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Emotions vs. Feelings

Do you know the difference between emotions and feelings? Most believe that they are synonymous, but they are actually quite different.

Emotions are automatic responses to environment, occurring in the subcortical regions of the brain, (amygdala and the ventromedial prefrontal cortices). These responses create biochemical reactions in your body.

Emotions are physical. The root word is ‘motion’, implying visible changes in physiology. Examples include:

  • The hair stands up on the back of your neck.

  • Tears well up in your eyes.

  • Facial expression changes involuntarily.

If you observed these ‘motions’ in a person, you might correctly say, “They are having an emotional reaction.” If you were to observe no visible changes in a person’s appearance, you might say they are “unemotional”, or “unmoved”.

So then, if that’s what emotions are, what are feelings?

Feelings originate in the neocortical regions of the brain and are reactions to emotions. Unlike emotions, they are subjective, influenced by personal experience, beliefs, and memories.

Imagine that you are walking down an alley at night and the street light blows out. There is a loud noise and a bright flash, followed by shattered glass and glowing embers falling to the ground… then darkness. Immediately, your body produces physiological responses to this event: emotions. Your body tightens up, your facial expression changes, and your pulse rate spikes. Next, the belief system that you have created in your mind interprets the emotions and produces feelings. The naturally-occurring feeling in this situation would be fear.

The complete chain of events would therefore be:

  1. Circumstance

  2. Emotional response in the body

  3. Thoughts and beliefs interpret the emotions

  4. Feelings result

Now imagine this same scenario, but this time you work for the local power company and you were dispatched to this alley to replace the street light. It’s your last task for the day, and you have an important dinner date when you are finished. What would have otherwise been a simple job will now take much longer. The instant the light blew out, your body experienced the same startled emotional response, but because of your mindset, the feelings produced are completely different. Perhaps you would feel disappointment and frustration, but not fear.

So we see that our mindset produces our feelings. Armed with this knowledge, how can we apply it to our lives?

People come for counseling because they have unpleasant feelings. Simply put, they want to be happy. They mistakenly believe that if their circumstances improve, they will be happy. What follows this belief is the fruitless and frustrating process of trying to change another person’s behavior. Once they finally realize that this is impossible, their mind turns to divorce; a ‘way out.’ Most believe that happiness will be found when they meet ‘the one.’

Happiness is not found by being with ‘the one’, it is found by being ‘the one.’ We are wise to turn our full attention toward ourselves as we strive to make changes.

Our partner is not the enemy. Negative Sentiment Override is the enemy.

Negative Sentiment Override means that regardless of whether the environmental stimulus is negative, neutral, or positive, our mind converts it into something negative. This is an incredibly common condition. The mind fixates on some negative aspect of a person or relationship, and no matter what they do or say, we have a negative feeling towards them.

Current research has defined and quantified this process. If a human mind meditates on a particular thing for just 7 minutes per day for 63 days, a new permanent neuropathway is formed in the brain. After this point, the mind automatically thinks the same thought, and produces the same feelings. This is true whether the mental interpretation of the stimulus is negative, neutral, or positive.

By reverse-engineering this process, we have the power to permanently reprogram our physical brain. We have the choice to automatically produce feelings of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and gentleness… if that is our desire.

Here’s how.

Make a list of 50 positive and true things about your partner. The first 10 will come in seconds, the next 10 may take some time to recall. The final 30 will require much thinking, and this process is literally creating new neuropathways in your brain. Stay at it. Set an alarm in your smartphone for a daily reminder to read through this list, adding to it constantly. Spend at least 7 minutes per day doing this, and in 63 days you will find in yourself a transformed heart and attitude.

A couple came to me that had been married for 40 years. They described their marriage as ‘terrible’, but each of them had the dogged determination to stick it out; at least until now. After a lifetime of suffering, each had finally reached the breaking point and were seriously discussing divorce. As they turned their energies toward this homework project, in time their entire attitude changed. They rediscovered long forgotten beauty, and came to recognize many positives from their recent history that they had heretofore been powerless to see. They released themselves from the bondage of old thought-habits, and replaced them with truths that produced much happier feelings.

They are going to be just fine.

All the current research in psychology only proves the bible to be true. Thousands of years ago, God’s word taught that "the battlefield is in the mind". It asks us to "renew our mind by the washing of the word". (Meditate on the truths of scripture) It teaches that Satan has no real power over us, other than to plant deceptive ideas in our mind that lead us to make decisions that harm us and others. If we meditate on his temptations, we literally become our own worst enemy. We divorce, believing that "someone else out there" will make us happy. Don’t buy the lie; research studies prove this isn’t true. We can do much better than that; cooperate with the truths found in the Bible.


Phil 4:8 Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.

Romans 8:6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

1 Corinthians 2:16 We have the mind of Christ

John 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit.

(You receive a gift and it is immediately yours. Fruit takes time to grow. 63 days)

Gal 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

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