The physiological impact of emotion

I don’t experience anger very often, but the other day, for just a couple of minutes I was utterly outraged.

My colleague and I were exiting a paid parking lot. The woman in the car ahead of me was having trouble – the machine was not accepting her ticket. So she pulled ahead of the machine to the side where there is a bay for just such situations. I pulled up to the machine feed in my ticket and the boom duly opened. But the woman who had pulled over then pulled off and exited. The boom closed behind her and I was now trapped without a ticket.

I hooted loudly, and shook my fists. Fortunately a parking attendant was close at hand, I explained what had happened and he let me exit. As we were driving down the exit ramp discussing what had happened, we saw the woman again, driving back up the ramp. Clearly she had had second thoughts about her actions.

The whole thing unfolded in two or three minutes. As we drove back to work we chatted about what had happened. But the thing I was most aware of was my physiological response. I could feel the adrenaline coursing through my body. Because the woman had returned, it was clear she was remorseful. So the anger no longer had a legitimate focus.

I was left with the physiological residue of anger, but the emotion had gone. I didn’t know what to do except to continue with my day. About an hour later I found myself feeling utterly exhausted and in need of chocolate peanuts. After self-medicating in this way I felt a bit better.

The thing that I found kind of fascinating though, was the strength of the physiological response. Once the adrenaline was coursing through my body there was nothing to be done but to let it run its course. I would never have noticed the physical response had it not been for the fact that the trigger was over so quickly.

I’m left with a few questions:

1. How often does the physiological response continue to fuel the emotional response?

2. What impact do other emotional responses have on my body?

3. What is the long term impact of living in emotionally challenging circumstances?

One thought on “The physiological impact of emotion

  1. Hello, I too have had this experience of visceral emotion and I’ve found it thought-provoking as well. The first time was when my daughter was born and I had a sudden comradeship with a mother bear, a rush of chemicals that told me I was capable of attacking anything that tried to harm my “cub.” The other times have been experiences like yours, when I feel the blood pressure changes and heart pounding of instant anger. I’m sad to say that they’ve occurred only since I’ve passed age 40 (so much for wisdom that comes with age). I have only been able to reflect on how perhaps they’re reminders to me that I am matter as well as mind, although I live and work mainly in my head. Perhaps they’re reminders to mind my matter?

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