Listen to your legs!

In my now classic and highly revered article “ What Is Emotion?” I noted interesting instances where mere thoughts can have pronounced effects on the body. At one point I described my personal experience…

For example, I recently hiked up a mountain near my house. As I stood atop a boulder overlooking the view, I observed some power lines that ran down the mountain and crossed just below me. As a kind of mental joke, I considered the possibility of leaping off the boulder and wrapping my sweater over the powerline so that I could literally slide down it as a kind of human ski lift. I had no serious intention of doing this, but even so, I could feel my body revolt. My viscera churned slightly and my chest got tight. What surprised me was the sensation in my knees. They tingled and weakened, almost as if my body was saying, “if you are considering this insane action, then I’m going to take away your ability to jump!”

Essentially I had an internal conflict. Part of me wanted to jokingly consider this action hero behavior, whereas another part of me, seemingly oblivious to my lack of seriousness, revolted.

I had an interesting, similar experience this weekend. I was up in LA, walking towards my old haunt, the cinema bar. Part of me was excited to return to a place of many happy memories, but there was also a part of me aware that there was a strong possibility I would run into people I have a lot of unresolved emotional conflicts with — ex-girlfriends and whatnot. (I actually did run into an ex there, but one whom with I get along quite well.) My legs didn’t go weak, but they got heavy, as if a part of my body was trying to cement me to the ground so that I would be incapable of movement.

Quite fascinating stuff really.

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