Ever feel like you’re walking on air? How about broken-hearted? Or lost for words?
There are some expressions we use about our emotions or our mental state that we usually don’t mean literally. They are shorthand for a variety of feelings, and everyone knows what they indicate.
But then you have one of those moments of ecstasy or despair and you realise how precisely the expression fits.
Heartbreak – the loss of a relationship, or other extreme emotional turmoil – really can give us pain in our chests. Coupled with a sense of grief and longing, it’s no wonder people feel as if their internal organs – principally the one we associate with romance – have been ripped apart.
Science-y types say it’s the emotional pain that triggers the stress-induced sensations in our chest: muscle tightness, increased heart rate, abnormal stomach activity and shortness of breath. In fact, emotional pain involves the same brain regions as physical pain, suggesting the two are inextricably connected.
There’s less explanation for the feeling of walking on air when you are ecstatically happy, though. I scoured the internet (well, the first two pages of Google results, anyway) and couldn’t find much more than worried questions about MS and vertigo.
But I have a distinct memory, following a moment of euphoria, of thinking, “This is what they mean about walking on air!” as I floated along.
It’s probably an endorphine thing and I could produce the same effect by going running or taking morphine, neither of which are likely to happen in the near future.
As for being lost for words: unless you have suffered a brain injury, this is likely to be a temporary state associated with shock. A traumatic experience locks the body down into a low energy state, and out go the language functions.
Anyway, I guess these expressions came about because the feelings they describe are common to humanity. You just have to live through enough ups and downs to experience them. I’ll remember that, though, next time I use the phrase “mind blown”.