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enhance survival in times of emergency or stress, but some of what we inherited is no longer useful. In his words:

Anger and fear are essential emotional resources for coping with danger shared by a broad range of animal species. When our culture conformed more closely to our animal derivations, these emotions served us well. We could attack the beast that threatened us with a force alerted and mobilized by our rage, and augmented by our intelligence. But now danger is more likely to fall out of an envelope than to jump out of a bush ... Millions of years of evolution may have been made obsolete by a mere ten thousand years of civilization.

Gaylin by no means contends that anger and fear have no place in modem life, but he implies that we are responsible to direct them properly. Otherwise, they can contribute to our demise. Anger and fear are emotional reactions which occur in anticipation of danger and prepare animals mentally and physically for the response of fight or flight-a basic survival tool. But unlike other animals, modem man is not limited to fight or flight in his range of responses. Faced with circu mstances that threaten us in any way, we can most often eliminate the threat by correcting the threatening circumstances:

[W]e can change the very nature of our reality. We are in that sense coauthors with nature of our future, not merely passive subjects of it.;

On the other hand, our broad range of altematives combined with our ability to imagine and project coming events can actually help bring about that which we dread. Unlike other animals, our emotions are not automatic responses to what happens in reality, but are a result of our interpretation of what occurs. The man

who believes that wind is caused by the spirits of the dead seeking a resting place will respond much differently to a violent storm than will the trained meteorologist. Depending on the accuracy of our beliefs and our judgments about what occurs in reality, emotions can either serve us or harm us; they can act as a protector or a destroyer.


"An emotion," to use psychologist Nathaniel Brandens definition, "is the psychosomatic form in which man experiences his estimate of the beneficial or harmful relationship of some aspect of reality to himself."4 The fact that emotions are "psychosomatic" means that emotions are a physical response arising from a mental process. The mental process is one of evaluation, which means that we make a judgment as to whether something is "beneficial or harmful," for us or against us.

For example, upon seeing a loaded, silver-plated revolver, a child with no awareness of what a gun is or what it can do would probably be attracted to the shiny appearance and the moving parts. But had the same child previously seen his parents murdered by a gun at the hands of a burglar, he would almost certainly have feared the sight of the revolver and avoided it. In the first case, the revolver is pretty and interesting, a new discovery. In the second case, the revolver is dangerous and harmful, a thing that kills.

In the same way, how we react emotionally to any thing or event depends on how we subconsciously evaluate it in the context of our current knowledge. The judgment and the response is super-rapid, far faster than our conscious mind can grasp during its occurrence. We have to pause, reflect, and introspect to recognize the source of our emotions, if indeed we can figure them out at all. Where do we look? Ayn Rand has answered this better than anyone else that I know of:

Man has no choice about his capacity to feel that something is good for him or evil, but what he will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on his standard of value. If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer. The irrational is the impossible; it is that which

contradicts the facts of reality; facts cannot be altered by a wish, but they can destroy the wisher. If a man desires and pursues contradictions-if he wants to have his cake and eat it, too-he disintegrates his consciousness; he turns his inner life into a civil war of blind forces engaged in dark, incoherent, pointless, meaningless conflicts .... 5

To understand our emotions, we must understand their source: our values. "A value is that which one acts to gain and or keep."6 Our values are a vast array of things, ideas, and ptinc iples that we consider necessary or desirable, and they exist in our subconscious minds in an ordered hierarchy whether we like it or not.

The hierarchy is a structure that our mind gives our values-our desires, goals, and beliefs-in order of the relative importance we ascribe to them according to

a standard of what is good or bad, for us or against us. Ideally, if our standard of evaluation is consistent with our nature as rational beings, then every value, every belief and goal that we maintain, is noncontradictory, consistent, and lifesetving. We choose our values, consciously or subconsciously, and the choices we make provide the programming for our inherited emotional mainframe. And like a computer, the content of the programming is what determine s the value of the output.

We are beings of volitional consciousness. In order to survive, human beings must choose to think; to identify reality and integrate the material available to the senses. This is the meaning of free will. We have free will in the sense that we can choose to provide or change the programming of our subconscious computer, but we cannot change the nature of its functioning.

Our emotions are one part of that functioning. Our biological evolution provides us with a mechanism designed for a super-rapid response to complex events, but the values and beliefs we have accepted into our subconscious minds determine what form the emotional response will take. Therefore, the validity of our values, in terms of their efficacy in reality, determi nes the validity of our emotions. In addition, the fact that we can conceptualize and project events, whether real or imaginary, into the future extends and expands the role of emotions beyond that of its "design" for lesser animals. Again in Ayn Rands words:

Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of mans body is an automatic indicator of his bodys welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death-so the emotional mechanism of mans consciousness is geared to perform the same basic fun ction, as a barometer

that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering----[E]motions

are estimates of that which furthers mans values or threatens them ... lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.

But while the standard of value operating the physical pleasure -pain mechanism of mans body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body-the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism is not. Since man has no innate idea s. he can have no innate value judgments.8

This is a far different view than that of Mr. Spock and the Vulcans. Whereas Spock chose to deny the existence and validity of emotions because he thought them irrational and negative. Rand defines the direct logical connection of emotions to values, and values to reason. She maintains that the accuracy and validity of values determine the power and integrity of emotions. In Rands view, an emotional conflict is rooted in a conflict of values, and it is within our power to change values if they are wrong through the exercise of reason.

So we are not doomed to inner conflict by our nature and heritage. But to avoid inner conflict, we must choose and maintain values that are consistently life-serving, and the only way to discover what these values are is through the application of reason.

Given consistent, accurately defined values, emotions can assume their protective role as the pleasure-pain mechanism of the soul, providing instantaneous and valid reactions to complex events

that require immediate attention. This is the source of what people refer to as "intuition," or "a gut feeling." Even more important, they can then provide the reward-that wonderful complex of mental and physical responses that we call a state of joy-for actions resulting in life-serving achievement at work, at play, and in human relationships. With a healthy emotional framework in place, we can not only strive for achievement, but also enjoy the process of living; and the enjoyment provi des the resource for a constant refueling of our motivation.


Unfortunately, achieving emotional consistency is probably the most difficult chal lenge that faces us. Human beings are fallible; we make mistakes, our parents made mistakes, and so on down the line. Every belief we hold and every choice we make affects the programming of our subconscious mind and therefore our emotional responses. The impact of new choices and information cascades through the entire emotional framework as the mind runs a self-check, trying to reconcile the new information with the old.

The more fundamental the new information, in terms of its placement in the hierarchy of ones values, the more dramatic and sweeping the impact it will have on our emotio nal responses. Reality forces us to suffer the consequences of our actions existentially -a good trade makes money, a bad trade costs money. The structure and content of our conscious and subconscious values determine how we experience the consequences emotionally-how we feel about what we do. When we experience joy, we are motivated to live, to continue to move forward with desire. When we feel suffering, we are struck by a state of depression and fear, and we tend to pull away from what we think has caused the pain.

So what happens if we attempt to integrate false or conflicting beliefs into the hierarchy of our values? What happens if we make a bad choice or fail to choose at all when we should? If emotions are determined by values and beliefs, then holding false beliefs or conflicting values will result in misleading or "mixed" emotions and may provide the motivation to act self-destructively.

If, for example, a person believes fundamentally that people are bom evil and should spend their lives in atonement for their natures and in preparation for the afterlife, then it is unlikely that he or she will be able to gain significant pleasure from producing and acquiring material wealth. If a person has a subconsciously held belief that he or she is undeserving of happiness, then it is very likely that in the face of what should be a joyous event, guilt will take its place. If a nation of people believe that they are of a superior Aryan descent, empowered by God to dictate the fate of lesser peoples, then they will feel indifferent to the deaths of innocent people ordered by their leadership. It is possible, perhaps even common, judging

by the number of people who engage in therapy, to experience pain, fear, or guilt in the face of positive achievement, and excited anticipation and joy in an act of self-destmction or the destmction of others.

Very few of us, if any, lead lives that are either totally self-serving (in a positive sense) or totally self-destmctive. Instead, we hold mixed and contradictory values and premises; some beliefs are life-serving, others are life-negating. Take John Trader in the example above. He valued knowledge and applied it correctly (albeit his timing was oft). He went into his position with confidence and admitted to himself at the outset the possibility that he was wrong. We can assume that he had previously been successful because he could afford to trade 200 contracts. If the trade had gone his way, he undoubtedly would have been elated and enjoyed both being right and ing some money. All very healthy. But when the trade went against him, he felt attacked, threatened, fearful. He let his fear and false prides overcome and override his otherwise good judgment. He let his wish become a claim on reality while knowing that he was violating his mles.

The reasons that John Trader, or anyone in the real world, acts in defiance of knowledge are very complex and will be discussed in detail in the next chapter. But if I had to reduce the reason to a single sentence it would be: He was trying to avoid the pain of being wrong. It wasnt the money loss that threatened him so deeply -a good trader accepts losing money on some trades as part of the business. What brought about the overwhelming fear that made him behave irrationally was the possibility of suffering the pain of being wrong. He acted to avoid pain, and therein was his problem.

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