Everyone has two primary “filters” their mind uses to process information as it streams in from the outside world. The first is the “emotional filter” whose job it is to tag the incoming information with emotional values. Said another way, the emotional filter rates the level of emotions felt for each piece of incoming information before passing it along to the next filter. The second is the “logical filter” that receives the tagged data from the emotional filter and adds its own logical ratings and passes it along to the next filter.
Both filters can trigger a reaction to the incoming information before passing it along. The strength of the reaction is related to how sensitive the emotional filter is at the time to the particular type of emotional or logical input. Said another way, the more irritated the filter is, the stronger the reaction will be.
Usually the emotional and logical filters work in harmony and product balanced “healthy” responses to the world around us. When both filters have tagged the information before the mind reacts the more likely the reaction will be appropriate and productive.
When a person experiences a sudden and extremely difficult emotional situation, such as the death of a family member or close friend, their emotional filter may go into a state of shock and “shutdown”. During these times the emotional filter will pass the information through without attaching any emotional ratings or triggering any reactions. During this state the person feels “numb” and dazed. This is a similar reaction to when an injury occurs and the pain it temporarily blocked. This state is generally temporary and passes within minutes, hours or sometimes even longer.
People that experience long term emotional stress, such as abuse and neglect have a hypersensitive emotional filter. The more sensitive the filter, the less likely their responses will seem “logical” to those around them. They may seem to lack “common sense” because the reaction happens before their brain has been able to think about it logically. In many people the level of hypersensitivity can fluctuate drastically, causing their responses to be very unpredictable and having a negative impact on their lives and those around them. There are many other factors that affect the sensitivity of the emotional filter such as heredity, drugs and alcohol but this paper dissertation is focusing on the effects of long term emotional stress.
Often a person with a hypersensitive emotional filter will have difficulty in relationships. The primary reason is the quick, illogical reactions to daily events can create hurt feelings in their partner. The longer the reactions go on and the more unpredictable they are, the harder it is for the partner to not speak their mind. When the partner finally does speak their mind it’s almost always going to be at the wrong time, immediately following the emotional filters reaction. The emotional filter is already in a highly agitated state so just about anything that is said will result in another emotional reaction. Depending on the partners communications style this could quickly cascade into a full blown argument.
The first step in regaining the balance is recognizing that the imbalance is there. The challenge is to retrain the mind to hold off the reaction until the logical filter has been able to process the data, similar to the methods used in Anger Management. When the person is in a relationship it’s extremely important that both partners are aware of the situation and work together to help improve it. The partner needs to be able to brush off many emotional reactions so that the affected person’s emotional filter can heal and recover.