Emotions and Feelings

Peanut butter and jelly weren't always a thing but many of us don't really associate one without the other. Tuna fish is pretty much the only fish we mix with mayo to eat and our concept of emotions and feelings follow suit, we bunch them together. It's understandable why we do this and why we sometimes act like they are interchangeable but they are not. I will explain the differences between the two and why it is important to understand.

Emotions are sensations the body produces to create movement. This movement can be physically towards something (approach), physically away from something (avoid), or it can be in our thoughts (perspective). The type of movement we create, physical or cognitive and the direction we choose, approach or avoid, is determined by the label we apply to the sensation in a given context we've been conditioned to apply. This is what feeling is.

Emotion is memory. Physiologically speaking, it is just memory designed to move us. Feeling is memory designed to provide direction. This is important to understand because it helps us to deconstruct our experience of emotion to assess whether we are applying the right feeling in a given situation. We want to be sure we are approaching things we want and are beneficial to approach and avoiding those things that don't serve our best interests. Too many times we have these signals confused causing us to avoid things we are better served to approach and approaching things we are better served to avoid.

One of the biggest exercises we can do to accomplish this is something called a body scan. It's a practice of connecting to our bodies and experiencing and observing the sensations the body is producing without labeling them. This lets us explore our emotions. We regularly misapply feelings to sensations creating aligning behavior. This is referred to as misattribution of arousal. We can convince ourselves we are afraid of something when the stimulating event may have nothing to do with our bodily state. (We could he tired or just hungry)

Our physiology is pretty clear in that we may have a limited ability to engage emotion when the body creates the sensation, but we can develop the ability to manage what feeling, and thus what action we take, is applied to the sensation. The trick is we can only reframe in the midst of both the emotion and conditioned feeling. It means we have to sit in emotional discomfort and people don't like to do this. Many of us run for the exit the minute emotional discomfort (hurt, pain, anxiety, fear) rear its head. If you can develop the habit and practice of just feeling without moving, you can work to create from within a whole different perspective on the sensations you experience. In addition, you will realize that feelings are just that, feelings. This lets you fully experience them and empowers you to enjoy and be grateful for them both pleasant and unpleasant as they both serve powerful purposes.


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