Eleanor Roosevelt was a wise person, she knew it is feelings which are leading to evaluating ourselves.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ― Eleanor Roosevelt
Neurosciences have helped us to learn more about our emotional system and our feelings. Even if we often use them interchangeably, emotions are different from feelings. Emotions happen first, they are the reactions our body has to changes it experiences in a given situation. They are physical reactions in our body and the way our body has to signal our brain. In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century Yuval Noah Harari describes emotions as a fast algorithm we are using to assess risks.
Originally emotions have been there to help our species to survive. They could have been sufficient as such, but humans have the capacity of imagination. Our brain creates a mental experience using past experiences and associations as an interpretation of the emotions it notices.
Emotions can be described as a form, a movement which occurs without evaluation. It is a form of joy, one of sadness or of anger for example.
In contrast to emotions which are quite similar for all of us, feelings are subjective. Feelings are influenced by our experience, our beliefs, and our history. They provide us with an association and reaction to the emotion our body feels, in doing so they give emotions a meaning as well as an evaluation. Sadness, for example, might become a melancholic reaction or a reason to cry.
“Emotions play out in the theatre of the body. Feelings play out in the theatre of the mind.” ― Dr. Sarah Mckay, Neuroscientist
Acknowledging this space between Emotions and Feelings comes with insight. There is a possibility to develop a response to emotions instead of reacting to them.
There is more to it, as there still is a way to go from the feeling to the behavior we will show.
To decide on our behavior we usually consider two other factors which accompany the emotion and feeling. The first of them is the context in which we experience them. The second one is the interpretation we have of this feeling, that is the signification we give it.
All of these elements are influenced by our history which acts as a bias in them. This is yet another useful mechanism to speed up our ability to decide and act. The drawback of this mechanism are the habits we have formed from it as well as the information we’ve learned to ignore in these cases.
Understanding our mechanism gives us the opportunity to reverse the decision process and make it more conscious. If I experience an emotion and transform it into a feeling, my context as well as the signification I give to it all give me food for thought. Reflecting will help me to reflect on the meaning I’ve given to the feeling as well as on the behavior I have chosen.
The more I allow myself to notice these details, the better my ability becomes to choose a response and to choose my destiny.
It’s worth it.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” ― Victor Frankl