January 28, 2020
7 min read

The Art of Emotions: Your Relationship

Emotions are processed by several different parts of the brain, including the amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, and the insula. The amygdala, located in the temporal lobe, is responsible for processing emotions and triggering the body's "fight or flight" response to perceived threats. The hippocampus, also located in the temporal lobe, helps to encode and consolidate memories, including emotional memories. The prefrontal cortex, located in the front part of the brain, is responsible for regulating emotions and decision-making. The insula, located deep within the brain, plays a role in processing feelings of empathy and self-awareness.

It's important to note that emotions are not solely processed in one specific part of the brain, but rather involve the interaction and communication between multiple brain regions. The brain works together to process emotions, and the way emotions are experienced and expressed can be influenced by individual experiences, personality, and cultural factors.

Primary Emotions

The concept of universal emotions was first proposed by Charles Darwin and refers to the idea that emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust are experienced universally by all cultures. Paul Ekman, a psychologist and researcher, conducted studies on universal emotions and added to our understanding of emotional expression and perception. His research supports the existence of universal emotions and provides evidence for common emotional experiences across cultures.

Emotions vs. Feelings: Understanding the Neurochemical Basis of Our Emotional Lives

Emotions and feelings are often used interchangeably, but they can be differentiated in a few ways. Emotions are neurochemical in nature and generated by a complex interplay of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other chemical messengers that are released in response to various stimuli. These neurochemicals are involved in the regulation of our mood, motivation, and behavior.

Emotions are brief, intense experiences that are triggered by a specific event or stimulus, and are characterized by physiological changes and automatic behaviors. For example, when we see a scary movie, we might feel fear, which is an emotion. Fear is characterized by a rapid heartbeat, sweating, and a desire to flee the situation.

Feelings, on the other hand, are the conscious experience of emotions. Feelings are the subjective interpretation of emotions, and are influenced by our thoughts, memories, and beliefs. For example, when we feel fear, we might also feel overwhelmed, anxious, or panicked. These are feelings that accompany the emotion of fear.

So, emotions are automatic, physiological responses to stimuli, while feelings are the conscious experiences that accompany emotions. Emotions can be thought of as the cause, while feelings can be thought of as the effect. Understanding the neurochemical basis of emotions is important for understanding the complex interplay between brain, body, and behavior that characterizes our emotional lives.

The Interplay of Thoughts and Emotions: Navigating the Complexities of Feeling

Feeling words are terms that masquerade as emotions or feelings but are not genuine or authentic. These 'faux feeling' words can be misleading, obscuring one's true emotions to create a certain impression. For instance, claiming "I'm fine" or "I love it" while actually feeling upset or unhappy. Marshall Rosenberg, in his work on Nonviolent Communication, emphasizes the importance of distinguishing between such faux feelings and authentic emotions. He suggests that using inauthentic feeling words can damage relationships by undermining trust and authenticity in communication. For building strong, positive relationships, it's crucial to be aware of our genuine emotions and strive for honesty and sincerity in our interactions.

When thoughts and emotions intertwine, they can distort our understanding of our feelings. This occurs when we let our thoughts dictate how we perceive and interpret our emotions. For example, feeling sad about a situation but thinking we shouldn't feel that way can lead to additional negative emotions like guilt or shame. Conversely, if we think we should be happy in a certain situation but actually feel sad, we might ignore our true feelings, leading to disconnection from ourselves and our emotions. Rosenberg advises practicing mindfulness of our thoughts and working to separate them from our emotions for a clearer, more accurate understanding of our feelings.

Words often following "I feel" that aren't emotions or physical sensations are usually judgments about others or ourselves. Words like "abandoned" or "betrayed" express how we feel about others' actions, while "inadequate" or "worthless" reflect our self-image. Rosenberg points out that such words can obstruct compassionate communication and connection with others. Conversely, using words like "that" or names, nouns, or pronouns after "I feel" usually indicates thoughts, opinions, evaluations, or criticisms rather than true emotions. Phrases like "I feel like" or "I feel as if" are typically followed by images or thoughts, not emotions. Rosenberg advocates for using words that describe genuine emotions or sensations instead of judgmental words or thoughts to improve connection and understanding in relationships.

Introduction to Emotional Injuries

Emotional injuries are a type of emotional pain that result from negative experiences in our close relationships, particularly in childhood. They can arise from events such as abandonment, rejection, neglect, abuse, or trauma, and can have a lasting impact on our emotional and psychological well-being. Emotional injuries can manifest as feelings of insecurity, distrust, fear, and anxiety in future relationships, and can negatively affect our ability to form healthy, fulfilling connections with others. They can also lead to patterns of behavior that can further damage relationships and create a vicious cycle of emotional pain.

Bringing Presence into Emotional Injuries

The key to healing from emotional injuries is to bring presence into the situation. By bringing presence to our emotional injuries, we can also develop a greater sense of self-awareness and self-compassion. This can help us to recognize and understand our own patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings, and to develop a more positive and accepting attitude towards ourselves. This can lead to greater emotional stability and resilience, which can help us to better handle life's challenges and build healthier relationships with others.

Practicing Presence

Mindfulness can be a useful tool for healing emotional pain by helping to increase self-awareness, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote emotional regulation. Here are some ways to use mindfulness to heal emotional pain:

Mindful breathing: Practicing mindful breathing can help to bring you into the present moment and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Focus on your breath, and try to bring your attention to the sensation of air moving in and out of your body.

Body scan meditation: A body scan meditation involves lying down or sitting comfortably and focusing your attention on each part of your body, from your toes to the top of your head. This can help you to become aware of any physical sensations or emotions that may be present, and to release tension and stress.

Mindful self-compassion: Practicing self-compassion involves treating yourself with kindness, compassion, and understanding, just as you would treat a friend. Try to focus on your emotions and feelings with a non-judgmental attitude, and offer yourself comforting words and gestures.

Mindful awareness of emotions: Paying attention to your emotions and feelings in a non-judgmental way can help you to better understand and manage them. When you feel emotions arise, try to observe them without getting caught up in them, and simply allow them to pass.

Mindful meditation: Mindful meditation involves focusing your attention on the present moment, without judgment. You can practice mindful meditation by focusing on your breath, a mantra, or a visual image, and by letting go of thoughts and distractions as they arise.

It's important to remember that mindfulness is a skill that can be developed with practice, and that it may take time to see the benefits. Try to be patient and persistent, and seek the guidance of a qualified mindfulness teacher or therapist if needed. With time and practice, mindfulness can become a valuable tool for healing emotional pain and promoting overall well-being.


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