Who do I share my feelings with?


Science in search of feeling

What are emotions? So far there is no clear and generally valid definition. To date, science has only been based on working definitions - more comparable to a description of a phenomenon than to a definition in the actual sense.

For some it is a pure stimulus reaction pattern that is triggered by environmental conditions, others see it as a neurophysiological reaction that only takes place in the brain and that we cannot influence.

Still others are of the opinion that emotions represent a social construction. Ultimately, it depends on the social environment that shapes us, which feelings we have in certain situations.

In order to get on the track of the emotions, generations of scientists dared to look into the brain. What happens in this organ that makes us feel? However, this cannot be seen when looking at a brain normally. Tissue sections also give the researchers insights into the structure of this organ, but they hardly provide any information about how it works.

Experiments in the middle of the 20th century, in which animals, for example a rooster, an electrode were planted in the brain, were considered to be downright groundbreaking. Different areas of the brain were stimulated by means of electrical stimuli, which evoked corresponding reactions such as aggression and willingness to fight, fear, hunger or thirst.

Such attempts were shown, among other things, in a television report by the North German Radio in 1962 and proudly sold as "pictures of historical value". They sure have it today.

But even these investigations could not really answer the question of what emotions are. Especially since at this time the general opinion was that animals only have innate instincts. Real emotions, on the other hand, were only reserved for humans according to this idea. A view that has fundamentally changed.

The feeling leads the way

So what's the deal with feeling? From a biological point of view, emotions are complex behavioral patterns that have developed in the course of evolution. But what do we need them for?

Emotions help so that we can orientate ourselves in everyday life. We make many decisions "on the gut". We experience this all the time, even if we are not even aware of it.

Even if we want to weigh up rationally and let reason decide, it is often this first impulse that leads us to one or the other decision.

Our emotions are a rating system that can be more or less well equipped. It is not complete from the start, but is constantly expanded and refined through our everyday experiences. Nothing we experience remains without effect.

Thus, for someone who has never suffered a loss, the term grief will not mean much. On the other hand, the more significant the loss that strikes a person, the greater the feeling of sadness and pain.

Every experience we have, everything we learn, is linked in the brain to the corresponding feeling that we feel in this situation.

The more intense this feeling, the more clearly it remains anchored in our memory. What we experience becomes part of our life experience. The greater this wealth of experience, the more differentiated our emotional evaluation system becomes.

Emotion and physical reaction are inseparable

Every feeling is always accompanied by a physical reaction. The more intense the emotion, the more clearly we react. We can smile or laugh. We can even laugh so much that we cry. We cry for joy, emotion or because we are sad.

And of course we can also tell from these physical reactions how other people are doing. We can only understand them through their body language - without any words.

This interplay between our thoughts, emotions and our body is inextricably linked. Scientists speak of the somatic markers. They can also be measured in laboratory tests. Different images are shown to the test subjects. Sensors in the face record the muscle reactions.

Every time the test persons see emotionally charged images, a certain muscle above the eyebrow reacts. The same thing happens when unpleasant thoughts are invoked. With neutral images or positive thoughts, on the other hand, there is no muscle play.

We experience this embodiment of feelings all the time. Often, however, we only become really aware of them when they are very pronounced. For example, when we get so scared that our hair stands on end, when we have weak knees from the excitement or when we have to go to the nearest toilet. Love answers with palpitations and "butterflies in the stomach".

It is also possible to reverse this effect of the somatic markers. Just as feelings affect our body, we can also, conversely, influence our feelings with conscious postures. For example, fear or stress often makes us huddle, our bodies tense.

When we become aware of this, we can straighten up, take a deep breath, and feel better. Studies have even shown that pessimistic people who are out and about with a lousy face have a less well-perfused back.