We humans have a unique way of perceiving and processing emotional experiences. Years ago I developed a formula to understand the perception and process of emotional experiences: CABS-VAKGO-IS/Rels. The C stands for cognition; we spend a great deal of time thinking about pretty much everything we experience in awareness and even in our dreams. We are a species dominated by our cognition and consciousness. We also have affect, of in lay terms the A implies emotional experience – especially the internal aspects of sensations and feelings. The B stands for behavior, which is often the end-product of cognition coupled with emotion. It tends to be our cognition and behavior that make us suffer or “experience” happiness. It can be our behavior (self-medication with mind altering substances) that may result in serious life problems.
Mindfulness-based “wise-mind” skills may help us to enhance positive, helpful, effective life habits – thus creating highly adaptive and mindful responses to life’s challenges. Human also use sensory systems to navigate the world of emotional experience. VAKGO represents visual, auditory, kinesthetic, gustatory and olfactory. We use our senses (to see, hear, feel, taste and smell) in memories of past experiences, in sensory awareness of present moment experiences, and in mental projections of possible future experiences. Humans also use intuition and spirituality to better understand our emotional experiences. Lastly, the Rels refers to all inner human experience in relationship to significant people, places and things in our lives. We may develop both problems and skills utilizing each of these perceptual processing channels. It is ultimately up to us; we can develop unhelpful habits that lead to suffering and pain, or we can develop helpful habits that lead to greater joy and happiness. All this occurs in our brain via mind training.
The human brain does some fascinating things with our sensory perception. Perception consists of energetic impulses in our sense organs. Then after brainstem processing, the thalamus acts as a relay station. Sensory inputs are relayed to various brain regions for processing and evaluation. For example, emotional events are transmitted to the amygdala, and verbal/word events are transmitted to the temporal areas. Color and visual inputs move to the occipital area, and touch and movement inputs are relayed to the parietal area (as well as to the somatosensory and somatomotor strips). The all-important hippocampus records and stores memories; it also initiates memory categorization (over 20 types of memory categories). The prefrontal area, the limbic area (amygdala and hippocampus), the reward centers, and various sensory-related brain regions interact to solidify precise meaning-making of the events (short-term memory).
Eventually the brain retains long-term memories of emotional events. In the future when a sensory system or memory fragment is stimulated, the human brain is capable of re-activating the entire memory – the neural networks in the sequence of event and its associated emotional realities. Through brain plasticity our amazing brain promotes intelligence and adaptability in the future. The more we know about HOW to USE our minds to influence our brain’s processing and evaluating, the greater mindfulness power we have to reduce personal suffering and enhance personal happiness.
It is up to YOU!
For more information refer to Michio Kaku (2014). The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind. New York: Doubleday, pp. 104-129.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, Ph.D., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
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