Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Understanding how emotions and feelings interact are basic to our ability to be kept in the perfect peace that God promises.
Antonio Damasio M.D., Ph. D., is an internationally recognized leader in neuroscience. His research has helped to elucidate the neural basis for the emotions and has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making.
His work has also had a major influence on current understanding of the neural systems, which underlie memory, language and consciousness. He directs the University of Southern California Brain and Creativity Institute. Dr. Damasio has stated:
In everyday language we often use the terms emotions and feelings interchangeably. This shows how closely connected emotions are with feelings.
But for neuroscience, emotions are more or less the complex reactions the body has to certain stimuli. When we are afraid of something, our hearts begin to race, our mouths become dry, our skin turns pale and our muscles contract. This emotional reaction occurs automatically and unconsciously.
Feelings occur after we become aware in our brain of such physical changes; only then do we experience the feeling of fear.
The brain is constantly receiving signals from the body, registering what is going on inside of us. Next, it processes the signals in neural maps which it then compiles in the so-called somatosensory centers (soma meaning related to the body and sensory meaning being concerned with the conscious perception of touch, pressure, pain, temperature, position, movement, and vibration, which arise from the muscles, joints, skin, and fascia).
Feelings occur when the maps are read and it becomes apparent that emotional changes have been recorded—as snapshots of our physical state, so to speak.
We are constantly reacting to the world around us. Once we connect what we are feeling to what we are perceiving, we act. Feelings stay in memory.
It is helpful to use the feelings of certain emotions for future planning.
Interestingly enough, not all feelings result from the body's reaction to external stimuli. Sometimes changes are purely simulated in the brain maps. For example, when we feel sympathy for a sick person, we re-create that person's pain to a certain degree internally.
Understanding the difference between emotions and feelings enables us to take control of our lives in a new way, a way that leads to peaceful resolutions to conflict, to peaceful feelings.
Let's reflect on this.
NOTE: More information about Dr. Damasio, including his contact information, can be found at https://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/faculty-and-staff/faculty.cfm?pid=1008328