Love is eating a slug-littered salad

21:50, Jan 03 2014

Good news for lazy writers and those cemented to cliche - it seems they do have a basis in reality.

Lovers do feel a warm glow, those experiencing disgust might well feel sick to their stomachs and sadness carries a heavy heart.

Finnish researchers have studied the way in which emotions are physically experienced.

People who took part in the study were asked to drum up emotions such as happiness, pride, shame, envy and love. In turn, they explained in which region of the body these feelings manifested themselves most strongly.

The images released with the study look like those thermal images marketing people use to advertise nice warm socks. And headaches.

So, there's the outline of a human under the word "happiness" with an orange glow over the entirety of the body, the person under the heading "envy" has a red face and the one with "shame" looks a bit like Spiderman.


Sensations in the digestive system and around the throat were mainly found with disgust.

You can actually give the study a go online. I did it myself. I had to concentrate extremely hard to kindle the range of emotions they ask you to feel.

Everyone knows emotions aren't these simple things that you can pick up and place neatly, block by block, like Lego pieces. They run together and merge, surge and disappear, more like slowly mixing red food colouring into dough.

Emotions are the basis of a vast majority of the stories we print in this paper each day. They're hard to control and they are complicated.

I tried to think about love, something I'm lucky to be feeling just now. According to the study, I should be feeling like my body is wrapped in throbbing headaches and socks.

But then I remembered the ultimate sacrifice I'd made for love recently, and quickly moved into feelings of fear, anxiety, shame and disgust.

I'd made a healthy dinner, some kind of Moroccan lamb on a salad. I'd marinated the meat and washed the lettuce leaves. We sat side-by-side with dinner bowls on our laps.

"What's this?" he said holding his fork in front of my eyes.

I looked at the grey thing and without missing a beat, said: "Oh probably just a piece of bruised avocado."

I swiped it away immediately and put it on the inside edge of my bowl. He carried on eating. I watched in horror as the small round thing stretched back into its natural state and started crawling.

Fear, anxiety, disgust!

It was a tiny slug.

As casually as one can be in these situations, I placed a lettuce leaf over the unexpected dinner guest and crushed it to death.

If a heat-seeking camera had been directed at my body, it would have looked like a disco floor. Hot cheeks, meteors in the stomach, green gills.

Love and disgust were fighting for supremacy somewhere in my body. Disgust at killing one of God's creatures.

Anxiety because I'd already eaten half my dinner and fear that I was already digesting half a dozen invertebrates without knowing it.

But then, envy! There was my man, happily eating what he thought was a healthy dinner.

And then I forced myself to swing it back to love.

Love might show up to scientists as an orange glow from the hips upward but it's really more of a sick feeling. Love is knowing you must continue to appear happy while eating a potentially slug-littered salad so as not to alert the object of your desire to the true ingredients within.

Emotions are complicated. Don't let scientists tell you any different.

The Press