On the differentiation between feeling and Physiological reaction in emotions and the need to classify emotions
Emotions are probably the most intriguing of all mental processes and involve two stages of feeling and response. Are these two phases necessarily interwoven? Of course, they are. There might be overt or covert reactions to feelings but there is’always’ a reaction and an associated feeling. This means there’s first a reaction in the body and if there is perception of the response, emotions are experienced. The body reacts and produces a feedback and just then we perceive the emotions based on the theory. This theory would suggest that emotion is a bodily response followed by the perception of such responses.
There are lots of studies on the physiological or neurological facets of emotion and the majority of these studies have suggested that the limbic system comprising of the hypothalamus, the hippocampus and other structures are responsible for perception and expression of emotions. There are lots of categorizations of emotions and these highlight emotions brought on by internal body states like hunger or pain 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, compassion, affection, curiosity, ecstasy and the negative emotions are jealousy, hatred, grief, anxiety, frustration etc.. Internalized (based on internal stimuli) or Externalized (based on external stimuli) Cognitive (based on cognitive activity such as judgment), Affective (based on explanations of emotions or emotional experiences) and Somatic (based on bodily experiences).
If feelings are based on a psychological aspect of feeling and a physical or bodily aspect of bodily reaction, it is usually 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, which would in turn cause a physical response. Depression for instance could cause sleeplessness and other physical reactions. Emotions based on external stimuli as in anger could first involve a bodily reaction as when there’s a heated debate we feel a faster heart beat and other physiological reactions. These bodily changes then create the psychological aspect of anger. There might be additional research in psychology to clearly demarcate internalized and externalized emotions. Feeling is thus a psychological part of emotion and the bodily reaction is a physical component of reaction. Emotions are thus more complicated than feelings and have two distinct components. By way of instance emotions such as romantic love would consist of a feeling component of overwhelming affection and a physical need or response related to physical desire. Simple affections as consideration for a relative is more of a feeling and do not involve physical reactions. It is necessary in psychology to clearly differentiate between emotions and feelings and more research will be asked to determine simple feelings from complex emotions. An emotion is always necessarily accompanied by significant bodily reactions.
The distinction between feelings and physiological reactions in containing emotions could help us identify these two essential components for each emotion. For example anger is a complicated emotion comprising of a feeling of irritability and a physiological reaction of rapid heartbeats, reddened face, etc.. An emotion of anxiety has a fear component and a physiological reaction of perspiration or trembling etc.. Psychological studies have usually overlooked the feeling element in emotions and also emphasized on bodily reactions instead of identifying sense as a different and essential feature of emotion. Recent research in consciousness have attempted to understand what feeling is and it is essential to identify the emotions and also the associated feeling and reaction components.
I’ll offer a short table here providing the feeling and bodily reaction elements of emotions.
Anxiety – Stress (feeling component), rapid heartbeats (bodily response )
Love – Affection (feeling component), physical/sexual need (bodily response )
Anger – Irritability (feeling component), flushed face or deep breaths (bodily reaction)
Lust – Possessing (feeling component), physical/sexual need (bodily response )
Jealousy – Controlling (feeling component), physical needs/violence etc. (bodily reaction)
The list could be potentially quite long though it is critical to differentiate the feeling and physical reaction components for the identified emotion. How can this distinction help psychology? I would suggest that such a differentiation of sense and physiological reaction enable psychologists to work towards identification of the main psychological problem based on if the feelings have preceded or followed bodily reactions. Internalized emotions will consequently always begin with a feeling and it is the feeling that needs to be handled first. This is of course a very challenging perspective and research workers could continue to argue on whether pain entails feeling first or a bodily reaction first. Internalized emotions are also long lasting and this is because the root or the foundation of these emotions is the feeling that can continue for 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.
Generally theories of emotions have been divided into the cognitive theories, affective theories and somatic theories and neurological theories of emotions are usually somatic and totally based on bodily reactions. Contemporary psychotherapy emphasizes on cognitive theories of emotion and highlights the central role of evaluation and conclusions. Affective theories with an emphasis on feeling have not been developed extensively as the emphasis on physiological reactions and cognitive components has always been of greater significance in psychology. It is with the introduction of consciousness studies, that the notion of feeling came back in the film.
The broader picture on the psychology of emotions would include the actual purpose of emotions. Emotions could have several functions. Emotions discharge our excess internal energy – Just as creativity Aids in releasing our excess energy in a positive way, anger or love helps releasing bodily energy and could thus be good for health
2. Emotions help us to fulfil our demands through directed physical reactions – the emotion of curiosity for example fulfils our need for knowledge Emotions include the codes and conscious and subconscious components to our social interaction, communication and general life process. Emotions enrich our lives whether they are consciously expressed or unconsciously perceived.
The final part of the discussion is the expression of emotion that 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 creativity is a form of emotional expression and highly creative individuals simply express themselves through their creative work. Individuals given to more lavish or dramatic emotions are well suited to the arts, drama and other forms of creative self expression. Such individuals should be encouraged to channel their energies towards creative outcome as opposed to using their dramatic emotional expressiveness in everyday situations that could be stressful for the emotionally expressive people they socialize with. So if you are given to extravagant emotional expression of anger or jealousy, this could be channelled towards competitiveness and active involvement in sports. Extreme need to express love or want could be channelled towards the fine arts like poetry or painting. Emotional expressions aren’t emotions per se but are like keys to your closet and with no expression (either covert or overt) there might be no identification of these emotions.
Finally emotions are complicated and understanding emotions, psychological components and emotional 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 good to treat emotionally disturbed patients with a kind of affective psychotherapy.