FEELINGS and EMOTIONS
Neuroscience has proven they aren’t the same by mapping the circuits of seeking (curiosity, interest, and the desire to acquire more of everything), fear, rage, lust, caring, sadness, and others. These primal emotions are essentially the direct experience we have with the world. The more ancient parts of our brain respond without consciousness, and they are very efficient in helping us to survive real dangers and acquire new tools to improve our living conditions.
But when the newer parts of the human brain perceive these emotions, we consciously analyze this information, compare them to memories of older experiences, and then build a complex feeling-sense that is very different from the emotion we actually experienced.
Take fear, for example. All mammals have this built-in emotional response whenever a real threat in the world is encountered. The nonconscious brain hopefully responds appropriately, and the fear recedes. But the conscious mind of humans doesn’t always let go of the past experience. Instead, it ruminates on the memory. This will cause you to worry, feel uncertain, or generate thoughts of self-doubt. These are feelings; reactions to past emotional experiences.
Negative emotional experiences, when repeated, can train your brain to emotionally react when anything similar to the original experience is encountered. Thus the Your mind can condition the brain to react negatively to any worry, fear, or doubt you ruminate on. You can become distrustful of everyone, even though most people will evoke a positive emotional experience. You can easily get caught up in the entrenched feeling-memories where you come to believe that past experiences are going to happen again in the immediate future. We can’t change our natural emotional responses to real-world events, but we can use our minds to eliminate old feeling-memories that we have falsely come to believe are true.
There are at least 20 different theoretical descriptions of what constitutes an emotion or a feeling.
Feelings are best understood as a subjective representation of emotions, private to the individual experiencing them. We experience the world emotionally, so emotions are what we “feel” in the present moment. This is mostly nonconscious. As we become consciously aware of our recent emotional responses, we react and respond to them in new ways, mixing together memories of past emotions along with intellectual reactions. We see an ad for a person who belongs to the political party we don’t like and we might respond with irritation, disdain, anger, etc. But we’re not actually reacting to a stimulus happening to us in the present moment, as when someone hits us (that would be genuine emotional fear or rage). So a feeling is partially removed from what is happening in the present moment. When you worry about something, the negative thoughts can stimulate the primal emotional circuits because parts of the brain react to our thoughts as though they were things happening to us coming in from the outside world.
Happiness, satisfaction, well-being, and contentment are all word-based feelings created by an intellectual assessment of your life.
Reprinted & edited with permission of Mark Waldman