What are emotions?  

 20 March 2013 by Reza Zolfagharifard

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Dr Antonio Damasio (a Portuguese behavioural neurologist) claims that while our sense of vision, hearing or touch is a function of nerve activation patterns that correspond to the external world, our emotions use nerve activation patterns that correspond to the state of our internal world. For example, when we experience a state of fear, our brain will record this state in nerve cell patterns obtained from neural and hormonal feedback. 

Dr Candace Pert (an American neuroscientist and pharmacologist who discovered the opiate receptors) showed that our brain, glands, and immune system are in a constant chemical communication that she called "molecules of emotion".  For Dr Pert, the medium that the mind and body use to communicate with each other is the chemistry of emotion. She established a bio-molecular basis for our emotions.  Take a look at her book "Molecules of Emotion", the science behind mind and body medicine. Dr Pert’s pioneering research on how the chemicals inside our bodies form a dynamic information network, linking mind and body is indeed revolutionary and empowering.

Fight or flight response (or stress response) is a clear example of intense emotions in action. Nerve cells fire intensely and chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol are released into our bloodstream. Our breathing rate increases. Blood is taken away from our digestive tract and directed into our muscles and limbs. Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilises. We become prepared physically and psychologically for fight or flight. We may overreact as our fear is exaggerated and our focus is narrowed to those things that can harm us. 

In a nutshell, emotions are whole-body experiences that arise mainly by hormones. They have associated beliefs, thoughts and memories with them and profoundly influence our behaviour. Our ancestors relied on emotions to survive. But these days, we use our emotions more for making complicated choices and decisions than simply staying alive. Therefore, if we are able to understand, control and express our emotions appropriately, we’ll be able to make better decisions and behave in a more productive way.

Reza Zolfagharifard

Bold Training Club -  20 March 2013

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