Visualizing Emotions

Feeling emotions means seeing myself in different settings, each reflecting – to me at least – the nature of the sensation. This is obviously a consequence of a visual mode of thinking: my conscious identification and comprehension of my emotional state is driven by my recognition of the specific mental imagery.

To feel happiness is to take to the air, flying through the limitless skies with velocity in proportion to the degree of pleasure. Happiness is a strong, bright yellow like the summer sun, daffodils, buttercups or gorse flowers.

As happiness shades into ecstasy or excitement then the flight becomes aerobatic: swooping, twisting and turning through the air. There is an invigorating surge of glittering bubbles like swimming through the fizz of champagne.

In contrast, sadness is a leaden dullness, an unrelieved monotony of gray emptiness. Little or no motion, no possibility of escaping gravity’s pull that tethers me to the ground. Everything moves so slowly as if mired in a morass, and it takes such effort to overcome the inertia.

As sadness deepens into despondency and despair, so the gray darkens, chasms opening beneath my feet as I slip down, deeper and deeper into the abyss with what faint light there is steadily diminishing overhead, dwindling and fading to a point that eventually becomes imperceptible from the gloom all around. Add hurt – pain – to this and the edges become hard and sharp, pressing in on me, trapping me in their constrictions before piercing into and through me as the intensity becomes unbearable.

Fear is cold; a blue/white arctic landscape through which the wind blows relentlessly, sculpting the ice into faerie castles with towers like scimitars, and whipping the snow up into blizzards. As I begin to panic I am picked up by the wind, and left falling endlessly, arms thrashing in vain as I try to slow and stop my irresistible descent.

Anger is a curious one. Other people speak about “seeing red”; however I cannot honestly say that red is associated with the feeling for me. Anger is a huge black and silver steam locomotive, belching smoke from its stack and spouting prodigious jets of steam from its pistons as it speeds, unstoppable, along gleaming straight steel rails, wheels flashing so quickly that they are just a blur, making the very earth tremble with its immense power and trailing an immense white plume back along its path. This thundering titan seems to me to be the embodiment of dreadful might.

And finally, calm – serenity, peaceful solitude – is walking through woodland on a balmy summer’s day, sunlight filtering through the lush green canopy to project dappled shadows on the gray/green/brown tangle of the undergrowth. Not another person around; it is just me and the creatures of the woods – birds fluttering among the branches, squirrels bounding sinuously up trunks and along the limbs. Perfect natural harmony all around me.

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