Emotions as Gifts, Signals and “Action-Requiring Neurological Programs”

A friend recently referred me to Karla McLaren who writes on the subject of emotions and empathy.  It was like a breath of fresh air to read a few of her articles. To learn that emotions are like gifts, signals and “action-requiring neurological programs” [McLaren NeurologicalPrograms].  Like an internal sensor and monitoring system.  Indicating when something is amiss and needs to be addressed with varying levels of intensities.

Her work seems like an extension of Marshall Rosenberg’s description of anger as a gift and an alarm for Nonviolent Communications [KendoNotes_Anger].  Telling us to wake up and pay attention to emotions in general.

In the article  and others, McLaren explains that each emotion has a unique purpose and a naturally associated action.  For example, 

  • Sadness requires that you take action to let go of something that isn’t working anyway, and grief requires that you actively mourn something that is lost irretrievably. [McLaren NeurologicalPrograms]
  • Anger arises to address challenges to what you value: your standpoint, your position, your interpersonal boundaries, or your self image. [McLaren_Anger]

She also describes how emotions need not be suppressed, ignored or judged as negative [McLaren NegativeEmotions] or positive [McLaren PositiveEmotions].   It’s reassuring to rediscover that it’s okay to accept, honor and listen to the emotions.  Rather than to dismiss, downplay or dislike them.  Very insightful and nourishing for me to learn.  

Incidentally, this way of interpreting emotions seems similar to that for various types of pains or body sensations we may experience: a sore neck muscle, fever, sore throat, hunger, fullness, stomach ache, the sensation of cold or hot objects, exhaustion, a thumping heart,…

If you are interested in learning more about emotions, I’d recommend checking out McLaren’s articles and books. 

May all be well with you 🙂


[KendoNotes_Anger] “Anger as a Gift and Alarm – Enriching Our Relationships and Life,” KendoNotes.com, Oct 1, 2019.

[McLaren_Anger] Karla McLaren, “Understanding and Befriending Anger,” KarlaMcLaren.com

[McLaren_NegativeEmotions] Karla McLaren, “The Myth of Negative Emotions,” KarlaMcLaren.com

[McLaren NeurologicalPrograms] Karla McLaren, “Emotions are Action-Requiring Neurological Programs,” KarlaMcLaren.com

[McLaren_PositiveEmotions] Karla McLaren, “The Myth of Positive Emotions,” KarlaMcLaren.com

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