Listen to Invisobilia (NPR) Podcast and reflections

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Listen to Invisobilia (NPR) Podcast from June 1, 2017 titled “Emotions: Part 1”: http://www.npr.org/2017/06/01/530928414/emotions-p…

~ it is sometimes easier to listen while driving, doing chores like folding laundry or doing dishes!

  1. What struck you about the contents of this podcast?
  2. Some of the ideas about emotions and the way trauma impacts the brain might be controversial. How did you react to these ideas?
  3. How would you challenge them or how might you be intrigued to explore more?

respond to 3 other students

first student:

What struck you about the contents of this podcast?

The thing that struck my mind was how Tommy became more distressed than Amanda considering that Amanda had more to lose than him. It should have been the other way round as far as I am concerned. It is unbelievable that Tommy is the man filing a law case at last instead of Amanda. I am surprised we can be affected so differently by emotions: men would naturally be considered more strong, hence, with abilities to control their emotions as compared to women. the case of Tommy vs Amanda leaves me completely confused. It is also shocking that the things people do are reactions to emotions, for instance, the case of the police officer shooting the African American boy.

Some of the ideas about emotions and the way trauma impacts the brain might be controversial. How did you react to these ideas?

I think traumatic events affect people differently. It is funny that most of the things people do are reactions to their emotions. For instance, the accident affected Tommy so much that one could expect. It is normal for men to be strong whenever struck by some traumatic events because this is what they are prepared for as they grow. It is the same case as when an individual passes away. The issue affects certain individuals, especially women, more than others. It is as well confusing that the way Tommy could bring his emotions to an end was by filing a court case. What if he lost the case, would his problems have ended or worsened?

.How would you challenge them or how might you be intrigued to explore more?

The best way to challenge traumatic effects on us is to learn more about them including how they affect us, to what depths, and how to control them. It is also important to understand that people are different and consider individuals who appear to be more affected than us. I have come to learn that our cultural and traditional ways of life are very important. It is important to learn how to bring up our children so preparing them on how to handle the effects of traumatic events through the emotional concepts we teach them.

second student:

The main point that the emotional podcast teach is how emotions are built within a person and how one can control them. What struck me in the podcast about emotions is the fact that what one thing or react to a situation is all based on a concept that one starts to learn since their childhood and the fact that one can control their emotions by changing of the concepts. The other thing that struck me is how lack of knowledge of the capabilities of emotions can help one overcome a particular event or face the danger of suffering from severe stress or the Post Traumatic Stress. In the podcast, the case of Tommy and Amanda clearly explains the power of concepts and emotions in the body. Finally, what struck me is how the internal system called interoception which acts as an eye in the body, and it is responsible for sending any reaction to the brain. The fact that without interceptions, it will be hard to build concepts that allows one to feel anger, pain, joy or happiness and one is as good as a dead person is intriguing.

Some of the ideas of the relationship between emotions and trauma were controversial. The fact that Tommy was taught how to control emotions and Amanda was taught how to express them, and when it comes to a traumatic event, Tommy is the victim is absurd. Specifically, the ideas that Tommy PTSD might have been triggered based on his belief and concept of about the world rather than the event is surprising. However, the logic that at times one reactions or emotions triggers them to do something they later learn they would not have done or reacted the way they did makes a lot of sense. Invisibilia says that the belief of how people think emotions work is the opposite of how it works and is entirely correct when one gives a reflection to the general world. The fact that Amanda lost her daughter, but it was Tommy who was affected most might be absurd but explaining how the concepts affect how the brain works even though it is ridiculous it somehow makes a lot of sense. It helps explains why in some incidences police makes mistakes of shooting innocent people based on their color or race. The fact that concepts are had to change so as one can control their emotions clearly explains it all. The way people are brought up to believe that they have a powerful influence on how they choose to react to different situations even without them knowing.

However, even though the fact that emotions are influenced by the concepts in our body that we learn from the world, just like Lisa says one should be able to control their emotions no matter how hard the situation turns out. A person is responsible for their actions like Tommy did, but that does not mean that since it is their action, they should feel guilty or sorry about the situation. It should not be hard to control emotions as the Podcast says. Since people concepts are built from the world perspective, I think they should learn to relate their situations to other things in the society before making conclusions or portraying a particular behavior.

Like in the case of Tommy, he was not the first person to be involved in an accident because other situations are worse people killing more than one person and the responsible person was a man. In another case, where a police officer thinks a black man is a danger than before pulling the trigger, they should reflect on the many incidences where police officers have made the same mistakes and the fact that not all black people are criminals and dangerous. Therefore, I think concepts can easily be changed, and a person can control their behavior based on the world experience in relation the same situations in different times rather than seeing an event in a single person perspective.

third student:

The podcast centers on the question: Where do emotions like pain come from, and how much control do we have over them? Although these days, many people talk about their emotions, it was not so earlier, say even three decades back. In fact, even today, in many families, members do not discuss their emotions even with each other. As a result, we have people who find it very difficult to identify what they are going through after a traumatic experience, such as the one Tommy Jarrett and Amanda Thornberry faced.

As a boy, Tommy was told by his father, though not in so many words, that a man should be strong enough to protect people, and that a man always controls his emotions. Therefore, he found it very difficult to come to terms with the emotional distress he faced after the accident. He felt himself responsible for the death of Makayla, Amanda’s daughter. He felt that he had failed as a man.

To understand this situation, we need to understand that how we develop emotions. People believe that emotions are triggered by events in the world, and that we often cannot control how they affect us. However, according to Lisa Feldman Barrett, a Psychology Professor at Northeastern University, this is not how our emotions develop and work. She argues that emotions are built into our brain at birth itself. According to her, emotions—fear, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, happiness, and despair—are not reactions to the world; they actually construct the world. This theory of hers about how emotions are developed is what struck me the most.

She further says that emotions are concepts that our brain develops during its first interactions with the outside world. It then analyses them, when placed in a similar situation in future, using its past experience to make sense of the incoming sensory input. When our brains lack these concepts, we become clueless as to how to handle that particular emotion. This is what happened with Tommy. All through his growing years, he was taught that a man has to be tough; he has to be the provider, the protector. Therefore, after the death of Makayla, he felt that he was responsible for what happened; that he failed as a man. He had not experienced in his life before that there are situations he, as a man, cannot control, and that this lack of control is normal and it does not show him as a failure.

Similarly, Amanda did not know how to express her emotions when left with the death of Makayla. That is because as a child, Amanda had been taught that emotions were a burden and that she had to control them. She also found it difficult to explain how she, the mother of Makayla, returned to work six weeks after the accident, while Tommy, a complete stranger, was struggling with emotional distress even one year after the accident. Because her brain also lacked the concept required to handle the situation she faced after the horrific accident, she was enraged at Tommy.

Therefore, I believe that link between the past experience and the ability to handle emotions in a healthy manner needs to be investigated in depth. It is also very important for parents to let the child experience all the emotions. Children should be taught how to express their emotions in a safe environment. They should not be ashamed of expressing any emotions, be it happiness, distress, or even hatred. Because it is only by fully exploring them would they grow into well-rounded individuals who would know how to react in a particular situation.

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