4 Directions of Emotions

Indigentology looks first at the experience of need, and then at any label for the associated emotion. By deducing our understanding from the experience and not the attached labels we are not as limited by language conventions.


Neuroscience shows us that emotion is a form of cognition. The same neurons in which feelings travel also channel our rational thinking. If there is any salient distinction between the cognition of impartial thinking and the cognition of emotion, it is the level of need conveyed.


Where there is no need involved, cognition is more easily impartial. It is need that creates partiality, that prompts bias. The more intense a need is felt, or re-experienced during recollection, impartial thinking naturally segues to partial thinking—biased toward relief. What we call emotions are a form of rapid cognition that communicates a need and often what can do about it.



Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red

Each emotion conveys an experience with need. Two intersecting dimensions form four basic categories for understanding these need communicating emotions.


Pain and desire form one dimension, prior to responding to the need. They report opposing departures from a normal equilibrium.


Relief and pleasure form the other dimension, after responding to the need. They convey the status of restoring equilibrium.

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Homeostatic levels that rise too high for comfort elicit pain. Or when something gets too close, presenting as a threat. This typically involves suggested action, especially when intense, for returning to one's preferred equilibrium zone. Such as eliminating the excess or removing the threat. Perhaps a better descriptor is "discomfort" since the sensation does not always register to a level of intensity we would label as pain.
To illustrate, we'll use water. As the body's fluid level rises the bladder fills with excess to be expelled. This is the same basic process for other forms of pain. The pain of fear seeks to distance oneself from the object or subject triggering the fear. The pain of disappointment seeks to avoid further violations of one's expectations. The pain of anger seeks to remove the unacceptable.
Continuing with the water example, a full bladder prompts us to seek the restroom. The more urgent the sensation to rid oneself of the excess or avoid the painful threat, the more intense the sense of immediate action is necessary. Quickness tends to be rewarded. A readiness to react serves an evolutionary purpose. Quickly generalized self-preservation takes natural priority over time consuming detailed specifics. The dead don't need details.
Homeostatic levels falling back to equilibrium produce relief. Or a perceived threat no longer gets too close to threaten equilibrium. This typically reports a response to whatever action, or inaction, was taken to reduce the pain. Including if the response was insufficient, leaving the pain to persist.
Continuing with the water illustration, the body's fluid level drops back to optimal functioning. That sense of relief after visiting the restroom is reasonably similar to the sense of relief after other threat removals. Such as handling whatever triggered a fear. Or expectations finally fulfilled after suffering disappointment. Or readjusting one's social image after suffering embarrassment.
Satiating the need to remove some threat resolves the feeling that originally warned of the threat. Relief then recedes into the background as one continues to function. Fluid levels are back to normal functioning levels. No more threats to handle means no more fear, or disappointment, or embarrassment. Pain is best relieved by resolving the threat the pain has warned about.

Homeostatic levels falling too low for comfort evokes desire. The feeling suggests something is lacking and must be drawn in to restore normal functioning. If whatever is lacking is not readily available, then a substitute may be sought. Poor substitutes will likely not ease the feeling of want. Unfilled desire is a potential threat, experienced as a form of pain. Here we can see a root culprit in addictions. 


When the body's fluid level drops too low for normal functioning a feeling of thirst is the normal result. Thirst is simply the desire to draw in something to restore fluid equilibrium, and perhaps temperature equilibrium. Affection desired seeks to restore normal levels of emotional intimacy, and perhaps affirmation. Attention desired seeks to restore normal levels of value appreciation, and perhaps some encouraging critiques.
Drinking a sufficient amount of water provides for the desired equilibrium. Meaningful affection provides for the desire for emotional intimacy. Respectful attention provides for the desire for value appreciation. Insufficient amounts or poor quality received of what is desired not only allow the underlying desire to linger but also produce a warning felt as another form of pain. And we are prone to becoming attached to what eases a feeling instead of what provides for the underlying need.

Homeostatic levels rising back to equilibrium results in pleasure. This typically reports a result to whatever action, or inaction, was taken to ease the desire. The closer the equilibrium is restored the more the general feeling of pleasurable release. Otherwise a lack of pleasure may indicate a lack of restored equilibrium, which the body may report in the form of pain. Such displeasure may be offset by alternatives providing distracting pleasures, if only as a form of temporary relief from such displeasure.


Quenching your thirst is pleasurable, is it not? So is receiving loving affection. As is being sincerely told you're wonderful. Or finally getting that raise at work, which you emotionally connect with being able to access many other desirable things. Along with restoring equilibrium, other pleasant possibilities open up for you. Repeatedly restoring normal functioning can lead to greater optimal functioning, to more of your life's full potential.


Ahhh! Whether from relief resulting from easing pain or pleasure from relieving a desire, a return to equilibrium is generally experienced as a good thing. Failure to restore equilibrium is generally experienced as a bad thing. In fact, any use of the words good and bad refer back to this experience, to this emotional reporting of homeostatic levels of functioning.


4 Directions of Emotion: need experience status

Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red
Homeostasis zones: green, yellow, red


The body is biased toward its own need for self-preservation, including its attachment to resources that can ensure such survival. As soon as thinking entertains some need, the body’s energies automatically become committed to focusing on that need. And to remain focused until satisfactorily relieved.


What we call "need" is the experience of homeostasis (which we cover in more depth in the next section). Emotion conveys that need by expressing it in one of four homeostatic directions. All emotions fall under one of these four categories.

Homeostatic cycles of emotions

What I have described here is the intersection of two complementary cycles. There is the cycle of the homeostatic levels rising above its normal functioning levels, illustrated here with the process of emptying a full bladder for relief. Then there is the cycle of the homeostatic levels dropping too low for comfort, illustrated here with the process of quenching thirst.


From the perspective of emotions existing to convey need experience, every feeling goes through this four step process in each cycle. From 1) a "green zone" satiated state of relative equilibrium, to 2) a "yellow zone" and sometimes "red zone" significant departure from equilibrium, to 3) doing something to return to equilibrium, and then 4) returning tentatively to that preferred "green zone" of satiated equilibrium.


Consider any emotion you are feeling right now or have been feeling. And then reflect on the need it may be conveying to you this moment. Next, link how well you are able to restore the equilibrium of each emotionally reported need with your current level of functioning. Emotions are need messengers that continually guide us toward normal or even optimal functioning. Every emotion provides a status for our experience of needs.

















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