When people talk about emotions what are they really talking about? We all know that emotions cause us to feel certain ways. We feel angry. We feel happy. We feel guilty. We feel confident. When we use these words we are labeling our feelings. Labels are important. Labels help us understand how we are feeling and how others are feeling. Being able to label emotions is an important skill and helps us communicate with others. Labels are not our emotions.
We have thoughts that reflect our emotions. When we are feeling sad we focus on sad memories and tell sad stories. When we are happy we look for the positive in life. Thoughts and feelings are usually in alignment. Thoughts can change our emotions. If we are having a great day and we hear some upsetting news about a friend we start feeling sad or upset. If we are sad a friend can cheer us up with a joke or a heart warming story. But our thoughts are not our emotions.
Your emotions are felt in the body
Check this out for yourself. Remember something that creates a happy feeling. Where do you feel it in your body? Is it near your heart? Is it all over? Many people experience positive emotions in their heart area. Now try a minor negative emotion: irritation, mild sadness, etc. Remember a time when you felt that emotion – waiting in line, a sad movie, etc. Now where do you feel that emotion in your body? Negative emotions can be felt anywhere. Most of us experience emotions in our chest and abdomen areas.
Did the happy emotion feel different from the negative emotion? Was it in a different location in your body?
Emotions are chemicals
Candace Pert, who wrote the Molecules of Emotion: The Science of Mind-Body Medicine (1999), says that our emotions are caused by chemical messengers flowing through our body. These chemical messengers are neuropeptides and are created by our brain.
Almost every cell in the body has neuropeptide receptors on its surface. When the molecules of emotion hook onto our cells our entire body experiences the emotion. If we are happy all of our cells experience happiness.
Our experience of emotion is created when molecules of emotion (neuropeptides) attach to the cells through out the body. When we want to change or release emotions we want to include the body.
(Image: sskennel @ Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/sskennel/4082922531/)