HomeMain PageRelationshipsSkillsFeelings and EmotionsFeelings and Emotions: The Essay, Part One


Feelings and Emotions: The Essay, Part One — 9 Comments

  1. Thanks Al. I think you're right about interpretations happening lightning fast and, at least in some situations, maybe unconsciously. I also completely agree that the feelings are typically left out of the equation in many descriptions of thinking.
    I do think it's important which comes first–feeling or interpretations–since, if interpretations come first, then we can use tools like cognitive behavioral therapy to stop and look at how we interpret things and how those interpretations trigger feelings, and consider alternative perspectives in order to modiy our behavior that might flow from those initial feelings. I speak as the husband of a woman who I believe has borderline personality disorder, which is an emotional disorder, so the topic is close to home for me.
    Have you read “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer? It's a fascinating and highly readable neuroscientific perspective on the critical role of our feelings in our ability to make decisions, and how our feelings and our reason can (at the best of times) work together. A popular treatment for borderline personality disorder called dialectical behavior therapy calls this “wise mind” (the effective interaction of “reason mind” and “emotion mind”).
    Best wishes,

  2. Good thinking, John. I am always encourage by more thoughtfulness around these issues. As the “technology” of understanding the brain and nervous system improves, I think there are improvements in how to see the relationships of emotions and thoughts.
    My articles on Feelings are primarily written as a guide to those who have not yet learned to integrate the structures of feelings into their understanding of thinking and living.
    I like your points about interpretation. My general beliefs are that we perceive things (sensory input) and super-quickly interpret those sensations in an effort to make “sense” of them. Then we react to those intepretations. A fun way to look at it is that 95% of what we react to is in our heads – our interpretations. Happens very fast, but it seems true. I also believe that most of our interpretations unconscious and frequently stuff we are unaware of. Makes for lots of confusion.
    The point for me of Words/Symbols => Feelings => Thought Processes, etc. is to elevate the awareness of Feelings into the cycle of life. I do tend to believe that Feelings come first but the cycles seem so quick in the brain that it may not be important which comes first.
    Love the Mindful Brain by Daniel Siegel.
    Thanks for the sharing.

  3. Al, a friend on another support group suggested this article to me and I have a question, if you don't mind (not sure if you're still responding to comments on older posts like this).
    You said:
    “Words and Symbols evoke Feelings, which evoke Thought
    Processes….Yes, the feelings come first. I guess this is pretty
    basic to the way our brains work – fast. If I show you a symbol of
    danger, your body starts to respond to that danger before the good old
    cortex decides what to do. (See my Chapter on Safety, The Lizard.)
    Apparently you body does not wait to think. It moves.”
    This is a little different from other descriptions I've read and that I live by, that an
    event (which seems to correspond to your “words and symbols”) triggers
    an INTERPRETATION, which THEN triggers a feeling. In other words, a thought process
    (ie an interpretation) occurs PRIOR to the feeling.
    And you say this in your discussion of triggers:
    “My favorite word for this “evoking” is the word TRIGGER. I use it a
    lot. For me it means a little thing that kicks off something that may
    be a lot bigger. Also it suggests a connection but not a causal
    connection. I like that. A symbol may trigger an emotion one time
    and may not the next time.”
    So if a symbol can trigger an emotion one time but not a later time,
    what is the cause of this difference? According to my suggestion above, it is
    INTERPRETATION. But according to your quote above, no thought process occurs
    between a word or symbol and a feeling.
    So anyway, do you still believe that feelings come before
    thought processes? If so, how do you account for why sometimes a “symbol”
    triggers an emotion and sometimes it doesn't?
    John Lucas

  4. Dear Friend,
    You are quite right. I did not write that fourth article on Feelings and Emotions. I know what is in it; in fact, I taught that material two days ago to a couple.
    I originally posted all these articles, wondering if anyone would read them. By leaving a part blank, I hoped to check this out. You, believe it or not, are the first person in two years who asked for the material. Thanks for writing me and I will work on it.
    I actually held up writing this last article for two reasons. 1)It would advocate “expressing” emotions safely and I have found the material easy for people to use inappropriately. I think at this time, I have enough experience and am ready to write it. Give me a bit of time.
    In the meantime as resources to look at you might consider an out of print book called Facing the Fire by John Lee.
    Also, my personal, in depth and original resources will be the works of Wilhelm Reich, student of Sigmund Freud, and anybody who has studied Orgonne Therapy. I spent 12 years (1982-1994) both in Orgonne Therapy and studying it – learning appropriate expression of emotions.
    Personally I think a background in engineering is a wonderful resource for approaching psychology. My background was math, physics and electronic technology. Thus I look at human behavior (relationship or individual) from the point of view of seeking good models to make understanding easy and predictable. I think that Engineering is all about building and teaching mental models in order to develop applied practical techniques. A really great resouce is The Art of Awareness by J Samuel Bois.
    Al Turtle

  5. Sent: Sunday, March 04, 2007 10:27 AM
    Subject: Regarding : Emotions and Feelings
    Hello Mr. Al Turtle,
    This is with reference to your excellent essays on Emotions and Feelings, that I had come across in your blogs quite recently. I had gone through the essays detailing the POT concept etc. I had been recently self-researching on these topics and found that you had a fourth part to your essay yet not published on your weblog.
    I would really be grateful if you could throw light on the final essay and solutions discssed in it. A link to any writeup by you or any old drafts would be lot helpful.
    I would also be eager to have further discussions with you on these topics.(I am a Engineering graduate with special self interest in Psychology )
    Associate Business Analyst.
    Cambridge Technology Enterprises Ltd.

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