That our feelings are dynamic and energetic is easy to demonstrate. Just envision a time you became frustrated or angry and impulsively struck a wall or some piece of furniture. Or consider how drained one can become when worrying about a loved one if that person’s health takes a turn for the worse. Take the energy released from crying, or by a good belly laugh, or that liberated during sexual activity. The amount of energy involved can be immense.
We might picture one of our greatest feelings – joy – as a radiation of happy energy, out into the world, and one of our worst feelings – despair – as an inhibition of energy as the individual recedes into him or herself. That sense of movement is reflected in the word “emotion” itself, which comes from the Latin emovere, meaning “to move from” or “to move out of.” Such movement is characterized by actual changes in activity within our bodies. Changes in the body's chemical profile…changes in the organs…changes in the degree of muscle contractions…and changes in our neural circuitry. In sum, change connotes movement, and movement connotes energy.
While we use calories to measure the intake and expenditure of physical energy, there is no currently accepted “scientific” way to delineate emotional energy. However, an attempt to capture it linguistically has been attempted by many cultures and philosophies, centrally tied to concepts of health and healing. The Hindus call embodied energy prana, the Chinese know it as qi. Freud found something he termed the libido and, around the same time as Freud, a French philosopher named Henri Bergson called it élan vitale, or “life force.” Whatever we choose to call it, it seems to protect people from the debilitating effects of stress.
This energy, this e-motion, also ties us together. It’s rather like a national currency.
Our bills and coins go everywhere and are handled by everybody. We may feel flush with cash one day, relatively empty the next, but we feel something as long as we’re alive. Those feelings are part and parcel of who we are as living beings, as embodied selves who have a personality and the ability to make conscious decisions.
Consider the proposition that feelings are like water. Picture any given feeling as a flow of clear, cold water, rippling through the body, in continuous motion.
In people whose boundaries are thinner, that flow is quicker and more direct. In people who have thicker boundaries, the flow is slower and less direct. Remember, though, that each one of us is psychosomatic – that is, our minds and our bodies are effectively one. Given the differences inherent in boundary type, we can imagine that the stream of feeling will meander different places, and cause different effects, from person to person. In one person, it may pool in a particular locale or ripple over into a tributary. In another person, it may cascade freely. In a third person, the flow may be dammed up.
An especially thin boundary person will seem to be highly sensitive, reactive, even “flighty” because his or her feelings flow quickly through the organism. An especially thick boundary person will, in contrast, appear aloof, imperturbable, even “dull” because his or her feelings proceed more slowly. And while some feelings are wont to register in our awareness, others – the more intensive or threatening kind – can be shunted aside, repressed or denied.