The uniqueness of emotions

The uniqueness of emotions

05.12.2018

Each emotion in our emotional repertoire plays a unique role, revealed by their biological distinguishing features.

Adopting new methods that allow "looking" into the human body and brain, researchers are discovering more and more physiological details regarding the question on how each emotion prepares the body for a completely different response.

  • In a moment of anger, blood rushes to the hands, allowing to grab a weapon or strike the enemy faster and easier; the heart rate increases, and the release of hormones, such as adrenaline, provides a boost of energy that it is sufficient for decisive action.
  • When a person is stricken with fear, the blood rushes to the large skeletal muscles, particularly, to the legs muscles, helping to quickly escape from danger; the person gets paler, which occurs as a result of the outflow of blood from the head (there is a feeling that the blood "freezes in the veins"). At this point, the body freezes, although not for long, probably giving time to assess the situation and decide whether the best way is to quickly hide in a secluded place. Circuits in the emotional centers of the brain trigger the mechanism of hormone release, bringing the body into a state of general alert, causing it to burn with impatience and preparing for action, and attention is focused on the immediate threat to quickly and better determine what decision should be taken in this situation.
  • Among the many biological changes that occur when a person is happy, note the increased activity in the brain center, which suppresses negative feelings, calms the experiences that provoke disturbing thoughts, and contributes to the increase in disposable energy. At the same time, however, there are no special changes in physiology, except for the state of calm, allowing the body to recover faster from the biological activation of frustrating emotions. Such a structure provides the body with a general rest, as well as a state of readiness and inspiration necessary to perform any urgent task and to move to new large-scale goals.
  • Love, tender feelings and sexual satisfaction cause the activation of parasympathetic nervous system, which is the opposite of mobilization according to "fight or save" type, caused by fear or anger, in the sense of physiology. The parasympathetic model, which duplicates the "relaxation reaction", is formed by a set of reactions distributed throughout the body, creating a general state of rest and satisfaction, contributing to psychological compatibility.
  • Raising eyebrows in surprise, the person increases the space covered by the look, and accepts more light falling on the retina. As a result, it is possible to gather more information about an unexpected event to get the most accurate idea of what is happening and to develop the best action plan.
  • Disgust is expressed in the same way anywhere and everywhere and conveys the same feeling: something in the literal or figurative sense has a bad smell or unpleasant taste. The facial expression of the person who feels disgusted — the upper lip curled to the side and the slightly wrinkled nose — suggests an initial attempt, as Darwin noted, to pinch the nose not to smell disgusting or spit out something poisonous or that has a disgusting taste.
  • The main function of sadness is to help to deal with an irreparable loss, such as the death of someone close to you or a serious disappointment. Sadness leads to a sharp decrease in energy and enthusiasm for different activities, especially those related to entertainment and pleasure, and as it increases, it also brings depression closer and, consequently, slows down metabolism. This isolationism, with its accompanying introspection, provides an opportunity to mourn the loss or unfulfilled hope, to consider its consequences for the future life and — with the return of energy — to start planning new beginnings. This loss of energy probably kept those who experience sadness and vulnerable people of the ancient world closer to home, where they felt safer.

Our life experience and culture continue further developing of this biological predisposition to action.

For example, the loss of a loved one causes sadness and sorrow in everyone. But the way we discover our grief, the way our emotions are manifested or held back as long as no one sees us — is shaped by culture, as well as what kind of people in our lives fall into the category of loved ones whose deaths are to be mourned.

Source: “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ Paperback” by Daniel Goleman

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