Emotions

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The best thing I’ve read on emotions is, unsurprisingly – Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman.

The physiological side of emotions

I find the physiological side of emotions so interesting! Researchers are discovering how each emotion prepares the body for different responses. Here’s some cool excerpts:

Anger

With anger blood flows to the hands, making it easier to grasp a weapon or strike at a foe; heart rate increases, and a rush of hormones such as adrenaline generates a pulse of energy strong enough for vigorous action.

Emotional Intelligence

Fear

With fear blood goes to the large skeletal muscles, such as in the legs, making it easier to flee—and making the face blanch as blood is shunted away from it (creating the feeling that the blood “runs cold”). At the same time, the body freezes, if only for a moment, perhaps allowing time to gauge whether hiding might be a better reaction.

Circuits in the brain’s emotional centers trigger a flood of hormones that put the body on general alert, making it edgy and ready for action, and attention fixates on the threat at hand, the better to evaluate what response to make.

Emotional Intelligence

Happiness

Among the main biological changes in happiness is an increased activity in a brain center that inhibits negative feelings and fosters an increase in available energy, and a quieting of those that generate worrisome thought. But there is no particular shift in physiology save acquiescence, which makes the body recover more quickly from the biological arousal of upsetting emotions. This configuration offers the body a general rest, as well as readiness and enthusiasm for whatever task is at hand and for striving toward a great variety of goals.

Emotional Intelligence

Love

Love, tender feelings, and sexual satisfaction entail parasympathetic arousal—the physiological opposite of the “fight-or-flight” mobilization shared by fear and anger. The parasympathetic pattern, dubbed the “relaxation response,” is a body wide set of reactions that generates a general state of calm and contentment, facilitating cooperation.

Emotional Intelligence

Surprise

The lifting of the eyebrows in surprise allows the taking in of a larger visual sweep and also permits more light to strike the retina. This offers more information about the unexpected event, making it easier to figure out exactly what is going on and concoct the best plan for action.

Emotional Intelligence

Disgust

Around the world an expression of disgust looks the same, and sends the identical message: something is offensive in taste or smell, or metaphorically so. The facial expression of disgust—the upper lip curled to the side as the nose wrinkles slightly—suggests a primordial attempt, as Darwin observed, to close the nostrils against a noxious odor or to spit out a poisonous food.

Emotional Intelligence

Sadness

A main function for sadness is to help adjust to a significant loss, such as the death of someone close or a major disappointment. Sadness brings a drop in energy and enthusiasm for life’s activities, particularly diversions and pleasures, and, as it deepens and approaches depression, slows the body’s metabolism. This introspective withdrawal creates the opportunity to mourn a loss or frustrated hope, grasp its consequences for one’s life, and, as energy returns, plan new beginnings. This loss of energy may well have kept saddened—and vulnerable—early humans close to home, where they were safer.

Emotional Intelligence