We all feel something, or the other. No one is cold enough, to not be able to feel or experience their own emotions. Sure, most of us hide feeling, whatever it’s that we’re feeling at any point in time, quite well. Some of us are very adept at not expressing ourselves; great poker players all, and that’s another story all together. The fact still remains that we feel; feel a complex concoction of emotions everyday; day after day. We may process some of our emotions consciously, or leave that maybe-bitter-experience to our subconscious to process, on our behalf. Even so, our biological systems are wired to leak what we feel into the physical world around us - this may be in cues of expressions (micro expressions, maybe), gestures, tones, actions, words, or whatever way we can, and are able to help ourselves process these emotions further.
Experiencing emotions is our way of preparing to meet, and cope with life challenges by fine tuning of our cardiovascular, skeletomuscular, and autonomous nervous system. Our bodies are, inherently, linked with how, and what kind of emotion we feel. Our perceptions of how an emotion is to be felt, triggers bodily changes within us; which in turn makes these emotional feelings a more conscious affair. Thus making us cope better within our environments, given any life’s circumstance.
”Emotions coordinate our behaviour and physiological states during survival-salient events and pleasurable interactions. Even though we are often consciously aware of our current emotional state, such as anger or happiness, the mechanisms giving rise to these subjective sensations have remained unsolved…” - Source.
Not very long ago, Finnish researchers carried some thorough experiments that mapped emotions within our bodies. They carried out five experiments with a total of 701 participants/volunteers, who were asked to fill in neutral emotional state body diagrams based on the two sets of emotions, viz. basic, and non-basic emotions (shown in the photo, embedded below). These experiments were carried out by exposing these participants to words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. The participants were asked to colour the bodily regions whose activity they, themselves, felt increasing or decreasing while experiencing the stimuli generated by those words, stories, movies, or facial expressions. The study proposes that some of our emotions are represented in the somatosensory system as culturally universal maps.
Bodily topography of basic (Upper) and nonbasic (Lower) emotions associated with words. The body maps show regions whose activation increased (warm colors) or decreased (cool colors) when feeling each emotion.
The research concluded that any of the two types (see photo embedded above) of emotional experiences have their core based on the sensations we all feel when we experience an emotional state change. These emotional states that were bodily mapped, are discreet, and may partially overlap (see, in the above embedded photo, how similar/overlapping happiness, and love are). This research may help us to understand physical sensations felt through one’s body while experiencing human emotions.
The bodily maps of emotions created during this research may very well be the most accurate descriptions of how our bodies react when experiencing/processing them.
The research paper is an interesting read, to say the least. If you do find yourself interested to know more, then you can read it here.