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Our memories are very tightly linked with our emotions. Typically, the more emotional something is for us, the more memorable it will be. If an event in our lives cause us to feel an extreme emotion, we will be more likely to remember that event. For instance, certain emotional events of a family vacation may cause you to have strong memories of the vacation. These memories may either leave you with a good or bad feeling about the vacation. You may have a great memory of your vacation because you got to see the ocean for the first time and you absolutely loved it. However, if you were badly sunburned at the beach on the first day you may have a bad memory of that vacation. Or if you were either caught in an undertoe or stung by a jellyfish, this fearful memory may cause you to have negative feelings about the ocean, or even family vacations in general. (Improving emotional memory)
These emotional memories are very important in helping us make future decisions. Following the example of the family vacation above, if we have a good memory of the vacation, when we are faced with the decision of going away with the family next year, it's likely you will decide to go again. However, if your memory of the vacation was not that great, that too will affect how you decide about future family vacations. If you remember how you felt being sunburned on day one of the vacation it may cause you to think of several options: a) go someplace you won't be on a beach, b) bring better sun-protection, or c) don't go. A similar thought process may occur if you recall the emotion you felt if you were caught in an undertoe of the ocean. You may: a) go someplace there is no ocean b) learn to be more careful or decide not to go into the ocean or c) decide not to go. Understanding our emotions becomes important when weighing the options and ultimately making a decision. The better we understand our emotions (and what that emotion stems from) the better decisions we will make.
We learn from our emotional memories. If our emotional memory of the sunburn is so strong, it may cause us to have an overall negative association with the vacation causing you to decide not to go on vacation next time. Hopefully this won't be the case because you examined where this negative emoton stemmed from, and eventually decide that if you are more careful in the sun that you could go and probably have a great time. If you recall that your fear surrounding the vacation had to do with being careless in the water, it won't prevent you from going on family vacations all together. If we do not understand where are emotions stem from, we could make some bad or irrational decisions. Some of these decisions would be irrational if we attach our emotion for one event (sunburn) to the entire situation (vacation). It wouldn't make sense to not go on vacation ever again because we associate the vacation with anger or fear when that anger and fear was the result of only one incident throughout the vacation. We must understand what caused the anger (not being able to be on the beach because of sunburn) or fear (being caught in an undertoe). This understanding will help us to make better decisions in the future. (Exercises for emotional decision-making)
Our emotions are what drives us. It's what causes us to take action. In primitive times it's what helped keep us alive. Fear of something would cause "fight" or "flight". We either address it head on or run away. Before we became more evolved, and more civilized we had to act quikly or die. Eventually society became more civilized and our success in this world now demands that we think before we act. As a result, our brains began to develop in ways that allowed us to stop and think of the consequences of our behaviors before we blindly act on an emotion.
Our relationships are built on our ability to process and understand our emotions as well as others. When interacting with others, we must understand how the persons with whom we are interacting with are feeling. If the person is sad, then we should show the appropriate concern (ie. comfort them). If the person is angry, we should want to find out why (especially if it is us they are mad at) and try to resolve the problem. If we don't respond appropriately to others' emotions it will be assumed we do not care. This is not usually a desirable characteristic in anyone- a friend, a spouse, a family member, a boss, or an employee.
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