What causes our emotions to happen? We know that they are centered in the limbic system of the brain. But what causes the intensity of those emotion? What determines the intensity of some specific emotion? What allows another person to tune into that frequency and feel what you are feeling and the intensity that you are feeling?

One example is when someone has died. You walk into the room; you can feel the sorrow; part of you shares in that sadness and you are experiencing someone else’s emotion. The intensity you feel is based on your relationship with the departed and with their family. And you often leave feeling that you have lost a part of yourself. Why? It is more than just confronting our own mortality.

This weekend I had the opportunity to be in Boston for the Marathon. Saturday and Sunday were full of excitement and anticipation. But come Monday, everything changed. I am not a runner, or walker, and while Joel, my husband, went down to watch the runners, I stayed in our apt watching TV so that I could learn about the marathon and see the lead runners who were being followed by the TV cameras. When Joel got back, we went out into the crowds to be part of it. 

The emotion was different than on Saturday and Sunday and so thick you could cut it with a knife. In the movie Finding Nemo, the birds would say “mine, mine, mine” when there was fish or something they wanted. The Boston population were silently chanting “ours, ours, ours.” There was a pride you could feel; that you shared in. They took back what belonged to them. And until the race started, it was still theirs, still the terrorists. But now, they had been eradicated and the city and the strength of everyone who walked those streets was palpable and undeniable with the pride of ownership; with the strength that comes from that ownership. They called it Boston Strong.

Why could I feel it? How did I know it was there? How could I decipher the message and know that was the message and not something I was imagining or pretending was there? I don’t know. I don’t understand what works in our brains that allow us that ability. All I know is that it was real.