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Bodily maps of emotions (pnas.org)
68 points by mxfh on Dec 31, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 17 comments

In case you are wondering where the download link is: You probably browse with Javascript disabled. The website hides it by default. Here is a direct (wgetable) link: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/12/26/1321664111.full...

Shame appears to be the spiderman emotion. Interesting.

Cool hack: You can re-create these emotions by hacking the body sensations.

Neuronal connections are bi-directional ("Neurons that fire together wire together"), so if you want to experience happiness, focus on feeling sensation all over the body just like the emotions maps.

A really easy (though not necessarily fun) one to try is disgust. Right now, just focus on the sensations in your neck. If you have any body awareness you should feel some yuckiness there. If you are unable to feel it, you may be a habitually hyper head-oriented person and may be totally disconnected from your emotional body. If this the case, I highly recommend learning to meditate to fix the issue.

For larger body sensations like happiness, just focusing your attention may not be enough though since your concentration may not be high enough and will naturally flit around. So in addition to focusing attention, move those parts of the body to generate sensation.


This also happens to be the basis for traditional teachings and methods along these lines.

Also: while emotions largely follow the average, individuals have specific variations that I think relate to habits or hangups accrued from living. In the meditative world, these bodily sensations that give variations from the basic emotions are called obscurations. If you focus your awareness on parts of it, then you can see memories and thoughts associated with that particular obscuration (as it arises from the body).

Even cooler is when you watch it long enough, you start seeing how the whole pattern/set of these different body sensations change in a predictable pattern, sometimes even "triggering" another set of patterns.

Finally, these very sensations also makes it difficult for people to "let go", like during meditation, or when things are going well. The mind is habituated to feeling these patterns of sensations, and when they don't happen, you literally start feeling like a different person ... and for many folks, that is frightening.

Very interesting. I'm compelled to investigate further; are there any websites/books you could recommend for further reading? I have no meditation experience.

Sure. The one where you observe things as they arise is called insight meditation, or vipassana. Other commenters have referenced this :-D If you are looking for a book, "Mindfulness in Plain English" does well, but for many folks, it is easier to learn when someone walks you through it. There are also 10 day Vipassana retreats that can jumpstart your practice. (It is easy to fool yourself into thinking you are being mindful when you are not).

I wonder to what extent the results of such experiments would be due to the power of suggestion.

From my substantial subjective experience with Vipassana meditation I have found the correlations very strong. When doing Vipassana, especially the form called "Mahasi Noting", attention will "randomly" move around during the session. At various points you might have spontaneous thoughts of fear or disgust. Without any scripting it will be apparent that the body energy changed which caused the emotions associated with those body areas to arise.

It's really really weird to be blissed out one second and experiencing existential fear the next, but that's what happens.

And sometimes the bliss and fear happens at the same time.

Suggestion work precisely because people parse the suggestion into these body sensations.

Fascinating stuff.

I guess non-mainstream methodologies/frameworks like NLP, chakras and yoga were on to something when they said that emotions have locations in the body.

By the way, emotions having a bodily basis and function is absolutely mainstream psychology, I think Darwin wrote about it, William James, Paul Ekman of course... Mindfullness is included in some therapies. Even new agey ideas by likes of Lowen and Reich are often mentioned in academic textbooks.

That's really cool, and each of those pictures makes sense. Anger, for example, looks like turning on the brain and arms in order to strike; disgust is the gut and mouth trying to retch; happiness is mostly in one's head; depression is a void; pride is a bursting chest and so forth.

You can actually bring these emotions to any part of the body, and train to adjust the intensity and clarity of these emotions.

There's one bit about the happiness: it might be mostly in one's head, but it covers the whole body. Happiness is related to contentedness, that feeling that you don't need to go anywhere and you're good right here. If happiness did not cover a part of the body, then usually, that part will start agitating for attention. You are no longer content.

This is very interesting, thanks!

The warm-dark color scales have a slight emphasis on the warmer colors though. They are not exactly of same lightness.

Pride and Anger are almost identical maps! Also, Happiness, Love and Anxiety. No surprises

Incredible! This is great.

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