Week 2 Notes

UCD Access and Lifelong Learning Centre
Location of Course: Science Centre-Hub, Belfield Campus
Room: H0.12 Ground Floor, O’Brien Centre for Science 7pm – 9pm
Lecturer: Dr Martina Carroll
Notes – February 5th
A) Lecture Positive Emotions
B) Feedback and homework
Mark Beckett speaking at Yale University in 2013 about Emotional Intelligence

‘Happy’ by Derren Brown
I will make reference to Chapter 4 in this session

Positive Emotions
Emotion has been one of the main topics researched in psychology since the late 19th Century. By the 1960s it was recognised that there are six basic emotions that correspond to facial expressions in all humans. These are happy, sad, angry, fearful, disgusted and surprised. Very often when we talk about positive emotions we are referring to happy mood states. When all is well and we feel our lives are heading in the right direction, whether that’s true or not, we tend to keep going unless something challenges us and we’re forced to adapt. Personal change often comes about as a result of major life disruptions and traumas. Positive psychology suggests that many people could live happier more fulfilled lives, It’s not unusual for children to be unhappy in school and for adults to be unhappy at work. Many people adapt and concentrate on living in their spare time pursuing pleasant emotional states.

Emotional intelligence relates to our capacity to understand ourselves and others. This involves developing skills and resources for living, personality, socialisation and emotional competence. The environment plays an important role in developing emotional competence. According to Seligman author of Flourishing and Authentic Happiness, positive emotion is only one of the five elements for human happiness. Positive emotions are not all about fun and pleasure. It also appears that that the expectation to be happy is off-putting for many people. There was an annoying comment common at one time ‘cheer up, it might never happen’. This kind of comment puts people under pressure and it can be annoying.

When people are sad for a good reason they need to process their sad experiences. For example, love poems and songs are filled with stories of sadness and loss. When people are sad they often like to sing or listen to sad songs and maybe even write about sad emotions. This is positive, it is important to process sad emotions. Being angry can also be positive if it energises a person to take positive actions. Rage of course is quite destructive. Disgust appears to have evolved relating to rotten food and bad smells. Most cultures diverge in their sense of disgust, The sense of purity has been found to be related to disgust (The Happiness Hypothesis). Surprises often have positive consequences though some people hate to be surprised. Fear is a very powerful emotion that’s extremely important for survival value, although irrational fears and anxiety are very common.

Psychologists like to focus on solutions. Cognitive psychology led to a theory about the Self called the Autobiographical Self. This research gives us many insights into happiness. Our memories are so important for happiness. Understanding Self in terms of the stories we tell ourselves. Many people follow prescribed storylines or scripts and this can work well however pressure to conform to beliefs that one cannot take on board can be a source of unhappiness. The cultural self is often defined in terms of a story about who we are. These stories include a past story, a present story and a future story. When people feel they have no choice, that their future is beyond their control, they may conform only to find themselves deeply unhappy. Becoming the author of your own life story is a skill that can be learned although it takes time and effort. Many therapies facilitate individuals to experiences and evolve one’s life story.

When it comes to remembering life events, the way we judge our own actions have implications for our happiness. For example, doing something that’s selfish and inconsiderate may bring pleasure and happiness in the moment but doing something good and noble generates a better story. We can become the hero in our stories and plan ahead, choosing a considered life, so that we feel good about ourselves. Our future stories don’t always play out but being in control of that future story affects our choices and decisions. Even if things go badly we can still feel good about ourselves.

Many spiritual traditions including yoga, mindfulness and meditation have practices that can alter our mood states. Positive mood states plus a greater sense of calm, change the choices we make and the positive feelings that we project out into the world create a better life for those around us. People tend to move away from difficult individuals who risk becoming isolated. When we feel good about ourselves we orient more positively towards the social world and make more social connections.

Neuroscience research shows positive benefits for mindfulness and meditation whereby the left and right frontal lobes become more balance and anxiety is reduced. Savouring also generates positive emotions. Researchers have also identified a ‘broadening’ effect of positive emotions. This tendency to become more open to experience and to think outside the box leads to momentary thought action repertoires which in turn helps build enduring resources that can be transformative for our well-being. The ‘undoing’ effect shows that there may be positive benefits of positive emotions for physical health caused by stress, for example reducing cholesterol and giving the body time to recover. This research is ongoing.

Finally I want to mention Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Here is a video that will give you some insights into techniques taught in CBT to re-align thinking, perceiving and emotions. Our worldview and the assumptions we make play an important role in how we think and act in the world. Learning these techniques can change a person’s life. Psychiatric hospitals use a model called Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (CBT) training individuals in ‘thinking’ techniques that impact on emotions also emotional techniques that influence thinking.
Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvgtwMCaIcU&t=1s

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Optional Homework: In the past many students enjoyed having homework from week to week, although not compulsory of course. Each week, I will post questions relating to the course topic, plus a topic from the Podcast. If you like, you can write a short piece that you can read in class. Alternatively you might simply think about the topic. However, you should, of course, feel free to do nothing outside the class.
In class, each student will have an equal opportunity to join in regardless.

Topics for Feb 12th
Think about or write something about how best to engage others either close friends or family or working in the community.
Reflect on your own experience of becoming immersed in a task. What do you think is most important for achieving a Flow state.
Choose between early childhood education, adolescent and youth education and training or adult education and lifelong learning. This might relate to you own experiences and views or to your experience of teaching in the family or in work.

Topics for Feb 5th:
Next week’s topic is Positive Emotions. The first topic on the Podcast-list is ‘Oppression’.
What are emotions? Which emotions are positive?
Can emotions, that are typically regarded to be negative, ever be positive?
What is Freedom? What does Freedom mean to you?

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