"It's like we're designed to make choices around pleasure."
-- the late Dr. Candace Pert, Molecules of Emotion
Through the social and emotional intelligence graduate coursework I'm studying at Wright Graduate University, I'm diving into my emotional awareness at a whole new level. The curriculum includes studying emotional expression and neurology on how the body relates to emotions. Part of my Wright studies includes weekly performative learning assignments. We practice what we are learning about, which helps us solidify the concepts not only narratively and cognitively, but also on an experiential level. What I learned was insightful and powerful. What follows are my findings from researching this topic for my course, Foundations of Human Development, on human emotions and how they show up in the body. By recognizing how our bodies transmit emotions, we can increase our awareness about them and boost our emotional intelligence about the body, or body EQ.
"Your body is a wonderland." -- John Mayer
This is true not only in the way Mr. Mayer intends, but also in the emotional, neurologically and scientifically proven kind of way. One of my recent "assignments" was to boost my emotional intelligence and practice naming one of the five primary feelings throughout the day: fear, hurt, sadness, anger and joy (learn how to do this in my five-day EQ challenge).
What did I find out? I noticed that I felt more than one primary emotion at a time -- often fear and joy together. If I'm feeling one emotion, it is giving way to another one underneath it. For instance, right now I feel joy writing this article, but also sadness because I know I have a lot more to write, and I am not spending time on other ways that I also need to do. When I chose to notice how I'm feeling, the feelings are always there, waiting for me to tune in and discover them.
• Try it: Take three deep belly breaths sitting up straight. What primary emotion are you feeling right now?
"The body is the unconscious mind." -- Dr. Candace Pert
There is also the concept that emotions are physically stored in the body at a molecular level. I can assure you, this concept and the fact that there is scientific research behind it, blows my mind. Who knew? The late Dr. Candace Pert was a pioneer of the field psychoneuroimmunology, or the study of psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems. In her 1997 book, Molecules of Emotion, she boldly claims through valid research that Peptides, or short chain amino acids/proteins, are key "information substances" throughout the body and each of them could affect our mind, our emotions, our immune system, our digestion and other bodily functions simultaneously. She made an unprecedented statement claiming that emotions aren't wired only in the brain:
"For decades, most people thought of the brain and its extension the central nervous system as an electrical communication system ... resembling a telephone system with trillions of miles of intricately crisscrossing wires ... But new research techniques for studying peptides and receptors show that only two percent of neuronal communications are electrical, across a synapse. The brain is a bag of hormones ... the body is the unconscious mind!"
Pert is telling us that 98 percent of communication in the body is not neuronal or electrical, but hormonal and by other means. I'm no neurologist, but I know that is definitely different than what I thought happened. No wonder how we feel is so dependent on our every day interactions with others, ourselves, or with our environment.
Read more about how your body is a tuning fork and how to pause to tune into your Emotional Wonderland here.
Pert, Candace. Molecules Of Emotion: Why You Feel The Way You Feel. New York, NY: Scribner, 1997.
Freedman, Joshua. "The Physics of Emotion: Candace Pert on Feeling Go(od)." (2007). 6seconds.org.http://www.6seconds.org/images-static/Physics-of-Emotions.pdf.