Paul Ekman and the Dalai Lama on Emotional Awareness



“Embarrassment is an emotion, but it does not seem to have a universal signal. Some people, but not everyone, blush.

Very dark-skinned people blush, but you cannot see it. So, no signal.

Guilt and shame are very important, and different, emotions.

Guilt is about an action; shame is about who you are.

They do not have facial signals of their own; they pretty much look like sadness.

Maybe there is no signal because you do not want people to know that you’re guilty or ashamed.

However, most emotions have a signal, so that is one characteristic.

A second characteristic is that emotions can be triggered automatically in under a quarter of a second—very fast—totally opaque to consciousness.

And yet the appraisal that so quickly triggers an emotion can be very complex.

When you are driving a car and another car starts to veer in your direction, in a fraction of a second, you not only recognize the danger, but you evaluate how fast it is moving and make adjustments to your speed and the steering wheel, and you do that all without conscious consideration.

We have evolved a mechanism for dealing with sudden threats and yet now we live in a world where the threats are not always so sudden.

We may, therefore, overreact, because most of the time it is not a near-miss car accident, but we have a mechanism that can respond (hitting hands together) that fast.

So, automatic appraisal is the second characteristic.

Signal is the first.”


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by rudid96 on February 4, 2022 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve been working on increasing the number of tools that I use to help with all those automatic and unconscious triggers. Focused breathing is always #1. It can be done anywhere at any time. However, oftentimes I need more. That’s where, Tapping, & Haven techniques come into play. My trauma coach has also given me some specific activities to help my brain pause long enough to know the difference b’twn Then & Now.

  2. Haven

    Please share

    And do you do emotional freedom technique

    Tapping or emdr did not help me

  3. Rudid. Are you calming your fight or flight mechanism

    Is that the issue

  4. Posted by rudid96 on February 4, 2022 at 4:15 pm

    I’ve never been able to do EMDR. I’ve never felt safe enough to be open to the touch or tap of a therapist while being vulnerable. The handheld devices weren’t better. I have a terror of electric shocks. That was a part of my past abuse. Tapping in the prescribed form wasn’t consistently helpful. It requires access to words. When really triggered, I lose that capacity. However, some people swear by it.
    My ‘go-to’ techniques are those described in the Haven Method and rhythmic arm tapping. The arms are crossed over the chest. Opposite hand tapping opposite arm, Right, Left, Right, Left. This technique soothes the Amygdala long enough, I catch my breath and find the ground to access words.
    Additional interventions are; looking closely at the back of my hands. Noticing they are Adult Hands, no longer that of a child. Again, a physical reminder that I am now an ADULT, no longer a child. I’ve also been taught to look over my right & left shoulders – it disrupts the PTSD episode. My Trauma coach is also certified in TRE (Tension, Stress, & Trauma Release). Several survivors have told me that it’s a helpful tool for reducing physical tension and promoting better sleep. I tried it a couple of times but not enough to comment. For anyone curious, a link to further reading is below.

  5. Good for you

    For me sitting five years for five hours a day stopped my fight it flight
    From firing

    I do not worry about the mechanism of triggers anymore

    If mine fires I can dissipate the adrenaline and cortisol in a few breaths

    I have done this to heal first

    For me I went into restaurants and out in public places that triggered me before

    I would sit and wait til my system was calm before leaving

    I’m was a little different being a jock, when I built my focus strong enough to withstand triggers firing, I hunted them down

    Oh that was scary and fun

    My issues are the shame, the thoughts, betrayal and depression

    Anxiety is uncomfortable at times, I do not fear it anymore

    But I suffer with the depression and shame

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