use core conditions. If you are unable to do this, examine what is getting in the way. If others' reactions are an obstacle, try to see those persons less often or if possible not at all. Once you build some resilience things get easier, but you have to prioritize your own health until this is so. Sufficient time in healthy interactions is needed to build resilience. It doesn't matter if those interactions are via email or with the natural environment or with other animals; all healthy interactions count. 


Every day we face anxiety triggers from external events that we have no control over. As we practice, develop, and strengthen our rational and emotional thought processes, we get better at managing and directing them. You have the power to enact real change in the way you think, behave, and cope on a daily basis. But you need to put in the practice. 

Actually try writing your thoughts down. Plan to take daily, low-key walks (and actually do them). Have a self-care arsenal. Reward yourself regularly with something you enjoy doing, and celebrate your progress.


Self counseling questions

Self counseling questions are designed for you to ask yourself. The aim of this first set is to probe a little deeper into the nature of whatever anxiety, depression, or problems with sentiments you might be consciously aware of.

What sort of things trigger your anxiety?

What physical symptoms do you experience when you feel anxious? 

What sort of thoughts do you tend to have when you feel anxious?

What sort of sentiments do you get when you feel anxious?  

What sort of things do you do to cope when you are anxious? 

By asking yourself these questions, you can develop a better sense of what triggers your anxiety, how it manifests physically and mentally, and the avoidance behaviors you commonly exhibit. 

Anxiety and depression or anxiety and anger/aggression often come together. These next questions are designed to help you to challenge maladaptive thoughts or feelings and reassess them. Ideally, they should provide an alternative perspective and help you cope with or reframe the situation.

Is there substantial evidence for my thought?

Is there evidence contrary to my thought?

Am I attempting to interpret this situation without all the evidence?

What would a friend/a role model think about this situation?

If I look at the situation positively, how is it different?

Will this matter a year from now? 

How about five years from now?

There is no problem, btw, with one or more answers being, 'I don't know yet'. In fact, admitting honestly that you don't know something is much more useful to progress than wasting time pretending that you do. 

When you feel that you are at risk of worrying or getting confused, when you feel the onset of either anxiety or an unnaturally crappy mood, ask yourself this set of questions:

What are you worried about?

How likely is it that your worry will come true? Give examples of past experiences, or other evidence, to support your answer.

If your worry does come true, what’s the worst that could happen?

If your worry does come true, what’s most likely to happen?

If your worry comes true, what are the chances you’ll be okay…

In one week? ____%

In one month? ____%

In one year? ____% 

These next questions are designed to be self-administered, and the results will be most helpful to you if you answer them using your first response without analyzing them. Based on the answers you give, you will ideally be able to get some understanding of what triggers anxiety, incongruity or harmful sentiments. 

Each question is answered on a six-point scale ranging from Never to Always. 

I set extremely high standards for myself.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always 

I push myself to work very hard so I can achieve my goals.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always 

When I think of trying something new and challenging, I usually give up before I begin.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always 

I have a hard time feeling OK about myself when I’m not acting in accordance with my childhood conditioning or society's rules.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always 

It is hard for me to start on new projects because I feel it is unacceptable to make mistakes even when I am just learning.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always 

I am troubled by something I have done that I cannot forgive myself for.

Never / Seldom / Don't know / Sometimes / Frequently / Always   


This final set of questions should help you to get to know yourself 

What is really making me uncomfortable?
What language do I use during conversations? Do I try to coerce others? Why?
What is my behavior or attitude towards others? Am I using core conditions?
What is my usual attitude to others I encounter in everyday life?

What is my usual attitude to those I care about?

In what sort of situations do I tend to behave foolishly or irrationally? Why? 

How much time do I waste thinking about other people's problems and issues instead of facing my own?

In context of reality regarding the state of humanity and the planet, are my behaviors, thoughts, emotions, beliefs and ideals rational? What things do I do that are irrational? Why?


Best hack to improve emotional stability

Use and enjoy positive emotions! Using deliberately invoked healthy emotions can benefit you in a variety of ways: 

Positive emotions undo negative emotion arousal, anxiety and sentiment; fuel psychological resilience; reduce anxiety hormones; improve your immunity, and trigger emotional and physical well-being.   

You already have some experience in emotion control. You are able to make yourself feel sexy, right? That's emotion control. Extending that (no pun intended), consider how to make yourself laugh. Figure out what sort of things motivate you. What do you do to calm yourself down? Chances are you'll think of several ways. Making a habit of finding ways to have a giggle on a regular basis will speed your progress on all fronts.


Things not to do

Don't suppress, block or deny emotions, but make sure you know what emotions ARE. 


Blocking sentiments is essential in emotion control, because running sentiment blocks emotion. Never block healthy emotion. Read that again. 


Some of us grew up in a society in an era when parents and teachers taught us cliches: 'big girls don't cry', 'real men don't cry', or, 'ladies and gentlemen always hide negative emotions'. Those who took it seriously paid the price in terms of medical bills. If a genuine bummer happens, you cry. Cry your ass off. And wave goodbye to a big pile of neurotoxins that would otherwise remain in your bloodstream, doing your head (and your health) in for months. Repetitive indulgence in expressing sentiments increases your dementia risk.[37] 

And remember: suppressing emotion and expressing sentiments breaks bonds. 

...and finally...

To conclude this chapter with a bit of fun, and remind you of the societal variation in descriptive emotional terms, here's a list of words for feelings, relationships, behaviors and personal character that have no direct translation into english: 

Gula – Spanish for the desire to eat simply for the taste.
Sobremesa – Spanish for when the food has finished but the conversation is still flowing.
Mbukimvuki – Bantu for “to shuck off one’s clothes in order to dance”.
Schnapsidee – German for coming up with an ingenious plan when drunk.
Volta – Greek for leisurely strolling the streets.
Gokotta – Swedish for waking up early to listen to bird song.
Suaimhneas croi – Gaelic for the happiness that comes from finishing a task.
Iktsuarpok – Inuit for the anticipation felt when waiting for someone.
Vacilando – Greek for the idea of wandering, where the act of travelling is more important than the destination.
Gumusservi – Turkish for the glimmer that moonlight makes on water.

Nakama – Japanese for friends who one considers like family.
Kanyininpa – Aboriginal Pintupi for a relationship between holder and held, akin to the deep nurturing feelings experienced by a parent for their child.
Gigil – Philippine Tagalog for the irresistible urge to hug or squeeze someone because you love them so much.
Kilig – Tagalog for the butterflies in the stomach you get when interacting with someone you find attractive.
Sarang – Korean for when you wish to be with someone until death.
Myotahapea – Finnish for vicarious embarrassment.
Mudita – Sanskrit for reveling in someone else’s joy.
Karma – the well known Buddhist term for when ethical actions lead to future positive states.
Firgun – Hebrew for saying nice things to someone simply to make them feel good.
Asabiyyah – Arabic for a sense of community spirit.

Sitzfleisch – German for the ability to persevere through hard or boring tasks (literally “sit meat”).
Baraka – Arabic for a gift of spiritual energy that can be passed from one person to another.
Jugaad – Hindi for the ability to get by or make do.
Desenrascanco – Portuguese for the ability to artfully disentangle oneself from a troublesome situation.
Sprezzatura – Italian for when all art and effort are concealed beneath a “studied carelessness”.
Pihentagyu – Hungarian for quick witted people who come up with sophisticated jokes and solutions (literally “with a relaxed brain”).
Kao pu – Chinese for someone who is reliable and responsible and gets things done without causing problems for others.
Prajna – Sanskrit for intellectual wisdom and experiential insight.
Wu Wei – Chinese for “do nothing” (literally) but meaning that one’s actions are entirely natural and effortless; sort of like 'in the zone'; or the Japanese concept of 'No Mind'.

Bodhi – Sanskrit for the feeling that one has gained complete insight into nature.[38]




Refs chapter 5

1 Jeffrey A. Brooks et al, Conceptual knowledge predicts the representational structure of facial emotion perception, Nature Human Behaviour (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0376-6

2 First-of-kind study reveals public and physician attitudes toward recording clinical visits AND "Prevalence of and Factors Associated with Patient Nondisclosure of Medically Relevant Information to Clinicians" JAMA Network Open (2018).

DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.5293

3 Human Face-Selective Cortex Does Not Distinguish Between Members of a Racial Outgroup, eNeuro, DOI: 10.1523/ENEURO.0431-19.2020

4 Experience with anonymous interactions reduces intuitive cooperation, Nature Human Behavior (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-018-0454-9 , https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-018-0454-9

5 B. A. Scelza et al. High rate of extrapair paternity in a human population demonstrates diversity in human reproductive strategies, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay6195 AND Brooke A. Scelza et al. Patterns of paternal investment predict cross-cultural variation in jealous response, Nature Human Behaviour (2019). DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0654-y

6 "Lifting the veil on 'valence,' brain study reveals roots of desire, dislike" January 23, 2018 


7 http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials/284-tutorial-9 AND http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials/294-neurohacking-tutorial-10

8 http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials/294-neurohacking-tutorial-10

9 Luca Barlassina, Albert Newen. The Role of Bodily Perception in Emotion: In Defense of an Impure Somatic Theory. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/phpr.12041

10 Premack and Woodruff, 1978; Baron-Cohen et al., 1985 AND https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3737477/ 

11 Baron-Cohen et al., 2013; Meunier, 2017

12 Flavell et al., 1978, 1981

13 Cells That Read Minds January 10, 2006

14 Jabbi M, Bastiaansen J, Keysers C (2008) A Common Anterior Insula Representation of Disgust Observation, Experience and Imagination Shows Divergent Functional Connectivity Pathways. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2939. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone. 0002939 http://dx.plos. org/10.1371/ journal.pone. 0002939

15 Bonding grows new neurons;


16 "Research suggests association between gut bacteria and emotion" June 29, 2017 


17 Association between real-world experiential diversity and positive affect relates to hippocampal–striatal functional connectivity, Nature Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41593-020-0636-4 , www.nature.com/articles/s41593-020-0636-4

18 Christian Jarrett;

Situation selection is a particularly effective emotion regulation strategy for people who need help regulating their emotions; 23/3/2018.

19 http://www.neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-nh-library/menu-left-nh-tutorials

20 Journal of Positive Psychology  Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis

21 Cortland J. Dahl el al., "The plasticity of well-being: A training-based framework for the cultivation of human flourishing," PNAS (2020). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.2014859117 AND Amy G. Halberstadt et al, Beliefs About Children's Emotions in Chile, Frontiers in Psychology (2020). DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00034

22 David Medina et al, Efficiency of attentional networks in musicians and non-musicians, Heliyon (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01315 

23 Sarah McIntyre, Linköping University, Sweden

24 Laura Jones et al, The impact of parental contact upon cortical noxious‐related activity in human neonates, European Journal of Pain (2020). DOI: 10.1002/ejp.1656

25 http://www.physorg.com/news158931155.html AND Fairhurst, M T; Loken, L & Grossmann, T; Physiological and Behavioral Responses Reveal 9-Month-Old Infants’ Sensitivity to Pleasant Touch

26 Victoria Leong et al. Speaker gaze increases information coupling between infant and adult brains, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017).  DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1702493114 

AND "Eye contact with your baby helps synchronise your brainwaves" November 29, 2017 https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-11-eye-contact-baby-synchronise-brainwaves.html

27 Current Biology, Dikker and Wan et al.: "Brain-to-Brain Synchrony Tracks Real-World Dynamic Group Interactions in the Classroom" DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.002 , www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(17)30411-6 AND "Why do we like our classes? And each other? Our brain waves tell us, new research shows" April 27, 2017 


28 Alejandro Pérez et al. Brain-to-brain entrainment: EEG interbrain synchronization while speaking and listening, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-04464-4 AND "Our brains synchronise during a conversation" July 20, 2017  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-07-brains-synchronise-conversation.html

29 Lorena Santamaria et al, Emotional valence modulates the topology of the parent-infant inter-brain network, NeuroImage (2019). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2019.116341 Journal information: NeuroImage

30 Carl Sagan http://highexistence.com/carl-sagans-profound-essay-on-why-cannabis-consciousness-is-desperately-needed-in-this-mad-and-dangerous-world/

31 Pavel Goldstein et al, The role of touch in regulating inter-partner physiological coupling during empathy for pain, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03627-7 AND "When lovers touch, their breathing and heartbeat syncs, pain wanes, study shows" June 21, 2017  https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-06-lovers-heartbeat-syncs-pain-wanes.html

32 Psychological Science, pss.sagepub.com/content/early/… 97614551162.abstract AND Families that fire together smile together: Resting state connectome similarity and daily emotional synchrony in parent-child dyads

33 Alex Fradera; 'In Memory Studies'

34 Elise A. Piazza et al, Infant and Adult Brains Are Coupled to the Dynamics of Natural Communication, Psychological Science (2019). DOI: 10.1177/0956797619878698 ; Journal information: Psychological Science AND

'Mindreading' neurons simulate decisions of social partners ; Related Neuroscience 2019 Presentation Clinical Neuroscience Lecture: From Pecking Order to Ketamine: Neural Mechanisms of Social & Emotional Behaviors

35 Mohammed Shehata, California Institute of Technology

36 Vera Vine et al, Natural emotion vocabularies as windows on distress and well-being, Nature Communications (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18349-0. A custom open-source software developed by these researchers to help with emotion vocabulary computation is called "Vocabulate." It's available at osf.io/8ckyp/ and github.com/ryanboyd/Vocabulate Journal information: Nature Communications; AND A new strategy to alleviate sadness: Bring the emotion to life

37 Natalie L. Marchant et al, Repetitive negative thinking is associated with amyloid, tau, and cognitive decline, Alzheimer's & Dementia (2020). DOI: 10.1002/alz.12116

38 Lomas, T. (2016). Towards a positive cross-cultural lexicography: Enriching our emotional landscape through 216 ‘untranslatable’ words pertaining to well-being The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1-13 DOI: 10.1080/17439760.2015.1127993

39 Carmelo M Vicario et al, Indignation for moral violations suppresses the tongue motor cortex: preliminary TMS evidence, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (2020). DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsaa036

40 Nalini M. Nadkarni et al, Providing Virtual Nature Experiences to Incarcerated Men Reduces Stress and Increases Interest in the Environment, Ecopsychology (2021). DOI: 10.1089/eco.2020.0043









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