In adults we know that having the ability to feel a range of emotions to be a good thing, it allows us to better appreciate the world around us. Yes, even feeling bad can actually be good for you in the long term. We tend to want feelings and experiences that make us feel better (like relaxing instead of working) and we send those feelings to our offspring. We want our kids to also have a pleasurable life instead of a hard one, but should we? New research is showing that we really need boys to feel a ride range of emotions.
If having lots of different emotions is good for our health as adults, then shouldn’t we be fostering the experience of a diverse range of emotions in young children as well? And yet the research suggests we are not fostering emotional diversity from a young age, especially when it comes to raising young boys. As early as infancy, boys’ and girls’ emotional landscape differs. One study reported that when watching an infant being startled by a jack-in-the-box toy, adults who were told the infant was a boy versus a girl were more likely to perceive the infant as experiencing anger, regardless of whether the infant was actually a boy. Gender differences in the diversity of emotion words parents use in conversations with young boys and girls also emerge. Another studyexamining conversations between mothers and young children, mothers interacting with daughters employ emotion vocabulary of greater density and depth, whereas conversations with sons tended to focus primarily on a single emotion—you guessed it, anger. Regardless of whether gender differences in adult behavior arise from conscious or unconscious psychological processes, one thing is clear: boys grow up in a world inhabited by a narrower range of emotions, one in which their experiences of anger are noticed, inferred, and potentially even cultivated. This leaves other emotions—particularly the more vulnerable emotions—sorely ignored or missing in their growing minds.
How do we study emotion and how do we even think about positive emotions? Why do we even have positive emotions? These questions and more are being investigated by June Gruber, and here she is talking about them:
I thought I’d first start briefly with a tale of positive emotion. It’s a really interesting state because in many ways it’s one of the most powerful things that evolution has built for us. If we look at early writings of Charles Darwin, he prominently features these feelings of love, admiration, laughter. So early on we see observations of them, and have some sense that they’re really critical for our survival, but when you look at the subsequent scientific study of emotion, it lagged far behind. Indeed, most of the research in human emotion really began with studying negative emotions, trying to build taxonomies, understand cognitive appraisals, physiological signatures, and things like anger, and fear, and disgust. For good reason, we wanted to understand human suffering and hopefully try to ameliorate it.
June Gruberis Assistant Professor of Psychology, Director, Positive Emotion & Psychopatology Lab, Yale University.
Positive thinking gets a lot of praise because people think that just changing one’s thoughts their lives would improve. This is not entirely true. It turns out to really make change in your life you need to change how you act. Sure this sounds obvious upon reading it, but read on for insight that isn’t so obvious.
However in the 70s psychologist James Laird from Clark University decided to put James’s theory to the test. Volunteers were invited into the laboratory and asked to adopt certain facial expressions. To create an angry expression participants were asked to draw down their eyebrows and clench their teeth. For the happy expression they were asked to draw back the corners of the mouth. The results were remarkable. Exactly as predicted by James years before, the participants felt significantly happier when they forced their faces into smiles, and much angrier when they were clenching their teeth.
Subsequent research has shown that the same effect applies to almost all aspects of our everyday lives. By acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person – what I call the “As If” principle.
Take, for example, willpower. Motivated people tense their muscles as they get ready to spring into action. But can you boost your willpower by simply tensing your muscles? Studies led by Iris Hung from the National University of Singapore had volunteers visit a local cafeteria and asked them to try to avoid temptation and not buy sugary snacks. Some of the volunteers were asked to make their hand into a fist or contract their biceps, and thus behave as if they were more motivated. Amazingly, this simple exercise made people far more likely to buy healthy food.
New research shows that siblings are very important and that they provide different benefits to one another. One finding that seems pretty neat is that having a sister can protect brothers from depression.
Padilla-Walker’s research stems from BYU’s Flourishing Families Projectand will appear in the August issue of the Journal of Family Psychology. The study included 395 families with more than one child, at least one of whom was an adolescent between 10 and 14 years old. The researchers gathered a wealth of information about each family’s dynamic, then followed up one year later. Statistical analyses showed that having a sister protected adolescents from feeling lonely, unloved, guilty, self-conscious and fearful. It didn’t matter whether the sister was younger or older, or how far apart the siblings were agewise.
Brothers mattered, too. The study found that having a loving sibling of either gender promoted good deeds, such as helping a neighbor or watching out for other kids at school. In fact, loving siblings fostered charitable attitudes more than loving parents did. The relationship between sibling affection and good deeds was twice as strong as that between parenting and good deeds.
When negative feelings arise, we have two choices,
To follow the habitual pattern we’ve learned since we were young, to react and allow the negativity to consume us.
Or, to interrupt the pattern we have been conditioned to follow, and in doing so build new neural pathways that allows for alternative possibilities.
There are essentially three ways to interrupt a behavioral pattern:
Visual – Change your thoughts.
Verbal – Change your language.
Kinesthetic – Change your physical position.