In which direction do our "feelings" and "thoughts" go? Yes, as it turns out "both" is the somewhat-inevitable answer, but I still thought this was interesting to puzzle through this morning. (An aside on defining those words: "feeling vs thought" can over-simplistically map to "body vs brain" dualism, but even in a unified mind-body system view they still map to something like "unconscious vs conscious" that we model as "lower vs higher" in the evolutionarily-layered-brain strata of our processing.) (Another clarification of my vocabulary: I'm using "emotion" as mad/glad/sad/afraid, a small set of raw bodily-associated things, while "feeling" is a wider variety of more mental-heavy things that can involve judgements of ourselves and our emotions)

On the one hand, there's a pipeline from raw sensory data to meaning, something like [sensation -> emotion -> feeling -> analysis -> action]. Data rising upward, info/signal from our body, which we then interpret and act on, something like that.

But then there's the other direction, something like [interpersonal feeling -> core feeling -> emotion -> behavior] (ref). This feels downward through the brain layers, starting from fairly complex social interpretations and getting down to visceral bodily experience.

I think I grew up more with the downward flow, looking to rationalism and trying to control what feelings I felt by thinking the thoughts I wanted to think. Later in life, I discovered more of the upward flow, ala The Body Keeps the Score and EMDR and Unlocking the Emotional Brain etc. Now aware of the large sections of my own mind-body system underneath the surface of normal conscious thought, listening to the upward flow is interesting and rewarding.

Action/behavior shows up in both flows - why do we do things? UtEB and aligned models like Bio-Emotive Framework point primarily to the way that behavior and action, both within and outward from our body, is connected to our emotion. This seems like it's emphasizing the downward flow as primary. But I really think they point not to a "direction of flow" as the answer to how humans work, but rather the existence and significance of, I'll just say "subconscious emotional memory." (In my experience one hears the word "trauma" a lot in this space, but the positive side of feeling safe and cozy can live there too.)

Those lower-layer encodings connect, then, to both of those directional flows of feelings and thoughts. We act unconsciously, driven by our lower-layer cognitive patterns. We act consciously, driven by our conscious conclusions and intentions. I wonder how much that maps with Kahneman's systems 1 and 2? Probably a lot. In the latter/system2 case, those embodied feelings are percolating up and setting the contextual framing that our aware thought is thinking within. In the former/system1 case, we are "acting instinctively/emotionally" and it's easier to see that.

So then "emotional processing" frameworks that really work, as we've collectively discovered just in the past decade, work by getting at those embodied memories and finding ways to access them, open them up, and reconsolidate those memories differently. "Behavior" in the downward flow includes "bury this association as an emotional trigger". "Sensation" in the upward flow includes "triggering these emotions and feelings from memorized associations". The two directions of flow are actually a (temporally-disjoint) loop, a cycle - and when we get awareness and access to/of this whole cycle, then we see how things can move!