D: Yaël, it’s almost lunch time, so we need to wrap up this episode quickly. It’s been a hectic morning; I’m not feeling like myself.
Y: [JOKINGLY] You’re not feeling crabby are you, Don?
D: You know how it is: we all get ‘hangry’ sometimes.
Y: Now, there’s an interesting word: “hangry.” You know it might be the stress of the morning mixed with your hunger that makes you feel that way.
D: How’s that?
Y: Well, it turns out that hunger doesn’t really cause negative emotions. It’s a bit more complicated.
D: My ‘hanger’ is complex, who knew?
Y: It’s interesting how that mix of emotions arises: it has a lot do with how you attribute your emotions to hunger. We’re prone to conflate the two as one general negative emotion.
D: But I’m not really focused on emotions right now.
Y: That’s what enables the mix-up. But you mentioned that you’ve been having a stressful day, right? That’s probably why you’re feeling crabby now that you’re hungry.
D: You’re saying that when I’m hungry, I’m not able to regulate my stress?
Y: No, not exactly. In fact, hunger doesn’t affect your ability to regulate your emotions. What happens is that other negative feelings that are preoccupying you can be attributed by the brain to your hunger. Those two negative feelings essentially meld into one concept in your brain.
D: Is there any way to separate my emotions from my hunger pangs?
Y: There’s a good bit of research that shows that when you focus on your emotions and label them, you’re more able to control them. How do you feel now?
D: Mostly just hungry.
Y: Oh, Don...let’s get some lunch.