What are Manufactured Emotions?

What are Manufactured Emotions?

Emotions are the threads that weave through the fabric of our existence, coloring our experiences and shaping our perceptions. From the elation of success to the depths of despair, emotions are an integral part of what it means to be human. Yet, not all emotions are created equal. Within the tapestry of human experience, there exists a distinction between natural emotions and manufactured emotions.

What Are Manufactured Emotions?

Natural emotions are innate, primal responses that arise instinctively in reaction to external stimuli. They are the raw, unfiltered reactions that flow through us, whether it be the sorrow of loss or the joy of reunion. These emotions, like a fire sparked by tinder, burn brightly and then wane, naturally dissipating over time.

In contrast, manufactured emotions are not innate but rather constructed through our thoughts and perceptions. They arise as a result of how we interpret and frame our experiences, acting as fuel to keep the flames of natural emotions burning longer and brighter. These emotions, akin to the lighter fluid that sustains a fire, are intricately woven into the fabric of our cognitive processes.

Consider the example of grieving for a loved one. The deep sadness that washes over us upon their passing is a natural emotion, rooted in the inherent human experience of loss. However, the guilt and self-blame that may follow, fueled by thoughts of inadequacy or regret, are manufactured emotions that prolong and intensify our grief.

Understanding the Construction of Emotions

Lisa Feldman Barrett’s book, How Emotions are Made, presents a groundbreaking perspective on the nature of emotions, challenging traditional views and offering insights into how emotions are constructed by the brain. Let’s break down the key concepts outlined about how emotions are made and how they can be deceptive:

Experiential Blindness:

  • This term refers to the idea that individuals often lack awareness of how their experiences are constructed by their brains. Instead of perceiving raw sensory input, our past experiences shape and give meaning to our current sensations.
  • The process of constructing experiences, including emotions, is typically invisible to us. We cannot directly observe or experience how our brain constructs these sensations.

Simulation, Prediction, & Ambiguous Data:

  • Our brain constantly generates simulations or guesses about what’s happening in the world based on past experiences. These simulations help interpret ambiguous or noisy sensory information.
  • What we perceive as reality is largely a construct created by our brain’s simulations, rather than a direct reflection of external stimuli.
  • This process of simulation is automatic and occurs by default in all mental activities, shaping our perceptions and experiences.

The Theory of Constructed Emotions:

  • Barrett contrasts the traditional view of emotions as innate, triggered reactions with the theory of constructed emotions, which posits that emotions are actively constructed by the brain.
  • Emotion categories like anger or disgust are not predetermined but are built based on our social context and past experiences.
  • This theory integrates elements of social construction, psychological construction, and neuroconstruction, emphasizing the role of culture, brain processes, and experience in shaping emotions.

Affective Realism:

  • Affective realism refers to the tendency to believe that our perceptions of others’ emotions are accurate reflections of reality. However, emotions are subjective constructions influenced by individual experiences and interpretations.
  • Confidence in our emotional perceptions doesn’t necessarily reflect their accuracy but rather the agreement between individuals on which emotional concepts to apply.

Architects of Emotions:

  • Barrett challenges the notion that emotions happen to us passively, arguing that we actively construct our emotional experiences.
  • Emotions are not reactions to the world but are actively created by our brains based on sensory input, past experiences, and contextual factors.
  • Individuals play an active role in constructing their environments and experiences, influencing and being influenced by their surroundings through sensory input and interactions.

Overall, Barrett’s work offers a paradigm shift in understanding emotions, highlighting the dynamic and constructed nature of our emotional experiences. It emphasizes the role of past experiences, brain processes, and social context in shaping our perceptions and responses to the world around us.

The Impact of Trauma on Emotions

For individuals grappling with trauma, the landscape of emotions becomes fraught with complexity. Traumatic experiences disrupt the natural flow of emotions, leaving individuals struggling to process their feelings amidst the turmoil. In the aftermath of trauma, manufactured emotions often emerge as a coping mechanism, attempting to make sense of the incomprehensible.

Addressing manufactured emotions is paramount to fostering emotional well-being and resilience. By untangling the web of distorted thoughts and beliefs underlying these emotions, individuals can reclaim agency over their emotional experiences and embark on a journey of healing.

Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) offers a structured and evidence-based approach to addressing manufactured emotions. By targeting the underlying cognitive distortions and maladaptive beliefs that fuel these emotions, CPT empowers individuals to challenge and reframe their thought patterns, leading to greater emotional clarity and resilience.

One key aspect of CPT is its focus on identifying and examining “stuck points” – the rigid and distorted beliefs that contribute to manufactured emotions. Through guided exercises and therapeutic techniques, individuals learn to recognize the ways in which these stuck points influence their emotional responses and behaviors.

CPT also provides individuals with practical skills to challenge and restructure these maladaptive beliefs. By engaging in cognitive restructuring exercises, individuals learn to question the validity of their thoughts and beliefs, replacing them with more balanced and realistic alternatives. This process allows individuals to break free from the cycle of distorted thinking and embrace a more adaptive and constructive outlook on their experiences.

Furthermore, CPT incorporates elements of exposure therapy, allowing individuals to confront and process distressing memories and emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Through repeated exposure to traumatic or triggering stimuli, individuals gradually desensitize themselves to these experiences, reducing the intensity of associated emotions and promoting emotional healing.

Seeking Support at COPE Psychological Center

At COPE Psychological Center, we understand the intricate interplay between natural and manufactured emotions. Our team of compassionate mental health professionals is dedicated to guiding individuals on their journey to emotional clarity and resilience. Whether you’re grappling with the aftermath of trauma or struggling to untangle the threads of your emotional landscape, we’re here to help.

Through evidence-based therapies such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, we provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to explore and address their emotional challenges. Together, we can unravel the complexities of manufactured emotions and pave the way for healing and growth.

Emotions are not static entities but dynamic constructs shaped by the intricate interplay of our thoughts, experiences, and perceptions. By embracing the complexity of our emotional landscape and seeking support when needed, we can chart a course towards greater emotional well-being and resilience. At COPE Psychological Center, we’re here to accompany you on that journey. Contact us today.