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Emotions and feelings according to Damasio: attempt to a summary

ARTICLEPeters, Hans - 47–1 (2009)

SUMMARY

For me, the column that De Haas published in this journal under the title, ‘Client-centered psychotherapy, an art in itself’ (2007) landed in fertile soil. That is because I have been occupying myself lately with the study of two works by Antonio R. Damasio (2004a; 2004b) on the neurobiological foundation of feelings and emotion.
Although De Haas (2007) makes a strong case for the recognition of an intuitive approach in psychotherapy, he does not offer further details to fill in this concept, nor does he provide proper placement in our human functioning. This, I assume, makes him vulnerable to those that emphasize protocolled and quantifiable action and in fact demand that the existence of intuitive action be (scientifically) proven.
Damasio (makes an attempt to) answer(s) this issue in his hypothesis of the somatic marker. Before I venture deeper into this topic, I think that it useful to describe what Damasio understands by feelings and emotions, how they are related to each other, and what place they occupy in human existence. The first part of the article is mainly based on Damasio’s ‘Looking for Spinoza. Joy, sorrow and the feeling brain’ (2004b), which forcefully leads me to also treat Damasio’s take on the self and subjectivity. The second part departs from Damasio’s ‘Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain’ (2004a).

KEYWORDS

feelings, emotions, neurobiology, psychotherapy

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