Feel it on purpose

Feelings versus Emotions

Feelings, yes, let’s talk about our feelings and not about emotions for a change. Although they are closely linked with each other, there is from a neuroscientific point of view, a difference that is interesting when you want to evolve on purpose.

Feelings are mental experiences of body states. In other words, feelings are experienced from within without (but not excluding) the need of a from-the-outside-perceived stimulus. For example, thirst, hunger, pain are all feelings. Anxiety, stress happiness, contentment, fulfilment and love are also feelings that can be experienced without a visual, auditive or any other sensory stimulus.

Emotions, on the other hand, are experiences mainly through our senses (vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell) and can trigger a feeling.

In an interview with Scientific American Mind magazine, neurologist Antonio Damasio (a leader in understanding the biological origin of consciousness) explains: “When we are afraid of something we see our hearts begin to race, our mouths become dry, our skin turns pale and our muscles contract. The emotional reaction (fear) occurs automatically and unconsciously. Feelings occur after we become aware in our brain of such physical changes; only then do we experience the feeling of fear.”

Thus, note that we can experience fear as a feeling (conscious experience of the internal state) or an emotion (unconscious experience triggered by a fear-inducing sensory stimulus), but there is no different name for it what makes it so damn complicated to keep feelings and emotions apart.

Maybe this illustration makes the a bit more comprehensible.

The nature of your feelings and emotions (adapted from *)

But why is this so important when you want to evolve on purpose? Yes, you may ask, and I will gladly tell you in the next blogs as I’m still digesting the information I’ve gathered to support my feelings (pun intended).

My task over the next few days will be to make sense of the following:

  • “Evolving on purpose” is a conscious choice and feelings are conscious experiences
  • Through feelings we can construct ourselves (A. Damasio) and that means for our purpose and reflection that we can futurize ourselves through our feelings.
  • On a neurologic level feelings can be found in the more primitive level of the brain- stem more recently evolved cerebral cortex (while emotions are more related to the limbic system).

In the meanwhile I would love to hear how you are feeling today?


Mind begins at the level of feeling. It’s when you have a feeling that you begin to have a mind and a self.

A. Damasio


* A. Damasio, G.B. Carvalho (2013). The nature of feelings: evolutionary and neurobiological origins. Nature Reviews Neuroscience 14(2):143-152 DOI: 10.1038/nrn3403

Feeling Our Emotions (2005): https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/feeling-our-emotions

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