How Our Feelings Are Connected

July 10, 2013 Katharina Lochner

Emotional Equations

At the World Congress on Positive Psychology in Los Angeles, our conference bag included the book “Emotional Equations“ by entrepreneur and bestselling author Chip Conley. It breaks various emotional states down into simple equations that allow us to understand and articulate what is going on in our “internal weather system”. This can help us regulate our emotions.

The story of the book begins with a series of personal crises Chip went through, and while searching for ways out of them, he re-read Viktor Frankl’s book “Man’s Search for Meaning” and ended up distilling its wisdom into the following equation: Despair = Suffering – Meaning. He realized that this was helping him because the equation consisted of a constant that he could not change (suffering), but just as much of a variable he could very well change (meaning). As he found it to be helpful for others, too, he continued with other emotions and found equations like:

  • Disappointment = Expectations – Reality
  • Workaholism = What Are You Running From? / What Are You Living For?
  • Authenticity = Self-Awareness x Courage
  • Joy = Love – Fear

He ended up writing a whole book on it, “Emotional Equations”. In a short trailer, he explains what the book is all about.

In another video, he explains how the equations can be put into practice, particularly when being in a leadership role.

He starts with the equation Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness. Based on this equation, he advises people to communicate because this reduces uncertainty. In times of uncertainty, he says, people tend to expect the worst and then even bad news is better than not knowing what is going to happen. That is why communication is crucial especially in such times.

What helps him lead in difficult times is, as already mentioned above, Despair = Suffering – Meaning. He explains that suffering is a constant, but meaning is a variable that we can actively change. He concludes the interview by the statement that emotions are contagious!

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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