HomeVOLUME 8February 2023 Step into the future of emotions

STANISLAS LAJUGIE explores modern psychological theories of managing emotions, and even better, how to let go of our past emotional patterns and step into a simpler, happier future through meditative practices.

Are you super smart, successful in many aspects of life, but your heart is unhappy? When this happens, all your achievements will not be satisfying enough.

Or let’s take another example: have you tried to take a decision while feeling angry, jealous, fearful, or even euphoric? One single emotion and your entire thinking process is in jeopardy!

Emotions play a central role in our lives for better or for worse.

Modern times require that we learn to manage our emotions to navigate with an even keel through life’s ups and downs. We will explore how to move toward emotional regulation, and even step into the future of emotions!

Emotional Regulation

In the 1990s, Peter Salovey from Yale University described emotional intelligence (EI) as “The ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions.”

Daniel Goleman popularized EI and classified it into 5 components:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social skills

Awareness – self-awareness, awareness of the others, and awareness of the environment – is at the core the 5 components of EI. This means being aware and adapting to the situation. The quality of awareness and the capacity to adapt were praised by Daniel Goleman in his book Emotional Intelligence, Why It Can Matter More Than IQ (1995), which has been a treasure in all professional environments.

In essence, this type of emotional intelligence, which is very useful, consists in managing emotions that have arisen in the past, that are affecting our behavior in the present.

Heartfulness proposes a different approach: to neutralize the past conditioning and step into the future of emotions.

Step into the Future of Emotions

What does that mean? Let me give you an example. A while back, I had to meet a customer in another part of the city. I was running late, drove fast, and had a car accident. It shocked me. The next day, I had to drive, and the fear of driving was there. I drove slowly, but manage to reach safely. And the next day, it was the same. The next month also. After a month, I nearly forgot about this fear. So, my concept of fear evolved based on a series of new “past” experiences.

The theory of how emotions work has been debated for decades by psychologists, neuroscientists, philosophers, and evolutionary biologists. In essence, some postulate that emotions are innate, that a particular area of the brain is associated with a particular emotion, while recent research supported by neuroimaging technologies reveals that our mind connects different parts of our brain to make sense of emotions based on past experiences. So our emotional understanding is based on past experiences and emotions.

Now, if they are constructed, they can be also deconstructed. Our emotional concepts can be tweaked and changed by new experiences.

Here is the beauty of the brain and meditative practices. For the brain, whether I have my eyes open or closed, experiences have the same impact on brain changes. What does it mean? I can intentionally close my eyes, practice the Heartfulness Cleaning technique to tweak, transform and master my emotional concepts. I don’t have to wait for new experiences, or be a victim to past emotions. I can step into the future of emotions!

Can You also Step into Your Future Self?

In this question, Lisa Feldman Barrett is referring to a Buddhist notion of the “self” as a false construct, a clinging to a set of ideas that are made up. She suggests that by tweaking the ideas we have about ourselves, and changing predictions, it is possible not only to change future experience but also to change our “self.” Barrett goes on to say that if you are interested in doing this, try meditation.

Heartfulness Cleaning gives us a means to remove our emotional burden and gain emotional balance. Heartfulness meditation, which focuses on the source of light emanating from our being, can allow us also to heighten our quality of existence to the highest levels.

As Otto Scharmer and Bill O’Brien once discussed, “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener. … What counts is not only what leaders do and how they do it, but also their “interior condition” – that is, their inner source.” They are speaking of the quality of consciousness.

Heartfulness Cleaning gives us a means
to remove our emotional burden and gain emotional balance.

Having ways to make sense of negative emotions,
and how to respond to them, seems to result in an
increased capacity for emotional regulation.

Emotional Granulation

Research suggests that higher emotional granularity, that is, the ability to distinguish the specificity of emotions, results in increased capacity for emotional regulation, which is particularly important when it comes to managing negative emotional situations.

Kashdan, Barrett and McKnight (2015) share a study where a fear of spiders was treated using three different approaches:

  1. Cognitive re-appraisal where participants were taught to describe spiders in a non-threatening way, e.g., “Sitting in front of me is a little spider and it’s safe.”
  2. Distraction, where participants pay attention to something unrelated to their fear of spiders.
  3. Categorization of sensations with greater granularity, e.g., “In front of me is an ugly spider, and it is disgusting, nerve-racking and yet intriguing.”

The third approach was found to be the most effective in helping people with a fear of spiders to observe and approach spiders. Research suggests that higher emotional granularity has positive benefits, particularly in situations that engender negative emotions. Having ways to make sense of negative emotions, and how to respond to them, seems to result in an increased capacity for emotional regulation.

Lisa Feldman also observed that noting down positive experiences, and enriching our vocabulary of positive emotions, supports the weaving of a positive mindset.

Heartfulness journaling supports the development of this capacity to observe and enrich our vocabulary of experience, especially if we pay more attention to feelings as prescribed in the Heartfulness practices.


Stanislas Lajugie

Stanislas Lajugie

Stanislas is a civil servant of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of France. He has worked in many countries and enjoys making meditation fashionable wherever he goes. He has developed a course on the science of meditation for universities and c... Read More