Emotions: A Physical Exploration

What follows is something completely different from anything I think I’ve written before. It was partly an exercise in fictional writing, for description, and partly an exercise in getting in touch with the physicality of my emotions. All of our emotions come with physical manifestations, and much of the time we just completely forget about that or ignore it. Here I have portraits of a few emotions told as fully as possible in descriptions of a body. Enjoy 🙂

 

Sadness

I get sad when I’ve lost something, when I know it’s not coming back. He left last night, and I know he’s gone for good. It always starts with exhaustion, but there’s more. The sadness comes in waves. My mind will wander for a moment, and then suddenly my breath will catch and my throat will constrict and my eyes will burn with tears. I have to focus on my mouth to breathe evenly, and I’m left with my mouth hanging slackly open, growing dry. My face is numb, as if I have no control over it, except when the crying happens, and then it contorts crazily. The pain is dull, burning, aching in my chest. My muscles are tight and my throat won’t allow swallowing. But there are moments when it rips through me and it feels as if there are splinters through my sternum, holding the breath inside me, leaving me ragged and weak. I have no energy to move my limbs. My eyes won’t blink and they won’t focus. My head feels stuffed full of fuzz, blocking all clarity. And my poor stomach is left uncertain of which way to turn, running from growling hunger to boiling nausea in seconds. I forget when I’m sad that my body takes the brunt of it, but each moment of sadness comes with a plethora of physical surprises, aches and pains and breathlessness. I need to put my body back together.

 

Disgust

Disgust starts deep. It’s a roiling, sickening feeling. If I concentrate, I can feel my insides turning and rumbling. It builds quickly into a twitchiness, a dissatisfaction with my skin which suddenly crawls and pinches. It’s too tight, it prickles. My stomach feels like it’s bulging, like it’s grown, like it has expanded beyond all measure. I want to pick at things, rip my nails off, rip myself out of my body. My hands clench and scratch. I chew the insides of my mouth. I feel as if I cannot speak. My mouth has stopped working. Words bubble up, feeling like bile, and then dissipate before I can do anything with them. My face pulls downwards. My body has gone out of control, shutting down and boiling up, full of energy and heat and tenseness. My whole chest tightens, my jaw clenches. I can feel each set of muscles flinching in turn. My body feels as if it’s trying to expel something, but it can’t decide what. It’s an attack from within.

 

Pride

Pride is a rarity, and so I savor the few moments I realize what it is. It’s hard to identify the pieces that make it up though, as I am rarely exposed to them. The first sign is always the impossible curling up of my whole face. I try to hold it in. I try to keep myself from grinning, but I can’t. My face feels like it needs to take up more space, and who am I to deny it? My eyes crinkle and sparkle and dart and smile. Everything moves upwards, lighter, emptier and yet fuller: full of energy and full of strength and full of power, but empty of contamination and pain and weight. My body waits for someone to recognize, full of potential energy, ready to jump up, to bound at a moment’s notice. My chest feels almost in pain with too much space, my heart beats hard and strong, my blood flows quickly. My eyes dart, they can see too much, they can move too quickly. I bounce slightly. I cannot quite keep still.

 

Happiness

Happiness is pure energy. My mouth can’t move fast enough to get the words out, my body can’t move fast enough to bounce everywhere I’d like to go. I grin wickedly. I dance. I cannot sit, I cannot lie, I need to move.  I feel as if I have expanded to encompass the universe, and yet I feel grounded, solid in my chair, my feet firmly against the ground. I can breathe deeply. My lungs have expanded. My shoulders spread outwards, making me larger than my normal hunched silhouette. I look up, confidently meeting eyes. Sometimes I need to bite my lip to keep from exploding in a grin. My foot bounces up and down, my fingers drum a rhythm on the tabletop in front of me. Everything is moving so fast, my whole body has been placed on caffeine pills, nothing will ever slow me down and my mind will never stop demolishing every problem before it. I am veritably humming with everything my body wants to do. There’s no way it could end.

Anger

Anger turns inwards. It’s deadly calm. Painfully so. Outwardly, anger is silence. A face that will not express. Terse words, sarcastic tones, refusal of eye contact. A bored fiddling with my rings or my fingers or the couch. My muscles have seized up, I have no control over them. With great effort I may be able to turn my head to look at someone, but otherwise I am trapped. My heart pounds painfully. My throat constricts. Tingles run down my arms. I feel fit to bursting. Everything in my body has gone crazy: my chest feels as though it might explode, blood pounds, my head aches, my eyes sting, everything has gone to chaos. And yet outwardly there is simply stone.

 

Anxiety

I am ripping. My heart goes upwards, my stomach down. My throat pulls in and out. My head is splitting with headache. My body cannot decide where to run. I must curl up to hold myself together, shaking, sniffling, clenching, rocking. My shoulders turn inwards as I become smaller, smaller, trying to contain myself. I bite my lip, hard. I grab at a blanket, balling my hands into fists. My body has turned against me and I feel a burning rage against it, the desire to cut my skin, to bruise myself, to burn myself. I can’t bear to look at my skin. I scrunch my eyes closed, rubbing my eyelids until light bursts form. I’m full of nervous energy, my legs want to run or bike, my arms want to lift. I flex to remind myself I still have muscles.  My breath comes in fits and bursts, and there is a pressure behind my ears. My body feels distant for all its chaos. My perception drifts, and my eyes go soft when I try to focus. I blink rapidly, wishing I could return. But the pain of my body keeps me away.

One thought on “Emotions: A Physical Exploration

  1. Barrett Vann says:

    This is an excellent exercise! I think a lot of times, it’s easy for writers to get stuck in the heads of the characters they’re writing, esp if it’s a free indirect discourse type narration, or to forget to show little physical cues of emotion in characters outside the narrative voice. Remembering the linkage and how it works is important, and evocative; these worked very well, I thought, just as snapshots of what it’s like in the moment of *feeling*.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s