Chapter 10- Emotion: The James-Lange Theory.

In short James-Lange believes that we can control our emotions. He thinks that bodily changes such as crying only occur once we’ve thought of something upsetting.  ‘The theory implies that deliberately altering our behaviour, we can control our emotional experiences’, ‘ They argued that our emotional experience is the result, not the cause of perceived bodily changes’

Do you agree with James?

Firstly I’d like to express my disappointment with the how the theory was written and the examples that were given. To me, this is an interesting topic and it wasn’t given justice. ‘We feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble’ (James-Lange) There could be much better examples for such an interesting theory. However the over-all message is good.

Yes, I agree with his theory. I think we can all prove his theory by testing it out ourselves. I recently did so myself; I have always been afraid of going up into the loft, after thinking about James-lange’s and James Borgs’ (author of ‘Mind Control’) theory I realised that I was only afraid because of the thoughts that I had. I would fear falling off the ladders whilst trying to find something in the loft. My test was to change my thoughts  to positive ones ‘I’m not going to fall, everything will be fine’ I repeated this thought throughout the process of going up into the loft and I found that I managed to over-come my fears. Another test that I did was changing my thoughts to positive ones whenever something bad or upsetting had occurred to ensure that I won’t let negative emotions take control, this in my opinion and from my experience, can work. However this certainly doesn’t mean that if something terrible happens that you’ll feel no negative emotions. The situation in which such unwanted emotions arise is very relevant to how well this theory works. For example, if a person was grieving over a death of someone they cared about, this theory would be useless for quite some time, as the grieving would be too powerful to over-come by mere positive thoughts.

The idea of forcing a smile to make you feel happy works mostly against the theory in my opinion. This is because if you are genuinely very unhappy, then it would simply be a fake smile. However it is thought to be true because of the signals that go through your brain. It’s almost like tricking your mind into thinking that you’re happy…but how effective is this? 

Another reason why I would be inclined to disagree with James is because we often act on instinct, if we saw a bear, we would either freeze in sheer terror, or almost automatically run away, which would give us very little time to think logically and calm ourselves down.

Having said all of this, I mostly agree with the theory, although I believe it’s very flawed.


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