How to Update Your Emotional Operating System

Are you still using Emotional Operating System (EOS) 1.0? Did you know that you can update your EOS for smoother living? Our electronic devices have the latest upgrades, but when it comes to how our emotional intelligence – the driver of mental and physical wellbeing – we are running on an outdated system ridden with all types of “bugs” and “viruses.” The Emotional Operating System, developed in childhood, is the reason behind how, why, and when we respond to the triggers all around us. Let’s explore how to optimize it, and why optimization is so vital.

What Is The Emotional Operating System?

Your Emotional Operating System is your system – or pattern of responses – to dealing with environmental stimuli. For instance, when someone lurks in the shadow, you turn the other way and run. You have seen too many horror movies to know the dark possibilities. In this case, the horror movies drive your automatic response (turning and running).Your EOS is the result of many factors, such as:

  • Your genes
  • Your parents – people tend to react to stress in a similar way as their parents do due to:
    • Mirror Neurons: Nerve cells in the brain with the sole function of mirroring people and things in the environment
    • Right Hemispheric Transference: the subconscious transfer of ingrained responses from the right brain hemisphere of a parent to the right brain hemisphere of a child
  • The drive to survive
  • Socioeconomic factors – like poverty and gang involvement
  • Past successes and failures
  • Past traumas – like sexual assault

Although emotional tendencies have some genetic basis, they are also heavily influenced by environmental factors. That is, past traumas like rape can rewire and reshape neural circuitry, causing unhealthy, automatic responses to stress. We may not even be aware of these responses because they are so ingrained.

The EOS Gone Wrong

So what went wrong with EOS 1.0? Due to childhood circumstances, many of us have developed faulty, unhealthy ways of responding to the world. For instance, if we grew up in a household that was hostile to emotional expression, we learn to repress, or stuff, our emotions. Other forms of emotional avoidance include:

  • Self-criticism: Beating yourself up when things go wrong
  • Compulsive behavior: Turning to drugs, alcohol, cleaning, exercise, eating, or work to escape emotions
  • Acting out: Outbursts of emotions intended to re-channel focus from the inner world of emotions to the outer world

The Consequences of EOS 1.0

If we don’t intentionally optimize EOS, these unhealthy coping mechanisms will continue for a lifetime, potentially causing:

  • Disordered moods, such as depression and anxiety
  • Physiological imbalance
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Chronic disease

Some researchers believe that the neurons located in our emotional centers exert the greatest effect of any neurons on the immune system – potentially causing the immune system to go haywire. In addition, according to Psychopharmocologist Candace Pert, if we don’t release emotions, they are stored in our very cells and tissues, causing dysfunction.

The Seven Networks of Emotion

To understand how emotions relate to survival, meet Jack Panksepp, professional rat tickler. He learned how to tickle rats in such a way that they elicit a high-frequency chirp – laughter. All in all, Panskeep has charted seven networks of emotions in the brain since he started in the 1960s: seeking, rage, fear, lust, care, panic/grief, and play.

These emotional networks are so fundamental that they function similarly across species – from humans to rats. Because of this, Panksepp believes emotions emerge from the deep, dark basement of our brains – the ancient brain core, the animalistic brain part that is in charge of basic survival. Emotions always have been and always will be central to survival.

But unlike more simplistic animals, we can control how we handle emotions. The logical part of our brain – the cerebral cortex – is very powerful, and it has say over reactions to stress. If you learned as a child that it is unsafe to express emotions, the cerebral cortex will continue to suppress emotions – to your detriment. While mastery over emotions is desirable, mastery does not equal suppression.

Emotionless Academia

Panksepp’s work is one-of-a-kind in the field of academia, which largely overlooks the role of emotions in wellbeing. For instance, although the concept of Mental Intelligence (IQ) emerged in the early 1900s, the concept of Emotional Intelligence (or awareness of and mastery over emotions) has only recently been developed – beginning in 1987.

In the summer of 1987, Yale University Professors John Mayer and Peter Salovey were painting a house, discussing politics and irresponsible decision making. They came to one conclusion: Smart decision making requires more than a high IQ. They were dismayed that nobody in academia seemed to understand the importance of emotions to daily life.

But then they remembered: they too were academicians, and they could explore emotions! Their concept of Emotional Intelligence was first overlooked, published in an obscure journal. But Daniel Goleman picked up the idea and ran with it, publishing several books on Emotional Intelligence for the general public.

Optimizing EOS With Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is not set in stone. We can increase emotional intelligence with intentional, disciplined thought and action. The five components of emotional intelligence are:

  • Self-awareness: Recognition and identification of your own emotions. For people who have experienced significant trauma, especially as a child, this component is difficult.
  • Self-regulation: Mastery over emotions; the ability to respond the way you want to respond to stress
  • Motivation: A passion to work for internal reasons – not for money or status
  • Empathy: Understanding and identifying with the emotions of others
  • Social Skills: The ability to build relationships and networks of relationships

Some studies have shown that Emotional Intelligence is a better predictor of success than Mental Intelligence (IQ) is. And science has converged on the conclusion that managed release of emotions improves mental and physical wellbeing.

With all the bugs that plague EOS 1.0, why not turn to the well-trained, highly-experienced mental health practitioners at Helix Healthcare Group, who will use targeted therapies – like mindfulness training, talk-therapy, and other neuroscience-based healing modalities – to upgrade your Emotional Operating System.

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