Podcast episode 16 - released 6th September 2021

Click here! 'Get Up and Go' got up and gone?

Emotional Systems Podcast

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In this podcast, we explore the incredible world of the emotional systems present in humans and animals alike. Dr Jess Bolton, a Clinical Psychologist with over 20 years experience, shows you that your emotional systems are as vital to health as the physiological systems you are so familiar with. Just as we can't live without our respiratory or renal systems - mammals also don't survive without assertiveness and play systems.  By investigating these systems we can share the science without getting caught in the web of mental health labels and disorders. Ready to see your life and the world through a very different lens? 

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Underneath the symptoms labelled as disorders are the emotional systems that direct life.   Dr Jess Bolton shares her commitment to you in this podcast, to combine a non-pathologising approach with fascinating insights from science, clinical and personal experience.

A brief history of how emotional systems have evolved to solve challenges faced every day by humans and other animals.  Meet the interweaving and powerful emotional systems which have developed over half a billion years to help us deal with whatever life throws at us.  

The fundamental emotional system that you have never heard of! Yours is activated right now, become more alert and aware of the system characterised by “persistent exploratory inquisitiveness”.  After this episode, you will never look at an acorn in the same way again. 

Investigating the role of interoception for paying careful attention to the seeking system.  A conversation between Dr Jess and psychotherapist, Charley Lee, as they unpack a journey through ‘depression’ and self-attack to the pleasure and challenge of following our own trail. 

Do you feel it building or do you only know how you feel after you have exploded?  Dr Jess shares a personal exploration of the strength and power of the assertiveness system, with an encouragement to listen to the strong voice within you and a health warning about some of the dangers of both neglect and projection.   

What happens as we feel more empowered, ready to be present in our world and assert ourselves? Does it feel powerful or exciting? Or does anxiety, doubt or a mechanism that puts us down get activated? Finding our learning edge is vital in making room for ourselves and each other. Dr Jess Bolton and Charley Lee share their personal experiences and professional perspectives

Step by step we investigate the power of the safety system within the human body –a system which enables us to survive in desperate times and is our key to thriving. As a human baby, you had an innate capacity to move away from or freeze around life threatening situations; and we innately move towards safety. When we are safe the blood can flow freely in our brains and bodies, bringing flexibility, integration and conscious understanding of our world.

Exploring the relationship between safety and connection, Dr Jess Bolton and Charley Lee discuss anxiety disorders and elephants, and the impact of being unsafe on learning and thinking.  The importance of connection with ourselves and others is discussed, and they face the complex challenge of feeling safe in our times. 

A guide to help you feel safer in this moment, so we can deal with the problems we have with a clearer mind and a calmer body. Some fabulous practices and suggestions with a constant encouragement to collect your own data and find your own way. There is no perfect or right way, to go about it, but in 20 minutes you might have some tricks up your sleeves for overwhelming or terrifying moments ahead. Accompanying blog is here.

Distinguishing panic, fear, anxiety and worry; then sharing the incredible power that can come from harnessing the energy of our experience of panic. Dr Jess gives you insights into panic that may just turn it on its head for you. Sharing her own experiences with panic after losing a loved one, another adventure into the empowering world of emotional systems awaits within. Accompanying blog is here. 

Guiding you forward, disentangling guilt and shame, this episode takes us on an activating adventure with the powerful system that moves us towards what feels good.  Spotting the difference between wholesome and soul nourishing experiences, and when it is lust not love.  And she might be British but she isn’t shying away from talking about the importance of early genital play – so don’t miss this next episode of a life changing journey through your emotional systems. 

Exploring the importance of feeling good ‘just because’ and how feeling good, feels incredible when all other emotional systems are activated in an approach position. Named as the LUST system by Panksepp, they talk about seeing this system more broadly as helping us differentiate what is good for us and what is not. There are powerful ripple effects for paying careful attention to experiences using the important lens of the emotional systems. 

In this special episode, Dr Jess reads excerpts from her upcoming book exploring the emotional systems. Feeling fragile but determined to be present while grieving the unexpected loss of her father, she will continue to release these special episodes every three weeks during this time and return to the usual format in the autumn.

Look inside, explore what is happening underneath. Your seven emotional systems are your birthright, as essential as your cardiovascular system and immune system. Beyond thoughts and beyond ideas, these are seams that run deep within you. Ready to connect more powerfully to your genetic inheritance… so you can more effectively direct your mind and direct your life? Ready to connect deeply, experience freedom and aliveness? 

Pay careful attention to what is outside of you... we are who we are because of our connections as much as the mind and body we identify as us. And to help us pay close attention to both inside and outside - the seeking system readies us for everything - it's the system that guides us forwards in our life. Be prepared to feel more curious and ready for adventure after this week's episode!

What happens when our get up and go has got up and gone? Insights into depressive symptoms, obsessional responses, substance misuse and workaholism come in this deep dive into the challenges of dealing with loss and losing our mojo. Be ready to challenge your understanding of 'depression' and see what shows up for you as you listen to the suggestions for how to deal with the opportunities that show up when your 'get up and go' is taking time out! 

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Music activates emotional systems, it helps to sooth, stir, process and reveal emotions.

These emotional systems playlists can give space for strengthening the emotional systems that you want to be stronger, or for processing emotions present in you today

There is a time and place for all parts of the continuum; the challenge comes as we try to find the right response at the right time in the right way.

Be You 👤👥 🌍:

A call to attend to and respond to your complex and powerful seven emotional systems. Listen here. The first song on this playlist is: 

32 Flavours by Ani Di Franco - 

the artist introduced to my 19 year old self by a soul mate, she has been with me along my adult journey. The phoenix I so identify with is within this song; listen to the unapologetic encouragement to be you and rise up after, during... (because of!) set backs and challenges. The song does a wonderful job of separating self from others’ opinions, others’ envy, others’ issues. 

It is full of warmth, love, gratitude, giving and yearning for connection. And it has a gentle yet powerful assertiveness. No unidimensional simplifications here, a song that embraces reality and complexity.

“I am beyond your peripheral vision.”

Take a moment of quiet awe... we are each more than anyone can know or understand.

Playlist with album covers

Emotional System Playlists

Mainly song, but it’s not all about the words... it’s because the music helps us connect with the specific system as we listen, take in, dance, jiggle, strut...

Fast forward to the classical pieces with no lyrics at the end of these playlists if you are in need of a moment to be with your own thoughts and not the words of others. 

With all of the encouragement to activated each emotional system, there is the important reminder that all your systems are activate simultaneously. As you stretch your assertiveness system, your connection deepens and your care strengthens at the same time.

Projected feelings have been split off so we don't experience this simultaneousness. If you spot that you feel full of rage without any connection to what else is activated - yearning, love, grief, guilt - that's a red light. It may well be understandable in the situation but medium/long term it will get us into troublesome places.  

So if you start feeling a bit one dimensional - like you are just your anger or rage... can you breathe and make a tiny bit of space inside you to feel all your primary 7ES - curiosity, care, safeness, connected, play and good? Maybe there is a little space to feel pain, healthy guilt or shame, love or pride... these secondary responses are vital to spot as we navigate the challenges around us and emotions within us. 

What do you want to practice today?

Listen here. The first song on the Seeking playlist is: 

Space Oddity by David Bowie - 

For me the incredible image of earth rise come to mind and activates the sense of awe and wonder that is the seeking system at its best. The 'want' we feel inside us being matched beyond expectations by the outside world. The experiences that leave us breathless and tingling, feeling alive and deeply satisfied.

This system monitors the opportunities available in the world, the likelihood of success, and activates us, gives us energy and drive to achieve what we want.

From awe to shut down, understanding the continuum of activation of this system is vital for a healthy life. The interplay between inside us / our past experiences and outside us / the reality of the world we live in, influences our seeking system responses.

Playlist with album covers

Listen here. The first song on this Assertiveness playlist is: 

(Something inside) So Strong by Labi Siffre

Small, geeky, swotty and a late bloomer... no wonder I love this song personally, a passionate call to powerful action and uprising against bullies. I grew up in an activist family and community so was acutely aware of apartheid and institutionalised racism from a young age. The fight to live that survives within those who are constantly undermined; the light that remains burning brightly during years of isolation and torture… being made aware of these guided me through the emotional pain I felt as I faced the reality of the world and my experiences within it. Written by poet Labi Siffre, it’s a beautiful message that always activates the emotional warrior within me.


A playlist with sweary, angry, vengeful words as well as strong powerful assertiveness. So if you start feeling a bit one dimensional - like you are only angry or rageful... can you breathe and make space inside to feel your primary 7ES - curiosity, care, connected, playful? Maybe you feel emotional pain, healthy guilt or shame, love or pride... these secondary responses are vital to spot as we navigate feeling our power and strength rising within us.

Listen here. The first song on the Safety playlist:

Safe from Harm by Massive Attack

The feisty safety system protects us from harm, enabling us to freeze and flee at such speed from external threat. This first track gets at both these aspects of this system while Bjork's Play Dead brilliantly captures the role that this system can play in protecting us from both external and internal pain and threatening feelings within.

And as we move through the continuum of this emotional system we reach the heady experience of freedom and the contentment that can come with safety and safeness. The selection of songs and pieces without lyrics try to reflect this full spectrum from responding to threat to feeling free.

Listen here. The first song on the Feels Good playlist:

Feeling Good, by Nina Simone

Nina’s delicious jazz vocals give me a head to toe experience of feeling good which is grows powerfully and feels awesome. It's currently the strut around the house vacuuming with attitude track and the music that lifts me into a very bodily sense of gratitude probably faster than any other.

A track on this playlist which brings something very different, released when I was 15, my soundtrack to first kisses, unrequited love and messy parties. It was the fabulous combination of a local band, The Wonder Stuff, and an insane comedian who spent his time on screen having as much fun as possible. So while Nina’s Feeling Good is my soul mate, Vic Reeves singing 'Dizzy' is brilliantly silly. Bringing an important, if obvious point; feeling good isn’t always sensible, wholesome, or long lasting. Sometimes it’s lust not love, sometimes what you feel good about is fleeting. And knowing the difference between what makes our heart sing and what is a brief affair, is vital. 

Co-create the feeling

In the main these tunes undoubtably reveal my age! Join us on instagram to share suggestions for new pieces to add to the playlists. @emotionalsystems