Emotions… More

Nico Frijda’s book “The Laws of Emotion” (2006), explores the substance and rules of emotions. He sees them as laying at the crossroads of biological and cognitive processes. Some emotions, such as fear, are biologically innate, and these basic emotions are the ones we share with other animals. Others arise in us in response to thoughts, so are clearly cognitive-based. Some emotions like humiliation or indignation for example, have cultural roots.

Emotions vs Feelings

Frijda makes clear distinctions between emotions and feelings. Emotions are beyond our control. They spontaneously arise and alert us to their presence by physical sensations, such as tightening in the gut when we feel fear. Feelings, on the other hand, are our interpretations of whatever emotions we are experiencing, we are more aware of them. When we feel something, we have thoughts and make decisions about them. We are not suddenly hijacked by our feelings as we are by our emotions.

Physical Reactions

The word emotion is derived from the French word émotion meaning to “move” or to “agitate” and the latin word “emovere” also meaning to ‘move”or to “agitate.” Your body is typically aroused during emotion. Such body reactions are what cause us to say we were “moved” by an act of kindness, a scene in a movie, or a funeral. We are often moved to take action by emotions such as fear, anger, or joy. Reaching a desired goal can make us “feel” satisfied.  Many actions we try to avoid make us feel sad or angry. We feel happy when we succeed and sad when we fail (Kalat & Shiota, 2007).

In addition to “movement,” we can also have a pounding heart, sweating palms, “butterflies” in the stomach and other reactions. Some of these are changes in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration. Most of these are caused by activity in the sympathetic nervous system and by the hormone adrenaline which the adrenal glands release into the blood stream.

Aid to Survival

Emotions are linked to many basic behaviors, such as defense and attacking, taking flight, seeking comfort, helping others and reproducing. Such behaviors help us survive and adjust to changing conditions (Plutchik, 2003). However, emotions can have negative effects. Stage fright or “choking up” in a sporting event can be disastrous. Other emotions like hate, anger, contempt, disgust, fear, and various negative emotions disrupt behavior and relationships. Emotions are an aid to survival. As social beings, it would be extremely difficult to live in groups, cooperate in raising children and defend one another without positive emotional bonds of love, caring and friendship (Buss, 2000).

This report is not a diagnosis. We hope this information can guide you toward improving your life.

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