Emotions, Feelings, & Moods

The concepts of emotions, feelings, and moods are often used interchangeably. At times, even by professional behavioral health providers. However, I make a case and point out there is a definitive distinction that can be made related to these concepts.  Over three posts I will define the three concepts of emotions, feelings, and moods.

Emotion is an autonomic biologically based response —> physiological responses. Emotions come from our Mammalian Brain and are physical responses to the type of emotion generated. Emotions are spontaneous mental state responses that are macro based (i. e. one of the five key emotions – much more to come). Limbic emotions were evolutionarily imprinted long before Neocortex consciousness evolved and do not require consciousness to be expressed. Emotions come –> emotions go. They can come and go without any external social or environmental stimuli, or without any internal brain stimuli. Emotions have their own mercurial biological cycles having a randomness all of their own. That is, depending on the brain’s quantum (wave-particle), neuro-chemical, and electrical input and involvement, emotions can randomly vary on-their-own. These variances can bring about emotions that often seem to have a “life of their own.” Sometimes we just seem to “wake up on the wrong side of the bed.” There are capricious emotional cycles for many of us like cyclothymia (mild emotional ups and downs), dysthymia (mild depressive symptoms), and for some major bipolar episodic emotional ups and down (manic-depression). Emotional cycles come and go because time changes and so do emotions. This randomness should be kept in mind when trying to find any pan-environmental reason for an emotion  and/or trying to attach feelings to any emotion. Emotions are part of the brains Affective Domain (review previous posts).

Emotions defined

Limbic Brain & Memory

The main focus of my recent posts on our Emotion Need, have been on human emotions and the emotional functions of the Limbic Brain –> the Affective  Domain. However, I keep in mind that the Limbic Brain has a major memory function. The Limbic Brain is distinctively involved in both present and past memories. It is worth noting that emotionally the Limbic Brain doesn’t forget past traumatic memories. The Affective Domain involves both personal conscious and unconscious memories. It entails significant human species transgenerational collective unconscious memories. Emotions and memory interact in the Limbic Brain. When it comes to memory, evolution has dictated that our emotional memories are going to play a central role in the life we live. Many early emotions (especially from the ages 0-5) are precognitive memories. These preverbal memories were formed long before there was Neocortex cognitive component to them. However, starting between the  ages 5-7 there develops vast neuronal interconnections between the Limbic system, and the Neocortex that will add a thinking component to memories. For example, the hippocampus has a key role in emotional memory, and with the development of neural connections to the Neocortex the hippocampus became important in neocortical memory retrieval. The evolutionary anatomical development of thalamic-cortical interconnections give another significant path for neocortical memory retrieval. Down the road I will go into detail about trauma, memory, and PTSD.

brain and memory

Limbic Brain & Emotions

Our Limbic Brain, “le grand lobe limbique” is at the center of our emotional life. Our Limbic Brain involves brain structures not present in the ancient Reptilian Brain —> i. e. structures providing the physiology of our emotional life. We “experience” emotions within the major Limbic Brain physiological structures of the amygdala, thalamus, hypothalamus, and hippocampus. The amygdala anatomical structure has special significance because of its role of emotionally recording incoming stimuli to the Limbic Brian. From an evolutionary perspective we share parts of the Limbic Brain with other mammals,  making for a significant ancestral emotional link with them.  Evolutionarily, our Limbic Brain has similarities with other mammals in the experiencing of the emotions of fear,  anger,  aspects of sadness, components of happiness, and even jealousy. This similarity is probably because in the long 150,000,000 year evolutionary journey of the Limbic Midbrain (i. e. between Reptilian Brain and Neocortex)  it has  had  a fair consistency across the many Mammalian species. That is, the size of  the Limbic Brain  is fairly consistent  across  Mammalian species.  It  is only with the explosive evolution of  the human Neocortex forebrain where this consistency  (size) breaks down.  Thus, what  complicates the  experiencing, understanding,  and expressing of  emotions for human beings is  having a Neocortex that interprets Limbic emotions. Other mammals generally experience  emotions in a pure form as they biologically arise. However, our Neocortex “thinks” about the emotions as they arise and in that process emotions can be misinterpreted and used for good or ill. We can obsess over a certain emotion, exaggerate an emotion, and easily make assumptions about emotions. We often misinterpret, overreact to, or repress certain emotions. And, hopefully there are times we use our emotions as a co-moving energetic forces along with motivation to meet inborn needs.

Limbic Brain

Affective Domain

In a previous post,  I detailed the Domains of the mind:  Affective Domain, Cognitive Domain, and Conative Domain.  Since my posts at this time will concentrate on our Emotional Need, let me further discuss our Affective Domain.  Our Affective Domain (emotions) is part of our transgenerational guidance system of ancient knowledge, our daily  interactions as we respond emotionally to our environment, and those painful past buried emotional experiences.  There are different writers who will categorize emotions differently. However, for this writer I recognize the five core human emotions of fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, and happiness. I indicate that there is an evolutionary nature to our emotions.  Daniel Goleman proposed that, “evolution has given emotions such a central role in the human psyche.” (1995)  Viewed from an evolutionary perspective, emotions link us to the Animal Kingdom, especially as they relate to our Mammalian Brain. Emotions are a quintessential element for any experience we have, and they are a major part of the way we perceive reality. In my understanding of the Affective Domain there are four central roles (functions) I maintain emotions play: 1.) survival role is our emotions alerting us to help us with our primal basal need for safety and security. The survival role helps prepare us for “flight or fight.” For  Daniel Goleman “the survival value of our emotional repertoire was attested to by its becoming imprinted in our nerves as innate, automatic tendencies.” (1995), 2.) motivational role is our emotions guiding and motivating us. Emotions help set us in the direction of understanding what needs are missing, including the very need of experiencing and understanding emotions themselves. Emotions are significant indicators when life is out of balance. John Powell suggested that, “emotions are not moral but simply factual.” (1969), 3.) experiential role is our emotions allowing us to experience deeper levels of life and meaning in life, depending on the situation that is happening in life: i. e. fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, or happiness. The experience is much more meaningful if the emotion is allowed to come in an honest form, and not hidden or repressed in some manner. The experiential role includes getting in touch with those buried raw emotions that contain hurtful past memories, and 4.) unconscious role – our emotions play a significant role in the unconscious level of consciousness. There is a pronounced emotive factor for both cross-generational collective unconsciousness and personal unconsciousness (much more to come).

affective-domain-3-638

Domains of the Mind

I agree with various philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists who suggest that there are three factors, dimensions, or what I prefer to call domains of the mind:

Affective Domain (emotions) is part of our transgenerational guidance system of ancient knowledge, our daily  interactions as we respond emotionally to our environment, and those painful past buried emotional experiences.  There are different writers who will categorize emotions differently. However, for this writer I recognize the five core human emotions of fear, anger, sadness, jealousy, and happiness. I indicate that there is an evolutionary nature to our emotions.  Daniel Goleman said, “evolution has given emotions such a central role in the human psyche.” (1995)  Viewed from an evolutionary perspective, emotions link us to the Animal Kingdom, especially as they relate to our Mammalian Brain. Evolution has given our emotions a role to help us realize if our motivational needs are being met or not being met. Emotional experiences can help us move towards satisfying unmet needs. This emotional guidance role includes the deeper motivational need of emotions themselves —> i. e. are we truly experiencing, understanding, and accurately expressing our emotions as they surface? Emotions are a quintessential element for any experience we have, and they are a major part of the way we perceive reality.

Cognitive Domain (thinking) is important for human development, but it is our emotions that set the stage for cognitive development. Heart-predates-head! The Neocortex has brought us the Atomic Age, but our emotional brain vastly precedes the new brain and is still functioning at a Stone Age safety/survival reaction. It is by way of the Stone Age brain we initially experience the reality of the world around us. It is by way of the Neocortex we attempt to interpret the world of these experiences. Neuroscience research indicates that it is the orbitofrontal cortex of our brain (frontal lobe) that attempts to cognitively interpret emotions into feelings. The Cognitive Domain is complex because there are various levels of thinking, perceiving, and interacting with the world we inhabit.

Conative Domain  comes from the Latin conatus meaning natural impulse, desire,  or need. The Conative Domain really has three components: 1.) motivational component  concerns our instinctual desires or needs, 2.) volitional component involves a striving that is energizing and is goal-directed towards satisfying our needs, enhancing balance, and bringing meaning to life, and 3.) behavioral component is the intentional actions we take to fulfill our desires and needs. The behavioral component acts on one’s vision and mission. The Conative Domain components of motivation, volition, and behavior are major ingredients and play crucial roles in my Theory of Balanceology and the Balancetherapy Treatment Model.

Domain Interactions – What I have most tried to keep in mind and get a handle on is the interactive ingredient and the significant neuro-interconnections of all three domains. That is, none of the domains completely stand alone. For example, the Affective Domain interacts with the Conative Domain by sending signals when certain needs are not being satisfied. And, the Cognitive Domain attempts to interpret the emotions coming from the Affective Domain into feelings. I have methodically taken a great amount of time, real effort, and practice to directly experience these domains and try to understand how and where they interact. I have tried to experience and understand where the three domainsoverlap and complement one another.

domains of mind

Human Emotions Need

Emotions for humans are primary needs and play a major role in the life we live. The posts to come will focus on our emotions. This phase of my writing pertains to my deeper journey into experiencing and understanding my emotions. I recognize my emotions as one of the five key needs that can bring deeper meaning to our life along with sexuality, love, morality, and consciousness. Emotions play a major role in: 1.) defining Who am I?, and What am I?, 2.) as a basic survival alerting system, 3.) our capacity to belong with others, and 4.) our capability to deeply experience life. The word emotion is a derivative of the Latin word emotus and means stirred up. In fact, emotions and motivation have the same Latin root meaning “to move.” Emotions are poignant forces in life that indeed move us. Emotions “move us,” or “stir us” up in positive or negative ways. Emotions are energetic self-awakening life forces that create positive or negative energy, and can give deeper meaning to our experiences. I have discovered in my own life how both emotional and motivational forces have moved me in various directions.

Without emotional experiences we can’t experience much of life at deeper levels, and we will miss out on so much of what it means to be a human being. Going deeper into our emotions allows those emotions that are stored in our Limbic Brain to surface. Some of these emotions are deeply buried because of the hurt and pain associated with them. A huge part of our journey is trying to experience the nature of all of our day-to-day emotions, and those often unrecognizable painful emotions that have been deeply buried. I am still working on it, but I believe I am doing a better job of being honest with my emotions and letting my emotions surface as they are happening. I desire to do a better job of identifying emotions so I can attach a more appropriate feeling reaction to them. That is, a score of feelings are generated from the five key emotions (more to come) and I am attempting to align sensible and suitable feelings with these biologically produced emotions. However, experiencing, understanding, and reacting to emotions is something  we all will need to continue to work on for a lifetime. The goal for all of us should be to accept, trust, respect, and cooperatively work with our human genomic given emotions.

emotions

Morality Need Summary

In the Theory of Balanceology I  attempt to make a case that in order for humans to bring meaning and balance to our life we must satisfy, at least to some degree, our inherited  biologically based motivational needs.  I maintain the satisfaction, or not,  of our needs drives our behaviors. The theory suggests that we have the Basal Needs of: 1.) safety/security, 2.) worth, 3.) empowerment, and 4.) enjoyment.  The theory goes on and hypothesizes we have the Deeper Needs of: 1.) sexuality, 2.) love, 3.) morality, 4.) emotions, and 5.) consciousness. The Theory of Balanceology also maintains that we have a Higher Need to bring higher levels of order, meaning and balance to our life.  I have made many posts related to our Morality Need. In the immediate posts to come I will discuss in depth our Emotional Need.  To summarize our Morality Need, I quote Pascal.

morality quote