Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Misattribution of Arousal and relationships.

How misattribution of arousal from an old incident involving
simple gossip can create a permanently hostile work environment.
Affinity-seeking behavior drives the bulk of social media. Posting signals to everyone in the hopes of finding like-minded people. I tend to look for explanations or rationalizations for the way I feel and then post them hoping to find people who feel the same way, but the effect is quite different. The consequence of posting things I tend to think make me feel the way I do, tend to make other people feel the way I do. In other words, I seek out and post bad news as a reflection of how I feel but its taken by others as an attempt to make them feel bad.

The internal reality of how we feel has little to do with anything external, which is why the slogan rings true, "money doesn't buy happiness." So, why do I seek out bad news? Is it just a morbid sense of curiosity? It's more like a quest for an explanation for the way I feel. I think we all make the false assumption that our feelings are tied to happenings outside ourselves. After over a year of isolated introspection I have arrived at this conclusion.

This has been a problem for my my whole life. I blamed the way I felt on everyone or everything around me. I think there were times when this was pointed out to me but it never took root. I may have thought about it for a while, but then forgot. This is called "misattribution of arousal." It comes from the primitive part of our brain responsible for the survival of our species over the eons. It supersedes the rational part of our brain and makes us forget, unless we continue to remind ourselves every day that we own our feelings. It's very difficult, at least for me. Tomorrow I will probably wake up and blame the weather for the way I feel.

Misattribution happens all the time with powerful emotional states. Everyone close to someone who, regardless of the situation persistently feels sadness, anger or anxiety, may feel guilt for a while and may try to resolve what they believe is a temporary problem, but this usually ends in frustration and dissolution of the relationship. The emotionally disabled are left with abandonment issues unless they can recognize the problem first.

This emotional imbalance is also blamed on addiction to substances, but the substances are not the cause of the addiction, they are an attempt at solving the way we feel but it's only temporary. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, sugar, salt and probably fat are among the chemicals that can alter moods temporarily. Activities are also temporary mood-changers, like sex, video games, skydiving, running, gambling, making money, hoarding, donating or volunteering beyond one's means of self-sustenance. 

My emotions led to my actions which led to the responding actions of others. If I had feelings of abandonment, they traced back to me. Ultimately my current feelings have no external cause. Everyone acts on their baseline standard emotional state. What ever transpires from that, you can construe all the chain reactions you want, but it's all emotional in origin. I feel terrible guilt for my behavior growing up, blaming other people for the way I feel. What good is an apology? They only work when you have time left to repair the damage and rebuild their trust.

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