Do You Know About Emotions?
What is an Emotion?
“An emotion is a feeling comprising physiological and behavioral (and possibly cognitive) reactions to internal and external events” – Sternberg, R. In search of the human mind, 2nd Ed.Harcourt, Brace, 1998 p 542.
Basic emotions regulate us in response to environmental challenges and opportunities. While there is no definitive list of basic emotions, one popular one (from emotion expert Paul Ekman) contains six: fear, anger, sadness, disgust, surprise, and joy.
Display of Emotions
Though people may recognize the facial expressions of basic emotions, the way in which they are experienced and expressed vary among cultures. Some cultures prefer an open show of emotions. E.g. shouting, crying, gesturing body language, swearing and cursing. While some cultures prefer a low key, rational approach to emotions. E.g. - Quiet tone of voice, minimal body language.
Cultural norms about Emotion and Emotional expression in Individualistic and collectivist cultures
Individualistic cultures view the individual as the most important social unit. They value and promote uniqueness, separateness, and autonomy (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Therefore, emotions are seen as important personal experiences, and their expression is the individual’s right. Individualistic cultures may prescribe rules encouraging outward displays of emotion that exaggerate the strength of the feeling.
Collectivist cultures value groups over individuals, and promote harmony and cooperation within the group rather than individual assertion (Noon & Lewis, 1992). Emotions are seen as interactive experiences and reflect the social context rather than the inner self. Expression of emotion is also controlled, as it is grounded in assessment of the relationship between the self and others (Mesquita, 2000).
The expression of an emotion depends upon its specific use and meaning in a culture. In individualistic cultures, norms for positive emotions are more restrictive. There is considerable pressure to be happy and to express happiness. People look for happy situations, and such situations are positively evaluated. Deviations have significant consequences: unhappiness is seen as failure and, in the extreme, its expression may be seen to warrant psychotherapy (Eid & Diener, 2001).
Collectivist cultures seem to be less restrictive regarding positive emotions and such emotions can be evaluated as undesirable. For example, the study by Eid and Diener (2001) showed that Chinese displayed the lowest frequency and intensity for all positive emotions including happiness (joy) compared to Australia and United States.
In individualistic cultures, anger is considered functional and is tolerated in the interest of self-assertion and protecting individual rights and freedom, as long as it is expressed in socially appropriate ways (Eid & Diener, 2001; Stearns &Stearns, 1986). In fact, the expression of anger may be seen as appropriate if it helps to clarify a situation (Eid & Diener, 2001).
The expression of anger is less acceptable in collectivistic cultures because it threatens authority and harmony within relationships (Miyake & Yamazaki, 1995).
In contrast, sadness and fear can be seen as relatively powerless emotions (Timmers et al., 1998) that lead to withdrawal from, rather than disruption of, the group. As they are less threatening to the harmony of the group compared to powerful emotions, they may be more acceptable in collectivist cultures than in individualistic cultures.
Interesting facts about the expression of emotions.
In stark contrast to cultures that reject anger and aggression, in principal or in practice, are warrior cultures in which anger was cultivated as a special trance like state that produce indifference to wound and fearless in battle.
Extensive historical analysis traces mad, recklessly fighting, shape-shifting “true berserkers” from the second millennium BC, including Assyrians, Hittites, Thracians, Celts, tribes of Italic, Germanic, and Anglo people, and Aztecs. Various berserker groups fanned their fury with dances, a possible remnant of which is the Maori haka with its facial contortions, eye-bulging, tongue gyrations, body slapping, and grunts, all of which convey a wild and fearless, if stylized, ferocity.
In some cultural contexts, the perspective of happiness are more ambivalent. For instance, Confusions beliefs about the common roots of happiness and unhappiness encourage a less obliging attitudes towards being happy among many East Asian cultures. Thus, the Chinese think less often about how happy and satisfying their lives are compared to Americans, while the Japanese traditionally hold a hesitant attitude towards happiness. Still in other cultures, individuals are averse of fearful of happiness, based on their convictions that misfortune often lurks behind joy.
The magazine psychology today talks about an 86 year old women who lives in Dongshan, a city on China’s South Western coast. “She was living an active life but yet, she has already bought the pants, shirt, shoes, earrings and purse she will wear after she dies. She had a portrait taken that will be displayed at her funeral. And she wrapped the items neatly in a cardboard box to await her death”. For many people in the Western world, picking out an outfit for their own funeral might seem sad or macabre. But “Xie” the old women and her friends see it as a cause for reassurance, even celebration. “Hus’s research states that the greater sense of connection between living and dead family members is one reason that preparing for burial cannot be a sad event.
Understanding Emotions and the expression of emotions is like a bridge which enables us to understand others. We should develop our Emotional Intelligence (EQ) in order to build healthy relationships. The book which always been helpful to me regarding this is "Emotional Intelligence" By Daniel Goleman. I hope you will enjoy reading this and improve your inter relationships as well.
A book you mustn't miss.
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