On the differentiation between feeling and bodily Response in emotions and the need to classify emotions
Emotions are probably the most intriguing of all mental processes and involve two phases of feeling and response. Needless to say, they are. There might be overt or covert reactions to feelings but there is’always’ a reaction and an associated feeling. A lot has been written in psychology about emotions and there are now many theories and according to the strongest James Lange theory, emotion is a perception of bodily conditions. This means there’s first a response in the body and if there is perception of the reaction, 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 perception of such responses.
There are lots of studies on the physiological or neurological aspects of emotion and most of these studies have suggested that the limbic system consisting 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 such as pain or hunger and emotions brought on by external stimuli as in the case of anger or fear. Emotions could be positive and negative as we know as the positive emotions are happiness and love, empathy, 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)
2. Cognitive (based on cognitive activity such as judgment), Affective (based on explanations of emotions or emotional experiences) and Somatic (based on physiological experiences).
If emotions are based on a psychological part of feeling and a physical or physiological 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 then cause a physical response. Depression for example could cause 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 debate we feel a faster heart beat and other bodily reactions. These bodily changes then produce the psychological aspect of anger.
Thus in internalized emotions reactions are triggered by feelings and in externalized emotions, feelings are triggered by responses. There might be further 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 part of reaction. Emotions are thus more complicated than feelings and have two different components. For instance emotions such as romantic love would include a feeling component of overwhelming affection and a bodily need or reaction 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 asked to determine simple feelings from complex emotions. An emotion is always necessarily accompanied by significant physiological 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 stress has a fear component and a bodily reaction of perspiration or trembling etc.. Psychological studies have generally overlooked the feeling component in emotions and also emphasized on physiological reactions instead of identifying sense as a separate and essential aspect of emotion. Recent research in consciousness have tried to understand what feeling really is and it is imperative to recognize the emotions and also the related feeling and response components.
I’ll provide a brief table here supplying the feeling and bodily reaction components of emotions.
Anxiety – Fear (feeling component), rapid heartbeats (bodily reaction)
Love – Affection (feeling component), physical/sexual need (bodily response )
Anger – Irritability (feeling component), flushed face or deep breaths (bodily response )
Grief – Sorrow (feeling component), tears or other physical changes (bodily response )
Lust – requiring (feeling component), physical/sexual need (bodily response )
Jealousy – Controlling (feeling component), physical needs/violence etc. (bodily reaction)
The list may be potentially quite long although it’s critical to distinguish the physical and feeling reaction components for the identified emotion. How can this distinction assist psychology? I’d suggest that such a distinction of feeling and bodily reaction enable psychologists to work towards identification of the primary psychological problem based on if the feelings have preceded or followed bodily reactions. Internalized emotions will consequently always start with a feeling and it is the feeling that needs to be tackled first. This is of course a very challenging perspective and research workers 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 root or the foundation of such emotions is the feeling which can continue for a long time. Grief or love (internalized emotions) would last longer than anger or lust (externalized emotions). Bodily reactions are naturally short lived as our body has limited resources with which to respond.
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 responses. Contemporary psychotherapy emphasizes on cognitive theories of emotion and highlights the central 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’s with the introduction of consciousness studies, that the notion of feeling came back in the film.
The wider picture on the psychology of emotions would incorporate the actual purpose of emotions. Emotions could have several functions.
1. Emotions discharge our excess internal energy – As creativity helps in releasing our excess energy in a positive way, anger or love helps discharging bodily energy and could thus be good for health Emotions help us to fulfil our demands through guided physical reactions – the emotion of fascination such as fulfils our need for knowledge Emotions include the codes and conscious and subconscious components to our social interaction, communication and basic life procedure. Emotions enrich our lives if they are consciously expressed or unconsciously perceived.
The final part of the discussion is that the expression of emotion which like communicating could be covert and unconscious or overt and conscious or deliberate. Emotional expressions differ according to people 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 dramatic or extravagant emotions are well suited for the arts, drama and other forms of creative self expression. Such individuals 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 participation in sports. Extreme need to express love or want 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 could be no identification of these emotions.
Finally emotions are complex and understanding emotions, psychological components and emotional expressions would require further research and it would be required to identify all possible emotions and related feeling and bodily reactions as also accompanying types of emotional expressions. Maybe it would be good to treat emotionally disturbed patients with a form of affective psychotherapy.