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Emotions, feelings & personality

“ I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. ” - William Penn

This section contains handouts and questionnaires about emotions, feelings & personality.  It seems helpful to understand emotions through an evolutionary perspective - we have emotions, to a large extent, because they had (and have) survival value.  We are the descendants of people with adaptive emotional systems that helped them stay alive and function well.  Typically unwelcome feelings that seem maladaptive are due to emotions that are firing off inappropriately.  As a rule of thumb, if an emotion is an appropriate reaction to a situation it can help us respond successfully.  If the emotion is inappropriate then it's likely to be more useful to work to change the emotional response - through therapy or other approaches. 

Both negative & positive emotions can be functional or dysfunctional

Unpleasant, negative emotions can be highly functional. For example, anxious hypervigilance in a dangerous situation can keep me on my toes, very aware of potential threats and more able to react rapidly and appropriately. Healthy anger when I am being taken advantage of can help me respond strongly and assertively to protect my rights. In her book "Productive & Unproductive Depression" the psychotherapist Emmy Gut suggested that even depression can at times be functional. She wrote " ... in the wilderness in which the human race developed its current genetic characteristics, individuals who had the capacity to respond to dangerous or otherwise significant circumstances with an adequate set of emotions, and acted accordingly, had a better chance to survive, to have children, and to raise them than individuals who were deficient in that respect."

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