It happens first in nursery school. Miss Betty squeezes a luscious blop of blue finger paint in this corner of the paper, and an equally delicious merengue of sunshine yellow in this corner – and the child, thrilled, splats both hands into that paint and starts to wax on, wax off. Oh, the bliss!

But wait – here in the middle. What’s happening??

Blue and yellow make GREEN!

Another child nearby, rich in the priceless luxury of older brothers and sisters, comments smugly, “Look – I can make purple from blue and red.” Gasps of awe, and a quick rush to orange. What a let-down that all three make only a boring brown… still, brown is a very useful color.

We learn early that just about every color we see in this stunningly chromatic world around us can be broken down to three basic pigments. Only in childhood, when every single moment is revolutionary, would such a discovery be regarded as happenstance. But now, with many long years between me and that nursery school revelation, I am bowled over anew. Three colors combined make – ALL THIS. Holy shit.

I’m thinking of that because I had my second biofeedback session today. Regina was talking about how biofeedback helps to interrupt patterns, and I immediately flashed on how much ice cream I’ve been eating lately; that’s a pattern I’d really like to interrupt.

(Think this isn’t going to relate to nursery school and finger paints? Keep reading.)

I covered the salient points: Chip the nutritionist had helped me curb my sugar jones with lots of information and a sugar reduction diet, and that had worked for months – but as I got closer to the anniversary of Jonathan’s death, I wasn’t holding myself to the highest standards. I’d keep exercising every day (and I have) but if I needed ice cream, I’d just eat it without worrying too much about it (which I have). Well – I worry about it. But I eat it anyway.

So now ice cream isn’t a coping mechanism; it’s a demand. A constant. And that’s a pattern I’d like to break – at least academically, for the next week or so.

Regina and I discussed the difference between the physical craving for sugar and the emotional craving. “But that’s the same thing,” she said.

“No,” I said patiently. “I got rid of the physical cravings with the sugar reduction diet; that worked. It was the habit – the emotion – that I couldn’t overcome.”

“Well – what do you think emotion is? It’s physiological.”

“It’s not physiological; it’s EMOTIONAL.”

Regina is a very nice human and she masked any smugness at all. “What do you think emotion is?” she repeated. “It’s chemical.”


“Dopamine,” she said. “Seratonin. Epinephrine. Cortisol. These neural messengers are what emotion is made of. You can map it, track it, identify it.”

“No way.”

“Yes, way. I’ll send you a link to a book called The Molecules of Emotion [I think that’s what it was called]. It’s fascinating.”

“Well…” I admit I was stumped. Speechless. Without giving it much thought, I’d separated emotion from chemistry. Emotion took place in the bizarro universe as blobs of thought floating around a clean, white, weightless room. Emotion AND thought – unconnected with the physical world. Regina was blowing my mind.

Finally I thought to ask – “How many neural messengers are there?”

“We can’t know yet. A lot.”

Wikipedia lists 27 of them, with at least two “etc.”, and that’s based on today’s understanding.

You can make every color you see with three primary hues; just how complex and intricate must emotions be when they’re made with AT LEAST 27 “colors?” Talk about a cook book – a blop of this, a little of that, a dash of those, and you’ve got the kind of nostalgia that makes you weep. Throw in an exciter and suddenly you’re dancing on the roof of a police car.


She had so much more to tell me today; I’m sort of dizzy with all that I’m learning. But the child in nursery school learning to mix colors was the easiest for me to grasp. I feel like Miss Regina just squirted a few exciting colors on my page. What’s going to happen next?!

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