Emotions and feelings are powerful factors in our lives. They have a significant influence on our state of being, our health, our perception of the world, our relationships and how we interact with each other. Although our emotions and feelings are such a major impact on our lives, our society generally doesn’t provide much education, support and training in helping us understand and use our emotions and feelings in a way that benefits our lives and our world.
As will be discussed in greater detail below, emotions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors can be, in essence, defined as follows:
(1) “Emotions” are energy in motion generally derived from a reaction, response and relationship to one’s instinctual nature, beliefs, circumstances, and/or environment;
(2) “Feelings” are embodied emotions and energy experienced as somatic consciousness and physical states of being;
(3) “Beliefs” are attitudes or states of trust, faith or confidence that some idea or principle is true; and
(4) “Behavior” is the expression of thoughts, beliefs, emotions and feelings. Behavior can also include inaction and that which is not expressed. When behavior reaches certain levels of adoption, it becomes “Culture.” Culture creates a feedback loop that perpetuates the environment, thought, beliefs, emotions and behaviors that created it.
Feelings and emotions are often used interchangeably in our communication without much thought to their differences. By distinguishing between feelings and emotions, we can exponentially increase our emotional literacy, our cognitive abilities, our health and help our bodies from being ravaged by stress and constrictive emotions. By engaging in emotional literacy, we activate our pre-frontal cortex rather than the amygdala allowing us to intentionally and mindfully express our emotions to create the life and outcomes we desire. In my experience, those that have a deeper understanding of their emotions and feelings tend to be more evolved as humans and consistently experience more expanded and states of being that serve their ability to manifest a more loving, thriving and abundant life and world.
Emotions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors are intrinsically interconnected and catalyze one another. The resulting behaviors influenced by beliefs, emotions and feelings have a profound effect on our culture, our environment and ourselves.
Emotions are vibrational states that arise from a wide variety of stimuli, including thoughts, beliefs, events, sensations, perceptions, feelings, our environment and even other emotions. In psychology and philosophy, emotion is a subjective, conscious experience characterized primarily by psycho-physiological experiences that include mental and physical states of being leading to biological and neurological responses to stimuli. Emotions are associated and considered reciprocally influential with mood, temperament, personality, motivation and behavior. In addition, emotions are influenced by beliefs, circumstances, hormones and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol and GABA.
Alternatively, emotions can be defined as a “positive or negative experiences associated with a particular pattern of energetic and psycho-somatic activity.” When we judge our emotions as negative or positive, there’s a tendency to disconnect from, or bypass, the emotional experiences we believe are “negative.” This can result in missing the messages, lessons and growth opportunities that exist from fully experiencing our emotions and not judging them.
Because emotions are energetic at their core, emotions can be triggered from a multitude of stimuli (e.g., sensations, perceptions, thoughts, beliefs and events), with each individual having their unique subjective experiences of emotions and their triggers. The unique and subjective experience of emotions creates significant complexity in understanding emotions. It is my hope that this article can help us more fully understand our emotions, feelings beliefs and behaviors so that we can live more fulfilling lives leading to a culture of love, thriving, abundance and harmony.
The Frequencies of Emotion. Each emotion has a vibrational frequency signature that causes a resonate field which influences our state of being to expand or contract. The body resonates with the energy signature of each emotion. This has profound influence on our state of being by either expanding or contracting our energy field and somatic sensation. An expansive emotion triggers parasympathetic states of being, typically experienced as openness and relaxation, whereas a constrictive emotion causes sympathetic states often experienced as tightness and tension.
As shown in the illustration above, which provides examples of different emotions on the frequency scale. Love, bliss and empowerment are very high energy emotions that are associated with expanded states of being, whereas apathy, depression and grief are very low energy leading to contracted states of being. Emotions with an expansive resonance activate the parasympathetic nervous system resulting in the release of serotonin and the body becoming relaxed and feeling open. Emotions with both low energy and constrictive resonance can cause either a lack of energy and motivation, while emotions that are higher energy, but are still constrictive typically activate the sympathetic nervous system resulting in the release of adrenaline and cortisol readying the body for fight-or flight. For example, anger typically causes the body to become tight and constricted, but unlike apathy, anger has sufficient energy and frequency to motivate action. The energy from anger can be used to spiral the emotion of anger into more expanded emotional states such as courage, passion and love.
The energetic and vibrational frequency signature of each emotion creates a feedback loop that affects our mental, physical, energetic and emotional states of being. According to Harvard Medical School, “When someone experiences a stressful event, the amygdala, an area of the brain that contributes to emotional processing, sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus. This area of the brain functions like a command center, communicating with the rest of the body through the nervous system so that the person has the energy to fight or flee.”
Emotions often arise as a result of a belief or expectation interacting with a circumstance. For example, if I believe making money is good and losing money is bad, when I make money I may experience the emotion of happiness, and when I lose money I may experience the emotion of anger. In this example, my emotional state (e.g., happiness or anger) is conditioned upon making money. Generally, when we are in an expansive emotional state (e.g., happiness, bliss, love), we feel better than when we are in constrictive emotional states (e.g., anger, shame, grief). By conditioning our beliefs and manipulating our emotions, advertisers, marketers, corporations and governments have been able to influence our behavior and actions. When we become aware of our emotions, our emotional conditionalities, and how are emotions are being manipulated, we can gain incredible power to experience the emotions we desire rather than falling prey to the belief systems and emotional manipulation that is often used to perpetuate consumerism and disempowerment.
Emotions are wonderful teachers that make us aware of our beliefs and perception of circumstances, giving us an opportunity to change our beliefs and perceptions. When we become aware of our beliefs and perceptions, we can consciously choose our beliefs and emotions to optimize our states of being and change our experience of the world.
As a powerful energetic charge, emotions can be intentionally expressed and manifest into constructive behaviors and outcomes. One of the major challenges we face in mastering our emotions is the judgment of emotions as good or bad. We often feel guilt, denial, conflict or resistance to certain emotions we believe are “bad.” For instance, most of us would consider emotions such as anger, fear and sorrow to be bad or draining emotions. Truly, all emotions can be utilized for positive experience. For example, fear can protect us from harm, anger can drive us to create amazing change and without sorrow, joy would not be experienced as exquisitely. As well, we can experience expansive emotions more exquisitely because of the opposite constrictive emotions. For example, we experience the expansiveness of love much more deeply, because we also experience the constriction of fear.
Emotions can be suppressed, denied or limited. However, until emotions are expressed and released, they tend to build up and can cause damage to ourselves and others. Emotions can also be expressed, guided, directed and when released through conscious and healthy behavior can energize and improve our lives and the lives of others. For example, as a teenager, I often felt anger and frustration resulting from being unseen by my father and his verbal and physical abuse. I learned to play drums and often saw his face in my drum heads. I would play for hours releasing my anger and turning my anger into a wonderful and creative skill. I became a professional drummer and musician and derived a great deal of joy from playing music, as well as making a living with my music for many years.
Much like how an artist uses colors to create a painting, we can use emotions as tools to create and manifest our intention to create fulfilling lives. Just like colors, emotions are neither good nor bad — they can be blended and used to create a desired outcome.
Rather than seeing emotions as good or bad, positive or negative, higher or lower, I invite you to experience emotions as expansive or contractive. For if we fear “negative” emotions, we tend to live in fear. If we strive hard to experience only “positive” emotions, then we create stress and rigidity about negative emotions in our lives. For example, I’ve seen many people in the “Love & Light” community living in perpetual levels of fear or denial of “the darkness” or their shadow. Fear contracts and works adversely to the expansive emotion of love. By embracing and loving the “darkness,” our shadow and constrictive emotions, we can more fully experience the expansive emotional state of love. By fully embracing and presently experiencing our emotional states without judgment, rather than disconnecting, bypassing, denying or avoiding them, we gain the power of “Emotional Literacy.”
Emotions can arise from linear, parallel, independent and/or collective stimuli. Having said this, below are 6 Elements of Emotion that individually, or in combination, contribute the existence and experience of emotion:
1) Environmental-Sensory Stimulus — An outer stimulus, such as a vibration, event or object, triggers sensory signals to the brain and body.
2) Physiological Arousal — Instinctual reaction to the Environmental-Sensory Stimulus and Perceptive Awareness.
3) Perceptive Awareness — Perception of the “Environmental-Sensory Stimulus” and “Physiological Arousal” prior to “Cognitive Appraisal and Beliefs” influencing perceptive awareness.
4) Cognitive Appraisal & Beliefs — The subjective thought and interpretation of the events, objects and stimulus through the filter of mind, meaning, beliefs and conditioning.
5) Feelings — Somatic awareness and response to the stimuli of a circumstance juxtaposed on the experience of “Environmental Sensory Stimulus,” “Perceptive Awareness,” “Physiological Arousal,” and “Cognitive Appraisal & Beliefs.”
6) Expression & Motivation — Emotional energy being manifest into mental action (e.g., inspiration, creativity, will-won’t decision, withdrawal, suppression), physical action and body language (e.g., running, smiling, staring, fighting), verbal language (e.g., talking, yelling, arguing, and/or energetic action (e.g., increased/expanded or decreased/contracted energy).
Klaus Scherer, a Professor of Psychology at the Swiss Center for Affective Sciences, specializing in the psychology of emotion, developed the Component Process Model (CPM), consisting of 5 components of emotion, similar to the 6 Elements of Emotion listed above. Scherer stated that these components did not work independently of each other but were part of a collective-collaborative process. Subjective feelings influenced and were influenced by other components such as physiological arousal being driven by cognitive appraisal. 
Other leading emotional theorists have posited differing views on whether an emotion arises by itself or from an event, a physical state, cognitive appraisal or beliefs. Using the example of a rattlesnake as the event stimulus, below is a brief summary of other theories of emotion:
- Walter Cannon — rattlesnake (event) fear (emotion) fight or flight (physical response)
- James–Lange — rattlesnake (event) fight or flight (physical response) fear (emotion)
- Richard Lazarus — rattlesnake (event) rattlesnakes can kill me (cognitive appraisal) fear (emotion) fight or flight (physical action)
- Singer-Schachter — rattlesnake (event) fight or flight (physical action) rattlesnakes can kill me (cognitive appraisal) fear (emotion)
The foregoing, like so many scientific theories, are based upon a fairly linear and analytical framework. However, emotions, can be serial or parallel and arise in connection with numerous different stimuli The likelihood is that no one-size-fits-all linear way to experience life or an emotion, so each of the above theorists are right some of the time, partially right some of the time and wrong some of the time. For example, if I experience a purely instinctual emotion such as fear and react physically to avoid immediate harm to my body without thinking and cognitive appraisal, then Cannon and James-Lange would be correct in that circumstance. However, if I engage in cognitive appraisal, then the emotional theorists who excluded cognitive appraisal (e.g., Cannon, James-Lange), would not be correct in that situation and Lazarus and Singer-Schachter would be correct.
Instinctual Emotions and Cognitive Emotions. Joseph LeDoux, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University, posits that automatic physiological responses to danger and issues of survival are hard-wired in the brain and cognitive appraisal is irrelevant to these physical responses to threats. LeDoux argues, and I agree, that people are not born with phobias and that conscious emotions are learned through experience or programming. I also agree with Lazarus, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, that cognitive appraisal often creates and contributes to our emotional state. Emotions can therefore be classified as Instinctual Emotions and Cognitive Emotions.
· Instinctual Emotions — Instinctual Emotions are generally associated with survival (e.g., fight, flight, food, mating) and are generated from a combination of somatic consciousness, the sympathetic nervous system and the amygdala. Instinctual Emotions arise somatically and bypass cognitive appraisal. Because the body is always in the state of present awareness, these Instinctual Emotions tend to be felt somatically in the “moment of now.” Thus, Instinctual Emotions are generally more immediate and present than Cognitive Emotions (discussed below).
Somatic theories of emotion claim that bodily responses, rather than judgments, are essential to emotions. The first modern version of somatic emotion theories came from William James in the 1880s. This theory has been supported with modern neurological evidence by theorists such as John Cacioppo, António Damásio, Joseph E. LeDoux, and Robert Zajonc.
· Cognitive Emotions — We are, according to currently accepted authority, born with only two fears: 1) the fear of falling and 2) the fear of loud noises. However, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association lists over 150 phobias. Somehow, in our society, people acquire or are programmed to develop over 150 fears. Most of the phobias listed in the DSM are cognitive.
Cognitive Emotions tend to be based in the mind rather than the natural and present Instinctual Emotions of the body. Cognitive Emotions are triggered by thought and generally involve the prefrontal cortex. Unlike the present-moment Instinctual Emotions, Cognitive Emotions are often based upon future projection, past experiences, imagination, interpretation, falsity, rationalization, manipulation, mistaken assumptions, misunderstandings and conditioned beliefs.
However, utilizing the tools of mindfulness, equanimity and inquiry, we can powerfully guide and optimize our Cognitive Emotional states to be more pure and present so as to align with our desired states of being and free ourselves from emotional manipulation and increase our emotional intelligence.
Feelings are embodied emotions and responses experienced in somatic consciousness. Because our bodies are always in a present state of awareness, our bodies often don’t differentiate between an imagined and actual occurrence. Thus, when we imagine an unpleasant circumstance we often experience associated constrictive emotions (e.g., fear, shame, guilt, anger). In response to the constrictive emotions, the body tightens and, even though the event is imagined, the mind perceives there is some emergency at the physical level. This often leads to a feedback loop that increases the intensity of the emotion affecting our thoughts, our bodies and our energy field. The intensity of the feedback loop may continue until there is a new stimulus to break the pattern of the loop. By being aware of our feedback loops, we can consciously provide new perceptions, beliefs and/or thoughts to break the pattern of unnecessary stress associated with fight-or-flight.
Conversely, when we imagine a scenario that we find pleasurable (e.g., taking a wonderful vacation, making love, fulfilling a goal), we are likely to experience expansive emotions (e.g., happiness, love, joy and bliss) that activates our parasympathetic nervous system giving the body the ability to relax, the organs to efficiently function, our bodies to heal, and our brains to be more fully engaged.
Unlike “emotions” which consist of energetic charge often resulting from thoughts, beliefs and circumstances, “feelings” are embodied somatic states of being such as hungry, sexual desire, hot, warm, cold, relaxed, tired, tense, excited, vital, strong, expanded, contracted, tingly, calm, comfortable, heavy, lite, tight, open and loose. Because our body consciousness is always in the moment of now, our pure somatic feelings are generally more real and present and less subject to rationalization, manipulation and the interpretation of the mind. The body does not care about whether you get a promotion or whether you get married to your lover or whether you make money. The body’s consciousness is largely concerned with such things as safety, preservation of life, well-being, and comfort, as well as awareness of threats to safety, life, well-being and comfort. However, the body, mind and emotional experiences are interconnected, so often the body is responding to thoughts, imagined circumstances, beliefs and emotions.
To help clarify the distinction between feelings and emotions, we often hear people say, “I feel angry.” This is typically not an accurate statement because the body does not “feel angry,” but rather the mind experiences the emotion of anger, often as a result of a belief intersecting with a circumstance (e.g., unmet expectations, feeling wronged), and the body responds to the emotional charge and vibrations in the form of somatic “feelings” that match the emotional vibration of anger. The body doesn’t “feel angry,” but may feel tight, constricted, tense or charged. A more accurate description would be, “I’m experiencing the emotion of anger which is causing my body to feel tightness and constriction.”
The vibrational response of the body is generally the activation of the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system in a way that corresponds in intensity with the frequency and power of the emotional charge. For example, anger is an emotion with a vibration that generally causes the body to activate the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for fight or flight, which causes tension and constriction. The power or amplitude of the emotional charge determines the intensity of the body’s response (e.g., mild, moderate, and extreme).
When entering the sympathetic nervous system mode, “excitatory neurotransmitters,” such as norepinephrine, cortisol and adrenaline, flood our body and create a “fight or flight.” This process happens without cognitive thought; it’s a somatic reaction to the scenarios we create in our minds and the emotional reaction to those scenarios.
When we experience expansive emotions such as love, peace and joy, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated in resonance with the emotional frequencies and “inhibitory neurotransmitters” that are released, such as serotonin and GABA. The chemicals tend to relax, open and expand the way the body feels.
Dopamine is a dual-purpose neurotransmitter, as it can be both excitatory and inhibitory. Dopamine elevates mood, focus and motivation and is linked with the feeling of inspiration. States of inspiration and enlightenment access the whole nervous system as the body is concurrently relaxed, focused and expanded. I refer to this state of being as the “Awesympathetic” state as we are energized and activated, creative, focused and cognitively high functioning.
When the mind interprets feelings in the body, the pure and present feelings of the body generally become interpreted by the mind, which often exaggerates what is going on in the body. This creates a feedback loop where the brain picks up signals from the body, the exaggerated interpretation of the mind and the cognitive emotions created by the mind’s interpretation, thereby creating feedback loops. And round and round it goes, until there is an intervening event, pattern interruption, new stimulus, or the feedback loop runs out of energetic charge.
For example, if we imagine ourselves in a war zone, the brain is likely to create the emotion of fear, the body will become tight, tense and constricted and the brain will perpetuate the state of fear until the body relaxes. The body won’t relax until the mind is out of a state of fear. Whereas, if I imagine myself on a sunny beach in Hawaii and take some nice relaxed deep breaths, my mind becomes peaceful, my body becomes relaxed and I experience an emotional state of serenity. The feedback loops happen so rapidly that often the physical sensation and the emotional energetic feeling are completely concurrent. This is why people often confuse feelings with emotion. Using the imagination to choose the best future scenarios and outcomes can have a positive impact on bringing our bodies into the parasympathetic or Awesympathetic state of being.
To help distinguish between physiologically and cognitively created feelings, I have categorized feelings into two separate categories — 1) “Somatic-Instinctual Feelings” and 2) “Derivative-Cognitive Feelings.”
· Somatic-Instinctual Feelings arise from body experiences that result from original somatic awareness without being initiated or filtered by cognitive emotion or rational thought.
When we experience Somatic-Instinctual Feelings, the feelings emanate from the body and the body experiences the feeling in the present moment. Examples include somatic pleasure and pain such as feeling cold, hot, hungry and sexual arousal.
For instance, when we grab a hot pan, our bodies immediately and directly experience the heat and we release the pan as a protective measure to prevent us from getting burned. Because the feeling is experienced directly by the body in the present moment it is a Somatic/Instinctual Feeling.
· Derivative-Cognitive Feelings arise in response to cognitively generated thoughts and emotions and the feedback loop between the mind and body. Once the mind becomes aware of the physiological condition, it then interprets the physical stimulus coming from the body, creates meaning and a cognitive-emotional state arises which then creates a feedback loop with the body.
For example, after I picked up and dropped the hot pan, I might judge myself as being stupid for picking up the hot pan and experience the emotion of anger toward myself. Resonating with the frequency of anger, my body constricts, and I experience the Derivative-Cognitive Feeling of tightness as I enter the sympathetic nervous system state, even though the danger of getting burned by the hot pan is no longer present.
While we experience Derivative-Cognitive Feelings as real, they are often not based upon truth or actual facts. The greater the involvement and influence of our mind’s interpretation, meaning and story machine, the further away from the truth our feelings get.
If we want to have optimal health and vitality, it’s important not only to include healthy diet and exercise in our routines and practices, but also healthy thoughts, imagination and emotions that stimulate our parasympathetic or “Awesympathetic” Expanded States of Being. The parasympathetic state of being leads to relaxation, healing, rejuvenation, emergence and increased immune system functioning. The “Awesympathetic” state of being promotes flow, happiness, inspiration, motivation, achievement and fulfillment of our goals. The more we live in an Expanded State of Being, the more likely we’ll have a healthier and happier life.
It’s critical to understand and master the instruments of our emotions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors in order to powerfully align our beliefs, emotions and behaviors with our intentions for creating a healthy, thriving and harmonious life.
There is a critical distinction between fully and presently experiencing emotion and the expression of emotion as behavior. Rather than thinking, feeling and behaving like an automaton, mindlessly following societal conditioning, we can become powerful, free and sovereign beings capable of transforming our world. The greater our emotional literacy, the more we can consciously express our behavior, manifest our intentions, transform our culture and create a thriving world.
Emotional Literacy, Feelings, Beliefs and Behaviors. Emotional literacy provides great insight and mastery of our beliefs and behaviors that profoundly influence our life and the way we experience and express emotions. By fully experiencing all emotional energy, we become more aware and are able to guide the energetic charge of constrictive energy to be expressed as loving, expansive and positive behavior.
Behavior is the expression of emotion, thoughts, beliefs and feelings. Behavior is not only based upon active expression, but can be based upon inaction and indecision. When behavior reaches certain levels of adoption, it becomes “Culture.”
Culture represents the practices, beliefs, knowledge, arts, laws, customs, capabilities, and habits of the individuals in a group. Culture creates a feedback loop that perpetuates the environment, thought, beliefs, emotions and behaviors that created it. This explains why “culture” is often so difficult to change. To change culture requires a transformation and widespread adoption of our thoughts, beliefs, emotions and behaviors.
Our “Internal Experience” is the combination of emotions, feelings, beliefs and thoughts filtered through our perception of “reality” that we experience as a state of being” at any given moment. One of the most powerful influencers of behavior is our Internal Experience. However, behavior is also influenced by such things as beliefs, culture, values, ethics, actions and genetics. The following is an example, to help clarify the distinction between our Internal Experience and Behavior:
As I’m driving down the road, I put my signal on to change to the left lane. The car in the left lane behind me accelerates to prevent me from entering the lane. Based upon my beliefs and conditioning about being courteous, I say to myself “what a jerk — how discourteous.” I then experience the emotion of anger from my beliefs coupled with this circumstance. The energetic charge and vibration of anger causes my body to respond by secreting adrenaline and cortisol. This results in my body tensing in preparation for fight-or-flight and the blood draining from my prefrontal cortex into my amygdala. This is followed by a decrease in my IQ and rational functioning. The emotional state of anger and the decrease in my IQ coupled with the tension in body causes the Internal Experience of fight-or-flight and I’m likely to express behavior like honking my horn and giving “the jerk” a stiff middle finger. My behavior then may trigger behavior in “the jerk” that escalates into road rage. My behavior then contributes to escalating a culture of anger and road rage.
Alternatively, with the tools to shift the expression of anger into positive behavior, I could have consciously changed my Internal Experience and resulting behavior by flipping him the peace sign and smiling. I also could have said to myself, “he must be in a big hurry” or “he needs this space more than I do,” laughed and went on without expressing anger or behaving in an aggressive manner.
When we consciously experience and express our emotions, we can, for instance, turn fear into anger, anger into passion, passion into inspiration and inspiration into love, and thereby create a world of extraordinary beauty, brilliance, love and kindness from fear.
We can create the reality we desire by (1) increasing our awareness of the distinction between our emotions and feelings and that which is instinctual (e.g., real, immediate and present) and that which is cognitive (e.g., based upon imagination, beliefs, conditioning and mental constructs), (2) consciously directing our mind to imagine the most desirable outcome, (3) mindfully guiding the physical-mental-emotional feedback loops to create circumstances and environments that fulfill our highest expression and behavior, and (4) consciously utilizing the power of our imagination, emotions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors to create the world we desire to see.
By using the tools of awareness and more fully understanding our emotions, feelings, beliefs and behaviors, we can mindfully utilize our emotions as creative tools for conscious expression and behavior in alignment with our highest life-affirming potential to create amazing lives and transform our world.