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Feelings or Emotions come before thoughts.


If you spend a fair amount of your time reflecting, contemplating or meditating you begin to learn how to become more aware of your feelings and manage them (hopefully) in the right way.


There is a definite gap or pause before these feelings turn into thoughts which may help to reason with them or if the feeling is strong enough you may have to get ready for the ride!


It is reasonable to assume that this should become a little easier as we age 

Or is that just wishful thinking?

Actually, we do become a little more thoughtful. contemplative and reflective as we age so the chances are we are more open to feeling the gap.


That pause is a single slow breath - which is just over 5 or 6 seconds.

If you can allow that long before your thoughts are activated, then a different outcome will probably be the result.


So, where do feelings come from and how do thoughts come into play?


It’s “the normal mental condition of the waking state of humans, characterized by the experience of perceptions, feelings, thoughts, awareness of the external world, and often in humans (but not necessarily in other animals) self-awareness,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of Psychology.


Feelings arise without warning in the inerplay between you and your environment and the people who are in it at the time, both of which are undergoing continuous change in your waking state.


The two heavyweights are fear and anger.


Lets see what happens to your body, when you get really angry….

It releases adrenaline into the blood stream, which boosts the supply of oxygen and glucose to the brain and muscles.

Suppresses other non-emergency bodily processes - digestion in particular.

Increases heart rate and stroke volume.

Raises blood pressure.

Elevates blood sugar levels.

Dilates the pupils

Constricts arterioles in the skin and gastrointestinal tract.

Begins the breakdown of lipids in fat cells.

Suppresses the immune system.




Now you may not hold onto your anger at this level for very long - but many of us are influenced by negative emotions like fear and anger and their many emotional derivatives every day of our lives.

And it results in muscular tension which is initially gut-wrenching and if the emotion is held onto, soon moves into the lower back, upper back, shoulders and neck, which results in general aches and pains in the area, 

As long as this emotion is not dealt with - the aches and pains remain - eventually becoming chronic.




As I have said before, I am insatiably curious and I search out well written research literature in this genre all the time, as it always provides me with important insights from different perspectives in the context in which they were written which I am always learning from.


At the start of his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence,  written in 1995 Daniel Goleman introduces Aristotle’s Challenge - “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not easy”.

" Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness and impulse control, persistence, zeal and motivation, empathy and social deftness, These are the qualities that mark people who excel: whose relationships flourish, who are stars in the workplace"


Its not just IQ only anymore - it's EQ.


In 1998, Martin Seligman, then the President of the American Psychological Association, began to develop positive psychology, as a complement to current, by inference, negative psychology, by his theory developed in 1967 of learned helplessness – in which a human being has learned to act or behave helplessly in a particular situation. Seligman became to be more interested in what can go right with the human condition – a learned optimism - rather than with what could go wrong - the attractive idea that could make miserable people less miserable. It was based on the idea that the disease model just didn’t appear to be working and that psychology was in need of a different approach.


This was a welcome breath of fresh air for the normally depressing world of psychology, by bringing moral philosophy closer to modern psychology in this way and by opening a new methodology to help people to lead less miserable lives by changing the way they see themselves.


Humanity by Stuart Walton is one of the most enduring books on the history of emotions I have marvelled at and used extensively as a reference work.

He looks at each emotion from three different perspectives.

Take anger for example - he first cites - To be angry and what it is.

Then he goes onto - I enrage - actually being enraged and what that's like.

And then - I am angered - and its causes.

A fascinating and ageless work.

He covers just 10 big emotions - of course there are many, many derivatives of each. 

9 negative - Fear, Anger, Contempt, Disgust, Jealousy, Shame, Sadness, Embarrassment and Surprise and 1 positive - Happiness or what I have come to know it as - an aspect of love.


Robert Wright wrote The Moral Animal in 1994 introducing the world to Evolutionary Psychology and then in 2017 he wrote Why Buddhism is True "the first book to combine evolutionary psychology and biology with cutting-edge neuroscience to defend the radical claims at the heart of Buddhist philosophy".

Buddhism has as its central tenet the wish to reduce human suffering through the practise and understanding of non-attachment – in which each individual, through meditation and learning, could free oneself from being attached to worldly things, such as people, material assets and emotions, for example, and could, in essence, become ‘lighter in being’ by not being burdened by them.


Jordan B. Peterson is the most famous clinical psychologist in the world today - 2021.

When he published 12 Rules for Life in 2019 I looked at a copy of it online and always go straight to the contents page. Chapter 5 read "Try not to let your children do anything that would make you dislike them". 

So I downloaded the Audible version there and then.

I pretty much always do that first - listen to it - and he narrated this book too.

Liked the sound of his passion for his subject so went on to buy the book.

He has a great website at

Register for his free weekly newsletter there - oceans of wisdom - this was my favourite takeaway from yesterdays offering - "If you're self-conscious of your inadequacies - you need to work on removing the inadequacies, not the self-consciousness." 

His Maps of Meaning is a long slog - but the way and manner in which he weaves his magical storytelling around the myths of belief is brilliant listening. 

Again he is narrating.

I went to see him once with my nephew at the O2 in London where he was in discussion with Sam Harris prodigious author and major voice of Reason who runs a podcast called Waking Up. 

I am a great fan - read most of what he has written. His work on meditation as a practical tool for life is impressive.

The discussion was moderated by Douglas Murray a contributor to many journals and books of his I have read - The Strange Death of Europe and War on the West.



Finding an equilibrium of physical health and emotional well-being is not easy – but there's the challenge.

Aristotle’s Challenge

 “Anyone can become angry

 – that is easy.

But to be angry

with the right person,

to the right degree,

at the right time,

for the right purpose

and in the right way

 – that is not easy”.

Moral Animal.jpg
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