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Emotions Have Anatomy (Becoming Aware of Our Emotions)

Written by Erica Lucero, MSW Co-written and Edited by Magnolia Heaton, LCSW This article serves as an intro to support people in becoming aware of their emotions. Did you know that our emotions have their own anatomy? Emotions are very complex and can impact the way we think, feel and how we react to situations. Each emotion we experience sends our brain signals that stimulate a response and then trigger our thoughts, the sensations in our body, how the emotion makes us feel, and the urges when we have that are coupled with these feelings. It’s the old adage in psychology of “things that wire together fire together,” meaning that neurons (nervous system cells) are so interrelated, they impact many of the body systems at the same time, because the body is so interconnected.



Let’s think of an emotion and work through the anatomy. Think of the emotion and the feeling of being “sad.” When you are sad, what thoughts do you have? They may be thoughts such as “I never do anything right” or “I will never be good enough”. Our thoughts are prompted by the emotions we have. Take a deep breath. Now think about what sensations you have in your body when you are sad. You may feel heaviness in your shoulders, tightness in your chest, or stomach cramping. Pay attention to where you feel emotions in your body. Take a deep breath. Lastly, think about the urges you have with this emotion. When you think of sadness, what urges do you get? You may feel tired and want to sleep or you may have urges to cry. These are all part of the anatomy of emotion.


Our brain plays a crucial role in how we experience emotions. Being aware of how our emotions impact thoughts, feelings, sensations, and urges can serve as a tool to help bring self-awareness and emotional regulation. (Emotional regulation means being able to manage our feelings so that we can accomplish the goals and tasks we still need to accomplish, despite feeling our strong feelings).


Being self-aware of our emotions helps us understand why they make us feel the way they do. When we understand our emotions, we can begin to identify our reactions and urges when we are triggered. Often our emotions may cause us to have an immediate reaction that may sometimes not be helpful. When we are aware of our emotions, we can begin to identify why we are getting the urge to react and slow down the response so that we think through the emotion before we act. Lastly, being aware of our emotions helps us with communication as we are able to think through what we are thinking, feeling so that our urges do not take over and we can effectively express ourselves.

Trauma can feel very overwhelming because so many reactions, triggers, and responses wire and fire together. When we start to pay attention, we are able to start to make small shifts in our lives. When we do this, the small shifts add up and, over time, the trauma doesn’t feel as overwhelming.


Here is where you can get started in developing an awareness to your emotions:



There are many mindfulness meditations you can try online.


  • Self-reflection each day can be helpful in identifying your emotions. We can stop and pay attention to what we are feeling in our body through noticing what are our thoughts are and what our associated urges are. Keeping a journal can be a way to fully think through your emotions to become more aware of what you are feeling. Ultimately, this helps us identify patterns. Once we have patterns, we can start to shift our behaviors and our thoughts.


  • Seek therapeutic support. Integrating emotion-focused therapy can help guide you in developing self-awareness and emotion regulation.



Reference: Emotion Focused Therapy EET Eight-Session Protocol

#CBT #EFIT #EEFT #therapy #selfcare #selfawareness #emotions #selfregulation #PTSD #CPTSD Like this Blog Post? Give it a Like. If you have questions or would like to see specific topics, please leave a comment.

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