Q&A: Emotions – Heart, Mind, and Body

Dear Josh,
I’m a little confused with this issue, someone at my workshop asked me this question so need more explanation on this!  She said that: usually we use a hearts as an icon to express love and feelings and now you said feelings come from brain (amygdala) not heart?
So please help me to understand this, I have another workshop in Riyadh this week.
Look forward hearing from you, Regards,
– Manal

Hi Manal!
It is true that our emotions seem to be primarily produced and regulated in the brain – the limbic region.  Emotion chemicals are assembled in the hypothalamus and then istock brain heartreleased through the pituitary gland, they then flow through the blood and then into EVERY cell in the body.  The picture (to the right) illustrates an important point — when we’re talking about chemicals that are released from the brain in the blood, notice how important the heart is!  The Amygdala responds to certain “distress” or “danger” feeling chemicals and amplifies the flight/fright/freeze reaction – it is the regulator of our defensive patterns — again leading to a cascade of chemicals (one leading to another leading to another) that floods through brain & into body… and back and forth.

Neurotransmitters (brain cells) function through chemicals + electricity – so there are also electrical currents flowing around the brain tied to emotion.

However, the SAME kinds of brain cells and chemicals which exist in the limbic brain surround our hearts – and around our stomachs and in our spines — so people often talk about our “four brains”: head, heart, gut, and spine.

Important to note:  The neuropeptides that we experience as emotion (“the molecules of emotion” as Candace Pert says) are also produced throughout our bodies!  So sometimes a feeling could start in our toes!  These chemicals form a feedback loop between brain and body — constantly cycling around and regulating the function of our systems.  One major function is to direct attention — our emotions tell us what’s important in our environment (and in our internal landscape).

And finally:  There is emerging research on the link between the heart and emotions.  The heart beat becomes more regular when we’re in a calm, focused state.  The heart itself produces electromagnetic energy which seems also to become more even and smooth when we’re in an optimal state of emotional-mental-physical function.

Thanks for asking – I’ll post this on the blog as well!
=:-)
– Josh

About the author - Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.

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