Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Theory of Competing Emotions

I have a theory that I call the Theory of Competing Emotions. The theory states that when two emotions are competing, the stronger of the two determines one's behavior. 

For example, de Botton's pits the fear of doing nothing against the fear of doing it badly (i.e., the fear of being embarrassed). For writers, the fear of doing nothing outweighs the fear of being embarrassed about writing badly. 

Thus, if you're apprehensive about doing something, conjure a stronger competing emotion that will have a positive impact on your behavior.

Religious people use this technique all time. For example, an orthodox Muslim's fear of being stoned to death or lashed, with Allah's help, will overcome his desire to commit adultury or fornicate with a nubile maiden. 

And Gallagher shared in Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life that it's easier for the positive emotion to win if you plan ahead. She wrote that "...some pragmatic research suggests that it's easier to shift your focus from that rich dessert to your goal of losing five pounds if you practice ahead of time." Thus, if your desire for a piece of cake (on a non cheat day) is competing with you're desire to lose five pounds, you're more likely to avoid the cake if you plan ahead. 

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