My research focuses on examining my original concept Emotional Strength “The ability to respond in an open and vulnerable way in the face of intense emotional experience, feeling one’s way deeper into the emotion which allows access to implicit functional processes driving action.”
Specifically, how does connecting to emotions result in high performance as opposed to avoiding and suppressing emotions resulting in a decline in performance? My work is, in part, inspired by Quantum Physics and how focusing on a symptom can reduce the severity of the sensation. This phenomenon is in contrast to avoiding the sensation in order to minimise the intensity. I am ultimately interested in the practical use of emotion in everyday life and how building the capacity to experience intense emotion determines action.
Our research focuses on the conditioning process that has led humans to find innovative ways to avoid tension using denial and dissociation to minimise and numb the intensity of emotions and sensations in order to survive the harshness of life. This conditioning has affected human performance at all levels of society, and we offer Emotional Strength as way of re-connecting to the human spirit which guides purpose and meaning.The Sharon Faye Foundation conducts research at five levels of societal infrastructure – family health, education, business, law and politics. We are interested in understanding the process of what has been demonstrated over 20 years that building Emotional Strength assists people to come out of denial and dissociation to engage in life again.
Our research draws upon and integrates perspectives from disciplines including psychology, neurology, biology, physiology, sociology, anthropology and ecology. Our multidisciplinary approach is stimulated by systems theory considering the whole human being and the interaction with multiple environments. We collaborate with international scholars in the endeavour to understand the human experience.
After years of being overlooked in favour of cognition, the study of emotions has emerged as a central topic in neuroscience and psychology. Emotions underscore attention, perception, memory, decision-making. They create and cement beliefs, which drive our behaviour. Emotional suppression and avoidance is linked with reduced well-being, reduced quality of relationships, and poor health.
The emerging new paradigm in neuroscience is based on what is known as “Hebb’s law”, popularised by the phrase “neurons that fire together, wire together” and, conversely, “neurons that fire apart, wire apart”. The discovery of the ability of neurons to adjust and regenerate – neural plasticity – is one of the most fascinating and important discoveries to come out of this period. This concept tells us that the brain can change – that it can heal itself. Complementary recent research demonstrates that the human brain is not an isolated entity but exists in relation to its environment. Our brains are connected through a powerful system of “mirror” neurons.
These exciting scientific breakthroughs highlight the need for a move away from a health system based on tending the “ill” towards a culture of wellness. Neuroscience informs us how each person plays a crucial role in the emotional health and well-being of others and that it is never too late to change. When one person gets healthy, it has a ripple effect. By creating a wellness culture everyone can benefit from the well-being of most and thrive in a safe, supportive environment.
Building Emotional Strength – the ability to respond in an open and vulnerable way in the face of intense emotional experience – enables productive change. When people have a low capacity to engage with negative emotions, they are destined to do things the way they have always done them. People with a high capacity to engage with their negative emotions don’t need to protect themselves from feeling difficult emotions by deflecting or suppressing them but open themselves up to feedback and become more flexible in their responses.
Learning how to re-engage with our emotions generates a shift in our relationship to vulnerability and pain. Emotional pain becomes something we can embrace as instructive and ultimately healing. People who have developed Emotional Strength can respond in an open and vulnerable way, and report feelings of immense gratitude for being awake to the diverse experiences of being human.
The Sharon Faye Foundation is planning long-term leading-edge research on mapping the brain and assessing the impact of Emotional Strength on brain function and health.
Mornings with Geoff Hutchison, 720 ABC Radio Perth, 1 March 2017
West Weekend, 26 November 2016
Mornings with Geoff Hutchison, 720 ABC Radio Perth, 2 March 2016
The West Australian, 23 January 2016
The Educator Magazine, 11 October 2016
A response type, response disposition and organizing principle for emotion experience. New Ideas in Psychology, 50, 6-20.
Our vocabulary on affect