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Balancing Your Emotions: Why It's More Important Than You Think

Balancing Your Emotions: Why It's More Important Than You Think

Ever feel like your emotions are a bit out of control? Do you wish you could more skillfully manage your responses to life?

We asked Dr. Paul Ekman, one of the most influential psychologists of the 21st century (and one of the five esteemed faculty members teaching Cultivating Emotional Balance at 1440 Multiversity), to talk to us about emotional balance — why it’s important in our revved-up world and what we can do to work towards achieving it.

Q: What is emotional balance?

Paul Ekman: When you are out of balance, then one emotion dominates your repertoire of emotions, one emotion is the one you usually respond with. When you are out of balance emotionally, you have many emotional experiences that you later regret because:

  • Your emotional reaction was too strong
  • Your emotional reaction was too weak
  • Your emotional reaction was inappropriate.

Q: Why is science relevant to emotions?

Paul Ekman: The new and rapidly growing field of emotion science, or affective science, promises to bring us a better understanding of what our emotions are and how they can work for us and against us.

Q: How did the concept for Cultivating Emotional Balance originate?

Paul Ekman: It was in a meeting with a small group of scientists and the Dalai Lama to discuss destructive emotions. That meeting lasted five days, and, by the fourth day, the Dalai Lama asked if this meeting was going to just be talk or produce something useful.

We responded to the challenge, and I worked with the other participants — Mark Greenberg, Richie Davidson, and Owen Flanagan — to begin the generation of what is now called CEB — Cultivating Emotional Balance.

Q: What skills will people learn? What will they take away from Cultivating Emotional Balance?

Paul Ekman: Knowledge of what emotions are, how they operate upon us, and what leads to regrettable emotional episodes — and skills to increase awareness of when we are in the grip of an emotion and how to steer ourselves to have our emotions work for us and those with whom we are intimately engaged.

Q: In a time of global tension, how can people become happier and more compassionate?

Paul Ekman: It is not momentary experiences of happiness that we are aiming for, but well-being, a sense of satisfaction with how we are leading our lives. To achieve that, we need to be aware of when we are experiencing our emotions, and develop choice of whether or not we want to engage emotionally, and if so, how.

Cultivating Emotional Balance runs June 16-18, 2017, at 1440 Multiversity, led by Eve Ekman, Paul Ekman, B. Alan WallaceRyan Redman, and Shauna Shapiro.

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