I practice insight into emotionally altered states of mind for about twenty years or so and I think it is a fascinating exercise. Not just because one learns a lot about the mind, but also about human social behaviour. The emotionally altered mind is more like an animal, more instinctive, than the calm, rational one. So I thought I open a thread on this topic to share insights into it and compare notes.
The way I practice this is either during sittings or everyday situations. When an emotion arises either due to a situation or a stimulating thought or memory I do not cut it before it arises but let it grow, let it take over the mind and body. I observe and analyse what happens while it happens to see the mechanisms and processes.
Some aspect that seems to be true for all emotionally altered states of mind are the increased concentration, alertness and redundancy. Another is the reduction of rationality (no surprise here).
When anger arises inside my mind and body (emotions always seem to influence the physical body, too) the mind concentrates automatically on the cause of the anger. The object whatever it is - say, some car driver behaves badly, just to give an everyday opportunity to practice - suddenly dominates the mind and it stops whatever dominating activity it had done before. Say, when I have been in a dialogue or listening to music or thinking, planing etc, all these are stoped within the second and thoughts based on anger and the object that caused it surface and dominate. But, oddly, it does not stay at that. Instead of moving on when the situation has passed, the mind repeats and repeats the situation in itself, arising memory after memory of it to feed the emotion to stay, to keep the anger altered mind active. And then even older, usually forgotten memories of anger inducing events years ago arise, again feeding the emotion to stay. And then "what if" thoughts and images, ideas of what bad could happen in the future related to the anger inducing situation. It is a kind of feedback loop: emotion triggers memories and thoughts and these feed the emotion that then initiates more emotional memories and thoughts. So, while concentration and alertness are increased by the emotion anger they are also limited to anger related mental processes and situations.
A physical aspect of anger is the increased alertness, pure strength, endurance and reaction time. The body clearly prepares for fight or flight. Physical pain is reduced. When I do not let go of the anger or do some sports I get painful tensions after three days of continual anger-altered mind (I only have a statistic of one regarding this, some years ago I kept my anger active during the whole wake time - got some interesting dreams, too - just to analyse the state. After three days my legs started to hurt so much I decided to end the experiment).
To me most surprising of the analysis of anger altered mind are the social implications. Anger seems to get the mind into a more instinctive state that judges people's behaviour and reactions differently than the calm, rational mind. In my experience there are only two well accepted social responses to anger: fear and anger. Fear is judged as "lower social status" and accepted as such - by the person who experiences the fear, too. A social structure is established on the instinctive level. The response of anger however is considered as not yet established social structure, which prepares the body and mind to fight for it, reactivating rationality. The worst response to anger is calm. I was very surprised to see this as I had been taught to response to anger of another person with calm. But I checked this over and over again: calm signals the anger altered mind that the other person does not take me and my problems seriously. It leads to feeling insulted, ignored and generally not accepted.
I also checked this result on other persons. When other persons got angry with me I tried both responses: calm and anger (not both at the same time of course). It turned out that anger is the best reaction in dealing with others, too. Calm either increased their anger or made them retreat without solving the problem, worsening their self-esteem. The reaction of anger, signalling both "I take you seriously" and "stop, no further than this" had the result of them pausing to reflect on what they do and think and turning the mind to rationality again (even if only to fight more rational at first). I can only add that since I chose this response to anger I get along with people much better socially. (I am talking about other adults, with children the instincts work differently).
What are your observations into emotions? Anger? Fear? Ambition? Jealousy? ...