Choice and Biology – Where Emotions and Behaviors Come From

Three Legged Race

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I left the light on outside, waiting for my husband to come home.  He was gone, though, to a meeting and wouldn’t be back until Friday.  Some bit of automatic thought current made me flip the light switch and before I realized what I’d done, I flushed.

My husband’s eyes aren’t good and he doesn’t see well without a light.  I can.  I don’t “see” so to speak, but somehow I know where things are and can find my way in the dark.  I’m not a bobcat.  I just remember the way things look by the emotions I felt around them.  This is what was happening that night.

I flipped the switch and there he was.  Walking toward the door.  Distracted.  Fitting his key; almost home.  This was all in the moment that it took me to feel happy and then disappointed remembering he was away.

I turned the light off then because I’m not daft.  But it made me think about what sets our behaviors and emotions in motion.  In that moment, finger to the switch, up, anticipation and disappointment – in that moment, I didn’t choose what happened by the cultural definition of choice.  I responded to patterns that many choices I’d made before had laid down.  Tracks in my brain, hedged and maintained by recurring choices, along with design; my emotions and behaviors also an expression of my temperament.  These moved with each other.  But were they moving along the way we generally think of them, like a three-legged race?

Who was leading who?  Trip.  Get up!

One, two, one, two.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  

And in that moment, my layers of choices were counting out with my biology, “One, two!”  There I was, participant and audience.

When we think about where emotions and behaviors come from, culturally we view them as if they are awkwardly related.  As if biology and choice are tied together at the ankles, about to trip each other up.  We call out to them, hoping somehow they might not show the public how little they know of each other’s rhythms.

But you can see the ridiculousness of this.  Choice and biology are in no way separate.  Design forbids it.  The question of where emotions and behaviors come from in itself reveals our confusion.  They come from the same place.

I can hear the concern that this eliminates free-will.  Answer …”But why?”

After these thoughts that night, I turned the light back on.  I preferred how I felt when I thought my husband might arrive soon.  I chose I guess.  What else could I do?

Questions:  What does it mean to you to fuse choice and biology in the discussion of emotions and behaviors?  How does your culture view this?  Does this affect the way you care for yourself?

Self-Care Tip #282 – Don’t deny the choice available to you to feel and behave as you wish, where that wish surfaced from and the tools you use to make them.

6 thoughts on “Choice and Biology – Where Emotions and Behaviors Come From

  1. I have wished for a long time to be able to separate my behaviors from my emotions, I have never succeeded. My emotions always affect my behaviors and vice versa, it’s like a ball & chain.


  2. I don’t know about biology and emotions and culture, but I also miss my ex-husband a lot, even after nine years. I find myself momentarily thinking things about him, like say he is going to love what I am cooking, or he is going to be pleased when he sees what I’ve done. I dream about him almost nightly. At first I used to think it was a curse; those dreams made me cry often. But now they are comforting because they remind me of the love we once shared.
    So, I wouldn’t mind leaving the night light on, even if to feed a momentary fantasy.


    • wow LV. i thought of your comment all afternoon since u wrote. of course i never knew this about u and it made me feel like wrapping a blanket around each of us against the cold out there. i’m sorry u’ve been lonely and also celebrate w u your life experiences. u spoke w a sense of presence that inspires. keep on.


      • LOL… my dream last night was that he was a con-artist; D was ten years older than he had said; has had many wives and families; his name D was not his real name; his sweat family and hateful sister were there too; he carried a bunch of different IDs, different pictures of families… LOL… I have never had such a funny dream about him; like a TV show…
        I wonder what the next chapter will bring… LOL… Marie.
        PS Thanks for such a thoughtful answer.


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