Emotional Conspiracies

Our body can already show signs of an emotion before we even realize it. That sounds paradoxical? It might, but there are some simple explanations behind this phenomenon.

Contemporary scientist Jaak Panksepp classifies seven primal emotions; seeking, rage, fear, lust, care, panic and play. Other sources use anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness and surprise as the six basic emotions. No matter which classification system is being used the following holds true for any of the systems:

Emotions and feelings are not the same thing. Emotions are what has been planted within us throughout evolution that has been proven to increase our chances of survival. Some are positive, to make us do more of a thing, others negative to make us refrain from potentially harmful actions or escape from adverse situations. All human beings share these primal emotions. The way we perceive these unconscious emotions however are what we call feelings. Feelings so to speak are the conscious counterpart to the emotions that we have. Emotions cause us to have some pre-programmed reactions. These may be gestures, facial expressions or postures. And as it happens, we do any of these intuitively very often without even being fully aware of the fact.

Can you recall a situation in which somebody asked you ‘Are you angry?’ (or insert any other feeling in here) and you felt vexed? Or do you remember asking someone else this question and receiving a defensive and resistive reaction?

In these cases our emotions already showed through our external behavior but internally we are not yet aware of what we are sensing. I think that this is where the impulsive reaction is being rooted. If you have not even consciously processed your emotion and sensed it as an actual feeling, we experience some sort of a cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a term normally used when we experience a clashing of beliefs or values and seem to be unable to incorporate them within the overarching system of our own principles and values. Such a dissonance shows when we already expressed our emotion externally but have not yet conceived it.

In the end, this happens when we are not in control. We show signs of our very intuitive emotions to the outside world, but did not actively decide yet whether that feeling is actually adequate given the situation we are in. By someone asking us about our emotion, we feel cornered and our choice to accept that emotion or not disappears. Our body made the decision for us.

It might be helpful for all our relationships if we start being more aware of our internal processes and prevent situations like these from happening. We can feel more confident and make proactive decisions by choosing not to show anger and ultimately be angry and equally applies to all other feelings. The first impulsive reaction is not always the most appropriate one.

Svea Freiberg


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