Telling Emotions Apart
27 Mar 2016
You know how when you feel something in your body, and you’re not quite sure what it is?
Is that stomach ache? Trapped wind? The beginning of an ulcer? Oh, it’s a muscle… did I pull a stomach muscle somehow? Oh wait, maybe it’s not a muscle after all…
What makes us think we’re any better at recognising emotions than we are at physical sensations? Sure, extremes of emotion are fairly obvious. If I’m overcome with rage, or joy, or sadness, I can usually tell. But it seems possible that I leap to judgement too quickly when it’s less certain how I’m feeling.
There have been times I’ve assumed I was anxious, only to realise that it was PART anxiety and part excitement or anticipation, and I’m overreacting to my own emotions. This feels like a ridiculous, embarrassing thing to admit. But experience seems to suggest that while I’m mostly right about my emotional state, and mostly right about my physical state… I’m not always right.
Sometimes I need to look a bit closer to figure out what’s going on.
Neil Hughes is the author of Walking on Custard & the Meaning of Life, a comical and useful guide to life with anxiety, and The Shop Before Life, a tale about a magical shop which sells human personality traits.
Along with writing more books, he spends his time on standup comedy, speaking about mental health, computer programming, public speaking and everything from music to video games to languages. He struggles to answer the question "so, what do you do?" and is worried that the honest answer is probably "procrastinate."
He would like it if you said hello.