Excerpt About Emotional States

Emotional Responses and Behavior are Determined by Self-Image

Not only one’s perception but of course one’s emotional responses and behavior as well are determined by the self-image a person is identifying with. For instance, to the same situation one individual might respond with fear, another with anger, another with apathy, with corresponding behaviors. Very often the behaviors are stylized and obviously automatic; in any case one never has a choice about emotional states that arise, whether they are appropriate or not. This automaticity of response is much greater than either normal subjective experience or modern psychological theory acknowledges. It is in the nature of mind to be in a constant state of reactivity; and here we do not simply mean what is implied in the usual sense of the word. We mean something more fundamental: that the individual is always reacting with certain very limited patterns of emotion and behavior which reflect the self-image he is identifying with, and that this self-image is itself a reaction, in two senses: first, that the specific self-image that is operating is automatically elicited by the situation, and second, that the self-image is itself a construction made up of reactions to past events from early childhood. This self-image is thus never a spontaneous response or a free choice, but is always a compulsive reaction.

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