Oftentimes, I hear a person  in my office say, “I shouldn’t feel that way,” I don’t like that I have these bad feelings.”

They are down on themselves because they have a “bad” feeling. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling and, therefore, no basis to feel guilty about having one. Let me elaborate.

Let’s start with this. Do you know the difference between emotions and feelings? There is one. They are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected, but are two different things. Debbie Hampton has written an elucidating article about this, based on the wisdom of a few noted neuroscientists. 

EMOTIONS are lower level responses occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain, the amygdale and the ventromedial cortices, creating biochemical reactions in your body altering your physical state. Emotional reactions are coded in our genes.

FEELINGS: “Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain, are mental associations and reactions to emotions, and are subjective, being influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories. A feeling is a mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion. Feelings are the next thing that happens after having an emotion, involving cognitive input, usually subconscious, and cannot be measured precisely.”

Dr. Antonio D’Amasio, neuroscientist professor at the University of California, states it this way: “Feelings are mental experiences of body states, which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s response to external stimuli. (The order of events is: I am threatened, experience fear (emotion) and feel horror).”

While basic emotions are instinctual and common to us all, the meanings they take on and the feelings they prompt are individual based on your programming past and present. Feelings are shaped by a person’s temperament and experiences and vary greatly from person to person and situation to situation. 

Whew! You’re probably saying, “TMI” (Too Much Information)! The reason I share this information is I believe so strongly in the brain wiring process and I want you to understand it and take an active role in the continuing shaping of your brain, through the reality of neuroplasticity. It is important to know how you are brain wired so that you can understand what emotions and feelings that you have. Understanding this, you can make more enlightened choices as to the behavior you choose after these emotional and feeling states arise in your mind and body.

Bottom line here, and the basis for the headline of this article, is that emotions and feelings just happen. They are instinctual reflexes. You do not choose them. So quit feeling bad (a cognitive choice) about having a nasty feeling.

Let me use an example: Someone hurts someone you love. The EMOTION of anger arises. The FEELING of hate for that person comes next. Then the cognitive THOUGHT of wanting to hurt that person emanates (a BEHAVIOR). Then the next thought needs to be, don’t hurt that person or you’ll go to jail. And, hopefully you do not do the “bad” thing of violence.

So, Respected Reader, please never feel guilty about having a “bad” feeling, and don’t apologize for it. Only apologize if you do something “bad”. 

Dr. Stathas can be reached at 706-473-1780. Email: jstathas13@gmail.com. Website: drstathas.googlepages.com. Blog:  drstathas.com

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