The physics class: thoughts and emotions

As educators, to make school relevant, we need to practically connect every subject to the daily lives of students.

I once substituted for a AP Physics class. Physics is a science dealing with energy, force, motion, and matter. I asked, “what are emotions?” After different responses, I explained that the etymology of the word emotions is “a motion”. Consequently, an emotion is a type of physiological motion.

Then I asked, “Since all motion, according to physics, must be generated by a force, what is the force that activates emotions?” After scattered responses, I said, “thoughts”. Thoughts activate emotions.

Thoughts are a force of material energy that causes a defined physiological motion we experience as emotions. The type of thought determines the type of emotion. Emotions then, are like colors, for as colors are just different frequencies of light energy, so are emotions just different frequencies of thought energy.

To demonstrate this, I conducted a simple activity. To show the relationship between thought and emotion, I asked the AP Physics students to think of a favorite song they enjoy listening to, and recall the intense emotions it generates. Then I asked them to imagine suddenly receiving a call from home with troubling news that deeply distresses them. I asked them to enter the emotions these new thoughts would stir. Next, I now asked them to imagine returning to their song.

Then I queried, “In view of the distressing news, would listening to this favorite song produce the same effect (emotions) as before?” They unanimously replied, “no!” I probed further, “why?” Then they realized, “because our thoughts are different.”

I went further, “Precisely. What caused the intense emotions we originally experienced was not the song, but the type of the thoughts we formed that interacted with it! And when we received the distressing news, our thoughts changed. So, when we returned to the song, the changed thoughts caused totally different emotions to stir, despite the same music playing! The music was constant, our thoughts were the variable cause, and our emotions the changing effect!”

The type of emotions we experience is not based on what happens to us, but the type of thoughts we form in reaction to it. The physics of life.

Naturally, there were many other elements to the lesson. But by the end of our session together, they admitted they had never been taught this simple connection between physics and their daily lives.

As educators, we owe students much more than one-sided intellectual theories.

~Ikenna Q. Ezealah, PhD

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