FEELINGS explained (5 min read + 1 min summary)
Brother, there is so much talk out there about men getting in touch with their feelings, it’s enough to make your head spin.
This is probably a good thing because men are good at suppressing emotion to get through immediate challenges, but it’s repression that bites us in the ass. Denying how we feel hurts us longer term.
Let me see if I can give you some simple truths.
Your emotions happen first when the body’s “Spidey Sense” figures out where it is in the environment. ex. raining, cold, hot, dark, light, at a beach, or walking through South Chicago at 2 am. etc.
It contrasts this with the body’s internal condition such as: hungry, need to take a piss, a #2, coming down with a flu or sniffles, allergies, a good or bad night’s sleep, or a sore back, knees, neck, or headache, etc.
These combine to create something called affect, which comes in two kinds: comfort vs discomfort or aroused vs relaxed.
Follow so far?
This affective state is sent up the nervous system pipeline to the brain in a process called interoception.
Mammals have seven affective drives: seeking, care, lust, and play, plus rage, fear and grief.
Emotions are what happens in the body while feelings are the labels you give to those affective sensations.
The brain takes the primary signaling from the body and runs it by secondary concepts formed from your databank of experiences (all the way back to birth) and creates a prediction.
Then, you either confirm or deny the prediction according to the social reality before you.
For example, recently, I saw a white Samoyed dog in my chicken pen while looking out my kitchen window. Snapping my head back to look again, I saw it was two white chickens, the one in the rear our big matriarchal hen fluffing up her feathers with her tail arching over her back.
Missus looked out at the bird feeder few days later and said, “Oh look, a duck.” Looking again she saw it was actually a red squirrel with its tail pointed out resembling a duck beak.
You overhear a conversation you interpret as negative and feel aroused, only to listen more carefully and realize they are actually saying something else. Now you relax and feel another way entirely.
We all do these sorts of things every day in all kinds of circumstances.
What this tells you is that what your brain interprets… is milliseconds behind messaging from the body.
What goes on in your head is a best-guess by the brain awaiting correction.
It’s also why we can be fooled by affective reality derived from those seven emotional drives. We can be blinded by seeking, care, play, rage, fear, grief… and lust.
Tell me about it. Ever happen to you?
Since you were a kid, those primary drive affects secondarily became states like empathy, trust, pride and blame, guilt and shame.
You later named those feelings in the “tertiary” part of your brain at the neocortex and formed beliefs about yourself and your reality.
That’s Feelings 1-2-3 you could say.
It’s why I teach that what people say is not so much a contract with the people around them and more like a trial balloon floated for feedback.
It’s why learning to paraphrase helps us understand each other.
The key is to realize the brain is predictive, not reactive
Your take on your emotions is derived from your experience.
You are run by your nervous system and your conscious awareness is along for the ride.
If you feel something today, you have likely felt it before.
There is nothing new to the brain. Everything is compared historically.
You see the ocean for the first time and the brain compares it to the big lake you went to as a kid.
Encounter a mountain range, the brain sees them as bigger hills.
Your feelings are unique to you because no one has ever lived your exact experience and no one ever will. That has social consequences.
Think of when you can’t seem to connect with someone you just met. It’s probably not that you are psychopathic (though you could be). More likely, you just don’t share enough similar concepts to identity with each other.
What does all this mean for you going forward?
To me, it means we take 100% responsibility. 100% ownership.
The advantage? The buck stops here.
Your freedom is in fully owning your thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
Think about it: it’s all we ever truly own in life anyway.
You may realize the good news:
1. You can change your feelings by living new experiences
(doing things differently).
2. To change how you feel, change how you think and what you do.
Use your body to create different affective states.
Use your mind to change the interpretations of those states, experiences and even, memories, at the tertiary (interpretative) level of emotion.
Breathwork, mindful practices, self hypnosis, optimism and getting better at connecting with others are some of the best ways to do this.
Join a men’s group: make it a mandatory part of your life. Our need to belong is our greatest need. We are herd animals
My suggestion is you re-read this a few times and refer to it in the future.
If you can solve your emotions and feelings, you are in charge.
Here’s a summary:
Understanding Your Feelings: A Simplified Guide for Men
As men, we’re often taught to suppress our emotions, but this can come back to hurt us in the long run. Here are some simple truths to help you better understand your feelings:
- Your emotions are the result of your body’s “Spidey Sense” figuring out where you are in your environment and your internal bodily conditions. Together, they create an affective state of either comfort or discomfort, and arousal or relaxation.
- Your brain then takes this primary signaling from the body and runs it through secondary concepts formed from your databank of experiences, creating a prediction that can be confirmed or denied based on the social reality before you.
- Emotions happen in the body, while feelings are the labels you give to those affective sensations. Your brain is predictive, not reactive, and your feelings are unique to you based on your individual experiences.
- To better understand your feelings and take 100% ownership of your thoughts, feelings, and behavior, consider joining a men’s group, practicing breathwork and mindfulness, and better connecting with others.
- You can change your feelings by living new experiences, changing how you think, and what you do. Use your body to create different affective states, and your mind to change the interpretations of those states, experiences, and memories.
By understanding your feelings and taking responsibility for them, you can experience true and lasting freedom.
true and free…