Emotion, a book by Dylan Jones

February 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

I’ve recently been re-reading the book Emotion by Dylan Jones. The book is a survey of recent research into the emotions, and their evolutionary role. Jones lists the Basic emotions as being joy, distress, disgust, anger, fear and surprise. These are controlled by the amygdala, a sub-cortical part of the brain. The Higher Cognitive Emotions are love, guilt, shame, embarassment, pride, envy and jealousy, which engage the frontal cortex. Jones also discusses moods.

He touches on meditation as one of the Body Technologies of Mood. He considers meditation as a safe and effective ‘body technology’ to regulate emotions. Its calming effects work through feedback. In a meditative state, ‘the rythmic breathing and relaxed state of the muscles are interpreted by the brain as conducive to a calm state of mind.’

We usually think that the onset of a strong emotion causes body changes, but in meditation the reverse happens: the body changes come first and they induce the emotions. Since a feedback loop can be amplified, it stands to reason that improving meditative skills through practice can lead to more voluntary control over the body and the emotions. This has been demonstrated in advanced yogis,  who can control their hearbeat and breathing to a great degree.

Jones makes an interesting comparison about breathing and the basic emotions, in that he considers them to be similar, ie, that they are biological -‘hard-wired,etched into our neural circuitry, by our genes rather than by our culture.’

An interesting and well written book.

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