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Association and Emotion


Explanations > Emotions > Association and Emotion

Putting yourself in the picture | Standing back | So what


An interesting phenomenon is that when we put ourselves mentally into a person or situation, we experience the emotions of that person more strongly.

Putting yourself in the picture

Personal history

Take an emotional experience from your past, and think back to that time. Put yourself in the picture, so you are re-living the experience (not standing back or looking down on yourself). See the situation 'through your own eyes'.

Doing this, you will most likely re-experience to some extent the emotions you felt at the time. If you looked at a strong negative experience you might even have felt tears coming to your eyes.


We can do the same with other people - when we empathize with them, we are putting ourselves into their body and their experiences. By associating ourselves closely with them, we experience what they experience and feel what they feel.

Standing back

The reverse of association is dissociation. Take that same emotional experience and now move to a position above the scene, so you can see yourself in it. You will now most likely experience the emotion far less.

Many people manage life in this detached way. They detach themselves from others and even themselves, living in a safe, unemotional place where they can look down on the world and coolly evaluate it.

So what?

Therapists use this phenomenon either to help clients re-live experiences or to help them detach themselves from painful emotions.

This can also be used to help others to change moods. If they are empathetic (as we mostly are, to some extent), then if then if you change your emotional state then they may well follow you, especially if you have connected them to you beforehand by first empathizing with them.

See also

Objectivity preferences, Empathy, Association and emotion, Association principle

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