Richard Davidson, in his book The Emotional Life of Your Brain defines as emotional style a consistent way of responding to the experiences of our lives. Emotional styles influences the likelihood of feeling particular emotional states, traits, and moods.
Emotional Style comprises six dimensions. These dimensions arose from Davidson’s research in affective neuroscience:
- Resilience: how quickly you recover from adversity.
- Outlook: how long you are able to sustain positive emotion.
- Social Intuition: how adept you are at picking up social signals from the people around you.
- Self Awareness: how well you perceive bodily feelings that reflect emotions.
- Sensitivity to context: how good you are at regulating your emotional responses to
- take into account the context you find yourself in.
- Attention: how sharp and clear your focus is.
These dimensions reflect properties and pattern in the brain. Each of the six dimensions has a specific, identifiable neural signature. Each dimension describes a continuum. Some people fall at one or the other extreme of that continuum, while others fall somewhere in the middle. The combination of where you fall on each dimension adds up to your overall Emotional style.
Resilience style: People at one extreme of this dimension are fast to recover from adversity, those at the other extreme are slow to recover.
- Can you usually shake off setbacks, or do you suffer a meltdown?
- When faced with an emotional challenge, can you muster the tenacity to soldier on, or do you feel so helpless that you simply surrender?
- Do you respond to setbacks with energy and determination, or do you give up?
Outlook style: People at one extreme of the outlook spectrum can be described as positive types; those at the other, as negative.
- Do you seldom let emotional clouds darken your vision of life?
- Do you maintain a high level of energy and engagement even when things don’t go your way?
- Or do you easily tend toward cynicism and pessimism struggling to see anything positive?
Social intuition style: those at one extreme of this spectrum are socially intuitive types; those at the other, puzzled.
- Can you read people’s body language and tone of voice, inferring whether they want to talk or be alone, whether they are stressed to the breaking point or feeling mellow?
- Or, are you puzzled by the outward indications of people’s mental and emotional stress?
Self awareness style: at one extreme of the spectrum are people who are self aware; at the other, those who are self-opaque.
- Are you aware of your own thoughts and feelings and attuned to the messages your body sends to you?
- Or, do you act and react without knowing why you do what you do, because your inner self is opaque to your conscious mind?
- Do those closest to you ask why you never engage in introspection and wonder why you seem oblivious to the fact that you are anxious, jealous, impatient, or threatened?
Sensitivity to context style: if you are at one xtreme you are tuned in, at the other end, tuned out.
- Are you able to pick up the conventional rules of social interaction so that you do not tell your boss the same joke you told your best friend?
- Or, are you baffled when people tell you that your behaviour is inappropriate?
Attention style: at one extreme of the spectrum are people with a focused style; at the other, those who are unfocused.
- Can you screen out emotional or other distraction and stay focused?
- Are you so caught up in what you’re doing that you don’t notice what the others are doing?
- Or do your thoughts flit from the task at hand to the fight you had with one of your relatives or the anxiety you feel about an upcoming presentation?
Think of the six dimensions as ingredients in the recipe for your emotional makeup. Who you are emotionally is the product of different amounts of each of these components.
Adapted from The Emotional Life of Your Brain, Richard Davidson, Hodder.