Love, Happiness, International Affairs and
What do love and happiness have to do with associated and disassociated feeling? Actually, everything! I too had never heard of “associated” and “disassociated” feelings until I attended a seminar conducted by America’s famous speaker/author Anthony Robbins. Have you wondered why some people behave a certain way? Have you noticed others wondering about you; why you behave the way you do? Again, associated and disassociated feelings!
It is difficult to understand these “associated” and “disassociated” feelings just from words. The feelings are best understood by actually experiencing them. Let us do a mental exercise that Robbins conducted.
Sit back and relax. [Better to also close your eyes for the exercise, if someone can lead you through this and next paragraph.] Take a deep breath and relax even more. Now, vividly imagine yourself in an amusement park that has the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster. See the roller coaster in your mind's eye. But, don't get excited. You are not going to go on it. There is a bench in front of the roller coaster. Sit down on the bench, relax and, lazily, watch others taking the roller-coaster ride, yelling and screaming. What you just experienced is a roller coaster ride with disassociated feelings. [Open your eyes.]
Next, associated feeling! [Close your eyes, again.] See yourself in the amusement park again. See the world’s tallest and steepest roller coaster again. This time you get on it. Feel the handlebar. See others around you – all excited. The roller coaster starts its slow but sharp climb up, and pulls up to the top gradually. As the roller coaster begins the steep roll down, feel the excitement. Hear all the people yelling and screaming. The feelings you experienced in your gut are associated feelings. [Open your eyes.]
What does this exercise have to do with real life? Actually, a lot! Consider two examples.
Example 1: You go to a big lecture hall with a thousand seats. A speaker comes in the front of the room and speaks on a topic of common interest. Contrast how you feel emotionally in two situations. Situation 1: you take a seat and listen to the speaker with 1000 others in the audience. Situation 2: you are the speaker!
Example 2: Reaction to a stock market crash. When I was a student and I did not have any money invested in the stock market. So, when there was a huge drop in the stock market, it hardly bothered me. My feelings were disassociated. Now that I have quite a lot invested in the stock market, my feelings are associated, and my sense of security and happiness often moves in the same direction as the market.
Example 3: Disassociated feelings: You read about people having open heart surgeries. Associated feelings: You are told by your doctor that you need to have open heart surgery.
Associated feelings are what you feel in your gut and with strong connotative meanings. Disassociated feelings, in contrast, are what you feel at the intellectual level and carry mostly denotative meanings.
You can use the concept of associated and disassociated feelings to categorize people in four categories, according to Robbins. (You may want to figure out what category you belong to.)
Just think of all the people you know. Which category do they fall into? You can probably think of some people in each one of the categories. Which category you belong to?
Associated and disassociated feelings can explain a lot of other things. It can explain love. And, even politics!
According to Robbins, when we are in love, we think in an associated way about all the good qualities and actions of the person we are in love with, and in a disassociated way about the person’s negative qualities and actions. In other words, good points get valued highly, and bad points either don't matter, or are easily tolerated.
On the other hand, when things go sour and there is bitterness, situation gets reversed. Then we tend to think in associated ways about all the negative qualities of the same person and in a disassociated way towards the good points. Looking back, people may say that they had blinders on. It was not blinders; it was associated and disassociated feelings!
It is amazing but it seems that associated and disassociated feelings affect not just individuals but even nations! Since 9/11, we Americans have strongly associated very negative feelings about a certain group of people whom we call “terrorists” and can’t even think of anything good associated with these people. But, did Americans always feel the same way about this group? However, when the same people were fighting Russians in Afghanistan, we called them “freedom fighters” and felt associated strong positive feelings towards them. Hasn’t a similar change of associated and disassociated feelings also occurred about Saddam Hussein? At one time he was considered worthy of military support. However, after his invasion of Kuwait, the feelings changed.
In summary, our associated and disassociated feelings affect profoundly how we experience the world around us. They affect our feelings of love, happiness, interpersonal relations, and even international relations. When we understand associated and disassociated feelings, we find the human behavior a lot easier to understand.