“Precise respiratory-posturo-facial patterns are related to specific basic emotions”


By Susana Bloch & Madeleine Lemingnan

Institut de Neurosciences – CNRS

Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris

The study of emotions has been approached from different directions. Psychotherapists are mainly concerned with the experiential aspects of emotions and do not put the stress on the physiological processes involved. Experimental psychologists deal with the more 'measurable' characteristics of emotions, and social psychologists with their communicative role, both ignoring the so to say 'non measurable' subjective arousal. Finally physiologists are interested in the electrophysiological, chemical or neurohumoral elements, but for obvious reasons, mainly in the animal model thus necessarily eliminating the possibility to look at the subjective processes co-occurring. On the other hand, direct practitioners either work with the body (Alexander, Feldenkrais, Rolfing) or the voice, or the breathing. As a consequence of these different approaches a fragmentation of the emotional event has resulted and a dualistic body-mind view about emotions keeps emerging. Such dualism is even present in the terminology which differentiates feelings from emotions, as if they were separate processes. By simple common experience though, we know that whether the arousing emotional situation comes from the external or internal world, the evoked feeling is generally accompanied by modifications in facial expression, direction of gaze, body posture (all expressive components of an emotion) as well as by certain changes in visceral functions (increase in heart rate, stomach contraction, changes in respiratory rate, 'redness' or pallor of the skin ... ), even if we are not always aware of them. The theories which try to explain how emotional states are triggered range from those which postulate that emotions are determined by a cognitive appraisal of the situation, to those in favor of the notion forwarded by William James which states that emotions are a direct consequence of the perception of bodily changes (James, 1884). We would like to define an emotion as a complex and dynamic functional state of the entire organism, triggered by an external or internal stimulus, integrated in the central nervous and 31 BEWEGEN & HULPVERLENING 1992/1 31-40 neuroendocrine systems, involving simultaneously a particular group of effector organs (visceral, humoral, neuromuscular) and a subjective experience (feeling).




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