On the Distinction between feeling and bodily Response in emotions and the need to classify emotions
Emotions are most likely the most fascinating of all mental processes and involve two phases of feeling and reaction. Needless to say, they are. There might be overt or covert reactions to emotions but there is’always’ a reaction and an associated feeling. This means there’s first a response in the body and if there is perception of the response, emotions are experienced. The body reacts and produces a feedback and only then we perceive the emotions according to this theory. This theory would suggest that emotion is a bodily response followed by the understanding of such responses.
There are many studies on the neurological or physiological facets of emotion and the majority of these studies have suggested that the limbic system comprising the hypothalamus, the hippocampus and other structures are responsible for expression and perception of emotions. There are lots of categorizations of emotions and one of these highlight emotions caused by internal body states such as pain or hunger and emotions caused by external stimuli as in the case of anger or anxiety. Emotions could be positive and negative as we know as the positive emotions are love and happiness, empathy, affection, curiosity, bliss and the negative emotions are jealousy, hatred, grief, anxiety, frustration etc..
1. Internalized (based on internal stimuli) or Externalized (based on external stimuli)
2. Cognitive (based on cognitive activity like judgment), Affective (based on explanations of emotions or emotional experiences) and Somatic (based on bodily experiences).
If emotions are based on a psychological part of feeling and a physical or physiological aspect of bodily reaction, it is generally a question of which comes first, the feeling or the response? I’d suggest that emotions based on internal stimuli could initially involve a sense or a psychological condition and this would in turn cause a physical reaction. Depression for instance could lead to insomnia and other physical reactions. Emotions based on external stimuli as in anger may first involve a bodily reaction as when there’s a heated argument we believe a faster heart beat and other physiological reactions. These bodily changes then produce the psychological aspect of anger. There could be additional research in psychology to clearly demarcate internalized and externalized emotions. Feeling is thus a psychological component of emotion and the physical reaction is a physical component of reaction. Emotions are thus more complicated than feelings and have two different components. For instance emotions such as romantic love would consist of a feeling component of overpowering affection and a bodily need or response related to physical desire. Straightforward affections as consideration for a family member is more of a sense and do not involve physical reactions. It is necessary in psychology to clearly distinguish between feelings and emotions and much more research will be required to determine simple feelings from complex emotions. An emotion is always necessarily accompanied by significant physiological reactions.
The distinction between emotions and physiological reactions in containing emotions could help us identify both of these essential components for each emotion. For example anger is a complex emotion comprising of a sense of irritability and a bodily reaction of rapid heartbeats, reddened face, etc.. An emotion of stress has a fear component and a physiological reaction of perspiration or trembling etc.. Psychological studies have usually overlooked the feeling component in emotions and also emphasized on physiological reactions rather than identifying sense as a separate and essential aspect of emotion. Recent studies in consciousness have attempted to understand what feeling is and it is essential to identify the emotions and the related feeling and response components.
I’ll offer a short table here supplying the feeling and physiological reaction components of emotions.
Anxiety – Stress (feeling component), rapid heartbeats (bodily response )
Love – Affection (feeling element ), physical/sexual need (bodily reaction)
Anger – Irritability (feeling component), flushed face or deep breaths (bodily reaction)
Lust – requiring (feeling component), physical/sexual need (bodily response )
Jealousy – Controlling (feeling component), bodily needs/violence etc. (bodily reaction)
The list may be potentially quite long although it is critical to differentiate the feeling and physical reaction components for the identified emotion. How does this distinction help psychology? I’d suggest that such a distinction of sense and bodily reaction enable psychologists to work towards identification of the main psychological problem based on whether the feelings have preceded or followed bodily reactions. Internalized emotions will thus always start with a feeling and it is the feeling that needs to be handled first. This is of course an extremely challenging perspective and researchers could continue to argue on whether pain involves feeling first or a bodily reaction first. Internalized emotions are also enduring and this is because the origin or the foundation of these emotions is the feeling that can continue for quite a long time. Grief or love (internalized emotions) would last more than anger or anger (externalized emotions). Bodily reactions are of course short lived as our body has limited resources with which to react.
Usually theories of emotions have been divided into the cognitive theories, affective theories and somatic theories and neurological theories of emotions are usually somatic and completely based on bodily reactions. Contemporary psychotherapy emphasizes on cognitive theories of emotion and highlights the fundamental role of evaluation and judgments. Affective theories with an emphasis on feeling haven’t been developed extensively as the emphasis on bodily reactions and cognitive components has always been of greater significance in psychology. It is with the advent of consciousness studies, that the concept of feeling came back in the picture.
The wider picture on the psychology of emotions would incorporate the actual purpose of emotions. Emotions could have several functions. Emotions discharge our excess internal energy – Just as creativity helps in releasing our surplus energy in a positive way, love or anger helps releasing bodily energy and could thus be good for health Emotions help us to fulfil our demands through guided physical responses – the emotion of fascination such as fulfils our need for knowledge
3. Emotions include the codes and subconscious and conscious elements to our social interaction, communication and general life process. Emotions enrich our lives whether they are consciously expressed or unconsciously perceived.
The last part of the discussion is that the expression of emotion which like communicating can be callous and unconscious or overt and conscious or deliberate. Emotional expressions vary according to individuals and some are more expressive and dramatic than others. Usually highly creative individuals are also more emotionally expressive as imagination is a form of emotional expression and highly creative individuals simply express themselves through their creative work. Individuals given to more dramatic or extravagant emotions are well suited for the arts, drama and other forms of creative self expression. Such people should be encouraged to channel their energies towards creative outcome rather than using their dramatic emotional expressiveness in everyday situations that could be stressful for the emotionally expressive people they interact with. So if you are given to extravagant emotional expression of anger or jealousy, then this could be channelled towards competitiveness and active involvement in sports. Intense need to express love or desire could be channelled towards the fine arts like poetry or painting. Emotional expressions are not emotions per se but are like keys to your closet and without the expression (either covert or overt) there might be no identification of the emotions.
Ultimately feelings are complex and understanding emotions, psychological components and psychological expressions would require additional study and it would be necessary to identify all possible emotions and related feeling and physiological reactions as also accompanying types of emotional expressions. Maybe it would be appropriate to treat emotionally disturbed patients with a kind of affective psychotherapy.