Of Emotions and Spirals

In my early days in graduate school, I was researching Plato’s view of the mind/soul and its relationship to contemporary psychology.

You see, I wanted to find out what wisdom is shared between ancient philosophy and modern science…

And I came across a really interesting and powerful finding that both Plato and modern psychology highlight.

It is about how the way we feel shapes the way we think.

Or in modern language, about the cognitive modulations of emotions.

You see, Plato suggests and modern psychology confirms that negative emotions like fear, anger, and anxiety tend to encourage narrow focus and rumination…

Conversely, positive feelings like joy, excitement, and gratitude tend to encourage open-minded and creative thinking.

When I discovered this psychological bias, I realized how INCREDIBLY important taking care of one’s emotions is as part of taking care of oneself and living a happy life.

To make sure you cultivate the positives with the right mindset and practices.

And to make sure you take care of yourself when the negatives take over.

Because I realized that when negative emotions take control and encourage reflection on problems, they can lead us to focus only on how serious the problems are. This can prevent action and make us feel even worse. Which in turn makes us focus on how bad things get.

On the contrary, I realized that when we act on positive emotions that encourage creativity and open-mindedness, we can unlock amazing new possibilities that make us feel even better. This, in turn, unlocks more amazing possibilities.

In short, I had the twin ideas that:

Negative emotions can often trigger vicious cycles and negative spirals that make your life (and your feelings) worse and worse.


Positive emotions can unlock Virtuous Cycles or Positive Spirals that make your life (and feel) better and better.

Given this, you need to be aware and careful not to let your negative emotions such as fear and anger lead you into such spirals.

Don’t suppress your feelings. Feel what you have to feel.

But be careful not to fall into crippling/debilitating vicious spirals.

Similarly, you should be careful to cultivate a positive attitude, the kind of attitude that leads to feeling positive emotions like joy and excitement about the things around you.

By doing so, you will be more likely to enter virtuous spirals that can take you higher and higher.

I hope this helps you lead a happier and more meaningful life!