The Emotional life of your Brain: emotional state and style

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The smallest, most fleeting unit of emotion is an emotional state.
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Typically lasting only a few seconds, it tends to be triggered by an experience—the spike of joy you feel at the macaroni collage your child made you for Mother’s Day, the sense of accomplishment you feel upon finishing a big project at work, the anger you feel over having to work all three days of a holiday weekend, the sadness you feel when your child is the only one in her class not invited to a party.
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Emotional states can also arise from purely mental activity, such as daydreaming, or introspection, or anticipating the future.
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But whether they are triggered by real-world experiences or mental ones, emotional states tend to dissipate, each giving way to the next.
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A feeling that does persist, and that remains consistent over minutes or hours or even days, is a mood, of the “he’s in a bad mood” variety.
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And a feeling that characterizes you not for days but for years is an emotional trait.
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We think of someone who seems perpetually annoyed as grumpy, and someone who always seems to be mad at the world as angry.
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An emotional trait (chronic, just-about-to-boil-over anger) increases the likelihood that you will experience a particular emotional state (fury) because it lowers the threshold needed to feel such an emotional state.
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Emotional Style is a consistent way of responding to the experiences of our lives.
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It is governed by specific, identifiable brain circuits and can be measured using objective laboratory methods.
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Emotional Style influences the likelihood of feeling particular emotional states, traits, and moods.
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Because Emotional Styles are much closer to underlying brain systems than emotional states or traits, they can be considered the atoms of our emotional lives—their fundamental building blocks.
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