There is a need for understanding emotional guidance and cognitive regulation in the discipline of psychological and pharmaceutical therapy. “Emotional regulation” is a misconception and aberrant construct of actual bio-physiological events. To pharmaceutically regulate emotions is to obscure cognitive behavior from the very consciousness that needs to comprehend its own behavior. Emotions are a perception of physiological biochemical conditions within the body precipitated by cognitive behavior. It is cognitive behavior that must be accessed by the individual with the help of the emotional system. A psychologist can aide in this understanding and also can train the individual how to use emotional guidance to change correlative cognitive activities. Any undesirable cognitive activities can be used as a launching pad to reach for less negative and, eventually, positive and productive cognitive activities that result in a healthy biology and associated positive emotions.
Cognitive rehabilitation must help individuals to use the neuroplastic capacities of the brain to develop new and emotionally positive cognitive habits of thought, perception, and imagination. Such a discipline would help a person develop internal powers of choice and creativity to move the mind towards activities that result in associated harmonious emotional responses. Besides the cognitive activities of recognition, conception, reason and imagination, there are the perceptual activities of the senses – touching, seeing, hearing, smelling, and tasting – as well as the physical activities a person may engage in. All of the cognitive activities associated with these activities also give rise to associated emotional responses to be heralded and empowered into well-being through encouragement by the psychologist.
There is a need for a psychotherapy that fortifies a patient’s desire to stay on the road toward a natural state of health and well-being: a discipline where a patient’s own emotional guidance system is acknowledged, validated and reinforced. This implies empowering a patient with the ability to reach for and chose cognitive activities that feel better so he/she actually does feel better in the present, rather than reaching for some goal to be realized in the future. These cognitive activities may simply change emotional experience from painful to less painful, but eventually they will result in a change from feeling good to feeling even better. The successful caregiver will develop a patient’s cognitive ability to find cognitive activities that feel better now, in the present, in this therapeutic session. The goal is for a patient to feel even better by becoming mentally and physically well through leading a life responsive to his/her own emotional guidance system. “Wellness” ultimately means to have a life without therapy and without medications. A person may never reach a state of mental health that is without therapy or medications, but just demonstrating with them that they have the ability and the power to feel better now creates hope. Hope can make all the difference between staying with or leaving a program. It can make the difference between staying or leaving life itself.
4.1 Emotional Guidance
Within the psychology of “emotional guidance,” the naturally evolved response to negative emotions is for a person’s consciousness to use the energy from this negative cognitive/emotional state to pivot the mind’s activities onto activities that bring positive emotions. If emotions are skewing negative, it is the person’s signal to stop and take steps towards a new perspective and to refocus the mind and its activities onto a reframed view of the subject. If these efforts fail, then learning to refocus consciousness onto something entirely different may be the best action to bring a more positive emotional response. As people grow from childhood to adolescence to adulthood, they learn more complicated and sophisticated facets of (1) recognizing and acknowledging the presence of negative emotions, (2) stopping the spiral down the emotional staircase earlier and earlier in the decline, or as in the case of mania, stopping the upward spiral, (3) reframing and refocusing the consciousness into a less negative emotional perspective, and (4) repeating this reframing and refocusing into better feeling emotions until they are back at an emotionally positive, healthy and harmonious vantage point.
Maintaining a healthy and joyful lifestyle requires having an ability to move up or down the spiral staircase with ease and fluidity, just as emotions flow up and down with the changing consciousness of watching a movie or reading a book. Issues involved within mental illness, addictions, and violence develop when this more complicated and creative aspect of a healthy cognition are absent, usurped, driven, or even manipulated out of a person’s repertoire of survival skills. The resulting loss of choice to get on or off the emotional roller coaster can leave an individual broken and in need of professional help.
4.2 Defining Mental Health and Well-being
Mental, physical, and emotional wellness depends on actuating their evolved correlative relationships. Emotions are a perception of physiological biochemical conditions which are an actualization of cognitive activities. If a person’s emotions are working as evolution directed and are giving an accurate perceptual feedback on his/her physiological biochemistry, then a psychological problem is not an “emotional disorder” it is a “cognitive disorder.” A true emotional disorder would be akin to a sight disorder such as near sightedness, far sightedness, or even color blindness. A distinction must be made between a properly working emotional system – one which gives accurate feedback on the body – and an emotional system with a disorder – one which has a non-associative relationship with the body and mind.
Within the context of emotional guidance, a person is mentally healthy when he/she can naturally (i.e., without alcohol, drugs or medications), respond to his/her own emotional guidance and move up or down the emotional spiral staircase as a choice. Mental health means a person has the aptitude, skills and capacity to return back into the pleasures and harmonies of life from event to event throughout life. Having mental and physical health is being capable to do the work that is necessary to move within the emotional spiral staircase: from a mental/physical/emotional negative state into a mental/physical/emotional positive state of existence.
Well-being and the success of any professional therapy, mental or physical, is not defined with the absence of illness but by the presence of health, vigor, and joy along with the necessary cognitive skills, abilities, and motivation to nurture these conditions with one’s own emotional guidance.
Once a patient learns to maintain his/her own physical and mental well-being by acting from a positive emotional state, then a new learning process begins: one which delves into the ethics of these actions and thus develops a comprehension of “right” action. We live in an environment where sales and marketing have become very sophisticated and cunning in the manufacturing of feeling good states of being. In this environment of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) and ‘free speech’, not understanding the pitfalls of ‘feels good is good’ can be very costly to the individual and in the long run to the health and well-being of the family, community, and society.
Additionally, society needs to rethink the meaning of “criminal justice” and reform ‘punishment for crime’ into a justice system that actually promotes healthy cognitive rehabilitation and healthy neuroplastic development and a return to well-being. Well-being means health, vigor, energy and vitality with a joyous anticipation for the future and all its uncertainty.