Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Emotions I Formerly Called "The Spirit"

I believe what I formerly called the "Spirit" is actually several different discrete emotions as natural as every other human emotion. Those emotions are produced when certain cognitive requirements are met. For example, anger is an emotion with negative valence produced when the person is highly aroused, has its amygdala stimulated, believes it is in control of the situation, and perceives deprivation of what it believes is rightfully due to them.

The different emotions that are labeled "the Spirit" by Mormons include: elevation, transcendence, awe, peace, compassion, confidence, etc. At varying times, these emotions can be paired with the following physical sensations: warmth in the chest, tingling along the spine, sense of being filled to overflowing, sense of depth and "realness". Now, many different experiences can illicit these experiences. When I watch LOTR: Return of the King, I cry, feel filled to overflowing, awe at the beauty that the King can be united to his elvish lover, and a sense of being drawn closer and a yearning for this to happen more often in real life. I can feel depth and peace and harmony when I am alone in nature. I feel these feelings all the time now that I am learning what they are predicated on, and I am an atheist that doesn't believe in the supernatural. I find it unfortunate that religion has tried to claim these experiences as their own and produced by some supernatural force.

Psychologists are studying the emotion of elevation. Elevation appears to be the opposite of social disgust. It is triggered by witnessing acts of human moral beauty or virtue. Elevation involves a warm or glowing feeling in the chest, and it makes people want to become morally better themselves. Because elevation increases one's desire to affiliate with and help others, it provides a clear illustration of B. L. Fredrickson's broaden-and-build model of the positive emotions.

Here are some links about elevation:

http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2001/26/haidt.html

http://tinyurl.com/7gmlb

Psychologists are also studying the emotion of awe. "Awe is a distinct emotion, and specifically an aesthetic emotion (Loew, 1997). And though it might seem that awe is more likely the result of positive stimuli such as a sunrise at sea, rather than the result of negative stimuli such as a tsunami wave, awe does in fact occur in the face of both pleasant and ominous stimuli. Dangerous stimuli such as volcanic eruptions, battles, or extreme electrical storms can produce awe. However, the experience of awe cannot occur if the percipient is in actual danger. A direct threat of harm produces an emotional response of fear, overriding awe. To experience awe rather than dread in the face of forbidding stimuli, one needs to be an observer at safe remove."

And also, "In this paper we present a prototype approach to awe. We suggest that two appraisals are central and are present in all clear cases of awe: perceived vastness, and a need for accommodation, defined as an inability to assimilate an experience into current mental structures. Five additional appraisals account for variation in the hedonic tone of awe experiences: threat, beauty, exceptional ability, virtue, and the supernatural. We derive this perspective from a review of what has been written about awe in religion, philosophy, sociology, and psychology, and then we apply this perspective to an analysis of awe and related states such as admiration, elevation, and the epiphanic experience."

Here is a link about awe:

http://www-mcnair.berkeley.edu/98journal/rkayser/

What I have become convinced the Spirit is not is a reliable method to identify what is true.

1 comment:

Bull said...

During my studies and reading I reached the same conclusion about the Spirit. This was further confirmed by a news report in which an innocent man was manipulated into receiving a spiritual witness that he'd committed crimes that he could not have possibly have committed. Unfortunately this was after he'd already used that process to convince himself to plead guilty to raping his daughters even though he had no personal recollection of the events.