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  • Translator: Phil Marshall Reviewer: Yang Xinzhe

  • What if I said to you

  • that the violent criminals and sex offenders inside Taipei Prison

  • are much better at controlling their emotions

  • than our university students?

  • Would you believe me?

  • Since I do psychological research,

  • I often have the opportunity to go to different places

  • and get to know different kinds of people.

  • Over the past few years,

  • in addition to working with university students,

  • I've also visited Taipei Prison often.

  • What I just mentioned is the result of our latest study.

  • When we started,

  • we were a little surprised too.

  • Emotion. What is it exactly?

  • Is it good or bad?

  • Do you want to have them?

  • I started working part time when I was in high school.

  • I was told very early on,

  • "When you come to work, leave your emotions at the door."

  • Then I learned what people meant by the word "professional."

  • A very important part of it is to not have emotions.

  • Not to get angry when you encounter someone unreasonable.

  • Not to cry when you feel sad.

  • That's in the workplace.

  • At home, if you have a disagreement with your family,

  • they might say to you, "Don't be so emotional."

  • Emotions: when you have them, it's like you've become a second-class citizen.

  • What you say is reasonable but useless.

  • Now you might say,

  • "That's just your generation. Kids today are different.

  • They have a well-rounded training from a young age."

  • Is that so?

  • Early this year, we started a research project

  • to get elementary students to identify their emotions and develop their EQ.

  • In class we asked the children,

  • "What is anger?

  • Do you remember the last time you were angry?"

  • The children replied,

  • "I don't know.

  • I don't. Mom and Dad say I shouldn't get angry.

  • Our teacher says it's bad to get angry."

  • As we can see, nobody seems to like having emotions.

  • Why hasn't evolution just gotten rid of them?

  • How have they managed to survive until today?

  • There are many reasons.

  • An important one is that they can save lives.

  • Maybe not as many lives as the previous speakers have,

  • but they can still save lives.

  • (Laughter)

  • I once had a patient

  • who was a successful career woman on Wall Street.

  • She first came to me hoping to get to know herself better

  • so she could develop her leadership skills and become a better leader.

  • She shared with me that when working in a male-dominated environment,

  • you can't reveal your weaknesses and frailties.

  • After a long time working like this, you learn to suppress your emotions.

  • During the time I counseled her, she started having marital problems.

  • Her relationship with her husband became unstable.

  • One time during a fight,

  • he picked up a glass from the table and flung it at her.

  • She quickly got out of the way.

  • The glass hit the wall,

  • and there were shards of glass everywhere.

  • Afterwards, I asked her a question

  • that all psychologists eventually ask their patients:

  • "How did you feel?"

  • "How did you feel?"

  • She said, "I felt angry. How can he treat me like this?"

  • I said, "What else?"

  • She said "I felt hopeless.

  • When I first married him, he wasn't like this."

  • Are there any emotions

  • that you think you'd have in this situation,

  • that she hadn't mentioned?

  • Fear.

  • What happens when we're scared?

  • We flee.

  • What happens when we are angry?

  • We attack the other person.

  • If we can't correctly identify our emotions,

  • instead of running away in fear,

  • we might think we're angry and attack someone;

  • this can lead to very serious consequences.

  • This woman had stifled

  • and ran away from her emotions and insecurities for so long

  • that she had forgotten what it is to feel fear.

  • Her situation was urgent,

  • and I couldn't teach her in such a short time

  • how to experience fear again.

  • So I don't have the chance to reestablish this kind of "circuit" in her brain.

  • This is a diagram of the brain, the one you've just seen.

  • When we experience fear,

  • the information from the body's five senses -

  • what we see, what we hear and so on -

  • is passed from the thalamus

  • to the sensory cortex for processing.

  • The hippocampus, which is in charge of memory,

  • will download the relevant information from the situation

  • and send it to the amygdala for comparison.

  • The amygdala stores our previous experiences of fear.

  • It evaluates the level of danger compared to past experiences

  • and then orders the hypothalamus to make an appropriate response.

  • You can see that in this circuit,

  • past experiences and memories play a very important role.

  • But we didn't have enough time to reestablish it.

  • So we could only work on awareness and recognition.

  • I told this woman, "The next time this happens,

  • no matter how you feel, you have to call 911 immediately."

  • We went over it repeatedly,

  • and in the end, there was a time when they fought again.

  • This time, her husband grabbed a knife.

  • Afterwards, she told me she was angry at the time,

  • she looked at him and hesitated for a few seconds,

  • but because of what we practiced, she eventually called 911.

  • Fortunately, the police arrived within 7 minutes

  • and tragedy was avoided.

  • Emotions can direct our actions and decide their consequences.

  • Correctly identifying emotions can save your life.

  • Of course, this is a more extreme example.

  • On the less extreme side,

  • our research keeps telling us that our physical and mental health,

  • our academic achievements and job performance,

  • our leadership skills and creativity

  • are all intimately related to our emotions.

  • But what exactly are emotions?

  • In fact, they're a kind of feeling,

  • our own subjective experience.

  • They can be influenced by many things.

  • Like our thoughts and opinions.

  • They can also lead to different actions, like attacking someone.

  • "I'm so angry because I think you tricked me!

  • So I'm going to hit you."

  • My thinking could be wrong because I misunderstood you.

  • My behavior could also be wrong,

  • because I shouldn't hit people when I'm angry.

  • But feelings themselves aren't right or wrong,

  • correct or incorrect, good or bad.

  • In the United States, you'll often hear people say,

  • "You shouldn't feel that way."

  • I hate it when people say that.

  • It's like if I said to you, "I'm so cold!"

  • And you replied, "Then stop feeling cold!"

  • (Laughter)

  • This is your own subjective experience.

  • Nobody has the right to tell you

  • that what you're experiencing is right or wrong, good or bad.

  • At this point you might ask,

  • "Are you saying that the criminals in prison

  • got there just because of emotional problems?"

  • I remember when I was in Taipei Prison evaluating them,

  • I asked them the same kind of question:

  • "How did you feel when you did this?"

  • They immediately responded, "I know. Pissed off!"

  • Then I asked, "So what could you do to feel a little better?"

  • They said, "I know!" right away.

  • "I felt much better after beating them up."

  • (Laughter)

  • On the other hand, when I ask college students, "How do you feel?"

  • They say, "I don't know."

  • (Laughter)

  • "Then, what could you do to feel better?"

  • "I don't know ..."

  • (Laughter)

  • So it would appear

  • that the prison inmates are much better at identifying and regulating emotions

  • than college students.

  • The problem is how you express your emotions.

  • All feelings are okay.

  • But even though it's okay to get angry, I shouldn't hit people.

  • We taught elementary students about EQ, emotional quotient.

  • How to correctly identify your emotions,

  • and the correct way of expressing them.

  • All feelings are okay.

  • That doesn't mean all perceptions are true or that all behaviors are acceptable,

  • but all feelings are okay.

  • Even though all feelings are subjective experiences,

  • there are a few fundamental emotions

  • that every person will frequently have.

  • This goes across cultures.

  • Today, if you met someone

  • with a completely different background, culture, or language,

  • you'd still be able to correctly identify the six fundamental emotions

  • through their facial expressions.

  • Other emotions can be hard to distinguish because of cultural differences,

  • but everyone will frequently have these fundamental emotions.

  • Every time I talk about this in Chinese,

  • I'll hear people whisper the phrase "Happiness, anger, sorrow, joy."

  • (Laughter)

  • Happiness and joy are the same thing!

  • So since we speak Chinese, we can guess those three.

  • What about the other three?

  • Surprise. Fear. Disgust.

  • Everyone regularly experiences these emotions.

  • But the intensity and outward expression of these emotions

  • will vary from person to person, and also depending on the situation.

  • I once had a colleague who was a developmental psychologist.

  • He was also a very typical American.

  • He once asked me, "Hey, how often do you cry?"

  • I said, "One or two times a year.

  • Maybe three."

  • He said, "Ah! That's so unhealthy!"

  • (Laughter)

  • Obviously you don't think so, right?

  • I said, "So how many times do you cry in a year?"

  • He said, "Three times I cry a little, and five times I cry a lot."

  • (Laughter)

  • Is that healthier?

  • Everyone gets sad, but that's not to say that whenever someone feels sad,

  • they necessarily will cry.

  • The intensity and outward expression can differ.

  • I just said, everyone has these emotions regularly.

  • Looking at these six emotions,

  • can you tell me, or rather tell yourself,

  • when was the last time you had them?

  • If you say, "I don't remember,"

  • or you haven't felt them for a few months or a year,

  • that doesn't mean you haven't had them;

  • rather, it means you haven't noticed them.

  • You ignored them,

  • or perhaps you suppressed them or distracted yourself from them.

  • If we look once more at the six fundamental emotions,

  • only one of them is positive: happiness.

  • Surprise can be good or bad.

  • The other four are all negative.

  • Nobody likes negative emotions.

  • They feel bad.

  • But they still have a reason for existence.

  • They can warn you and let you know

  • that if you don't make some changes, there could be danger.

  • It's just like pain.

  • Nobody likes pain.

  • But if I accidentally put my hand on top of a hot stove

  • and I didn't feel pain, I wouldn't know to withdraw my hand.

  • Recently, there has been a worrying trend in developed countries:

  • people are trying very hard to avoid having negative emotions.

  • Recently when I was in the United States, I went into a drugstore.

  • Their drugstores are a bit like Watsons here in Taiwan.

  • They don't just sell medicine there, but also many daily necessities.

  • I couldn't help but take this picture when I was there.

  • (Laughter)

  • There was an entire wall just selling pain killers, pain relief.

  • What we call OTC, over the counter drugs, which are very easy to obtain.

  • If you look at sales data for OTC drugs, you'll see that for the past few years,

  • pain killers are always number one.

  • The question is, Now what?

  • After you've taken pain killers, will the problem just go away?

  • Maybe, but there's also a chance that the problem will get worse.

  • It's the same as the feeling of pain.

  • I used to work as an EMT.

  • That is, working in an ambulance as an emergency medical technician.

  • When we got to the site of the emergency,

  • no matter how much pain someone was experiencing,

  • we couldn't give them any painkillers or anesthetics.