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Emotions and the Autonomic Nervous System

Stewart Wolf, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1970;126(6):1024-1030. doi:10.1001/archinte.1970.00310120086013.
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The frequent association of manifestations of physiological dysfunction with overt emotional disturbance has led to the widely accepted but confusing proposition that emotions are the cause of bodily reactions. The confusion is further compounded by the difficulty of defining an emotion. Different writers use the term in different ways. Literally, the word implies movement of some sort, thus, an emotion is clearly a manifestation, not a cause. Many authors, however, equate the term with a feeling state. To them, an emotion is a sort of sensation or at least an awareness which may be pleasant or unpleasant; for example, joy, satisfaction, hope, and appetite as well as fear, anger, and resentment fall into the category of emotions. But, even in this context, emotion is not a stimulus, but is rather part of a reaction to some circumstance which is pleasing, frightening, or frustrating. Emotion is therefore not the cause of


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