Brain and Behavior


Do we always know what we are feeling?

Feeling something and knowing what we are feeling are two different things. In fact, the neuroscientist Antonio Damasio makes a distinction between emotion, which is the body’s physiological response, and feeling, which is the conscious experience of emotion. Infants are born with emotional responses—they are literally born crying. In contrast, the ability to recognize and verbally label emotion (“Oh, I’m feeling sad.”) is something that develops with age and is to some extent dependent on appropriate social feedback. Relatedly, the basis of psychodynamic psychotherapy is the idea that emotional maladjustment comes from lack of knowledge of one’s own emotions. The inability to recognize one’s own emotions is called alexythymia.


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