A few facts about emotions

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Emotions have a big impact on us and fill our daily lives. They influence our physiology, state of mind, behavior, beliefs, attitudes and motivation.

It is very difficult to find one consistent definition of emotions, and scientists, depending on their background, use different definitions. Therefore, I will not give any specific definition here, but I will focus on different aspects of emotions.




Why do we have emotions?

infNo matter what definition of emotion we use, we can say that emotions are important in our lives. Why? Because they provide us with information (1). Emotions tell us, for example, about our needs, about potential threats, and even help us realize that something/someone is/was important to us. So when we feel anxiety, it can be information that our need for security is at risk, shame - it informs us about our value system, guilt - that we have done something against our moral code.



Positive and negative emotions?

Every emotion is valuable. If we are able to name and recognize them, then we will understand ourselves and the situation better and we will react more constructively. Very often we classify emotions as either positive (e.g. peace, excitement, joy) or negative (anger, fear, irritation). This often leads us to feel that the emotions are good or bad. But if we look at emotions from the perspective of their function, then we will see that they are not positive and negative emotions, or they are not good and bad emotions, only the emotions easier or more difficult to handle and deal with. And because they bring us knowledge, we can always use it in a positive way


Do we all have the same emotions?diss img

Yes and no. There are basic emotions that we are all able to recognize and express in a similar way. There are 6 such universal emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise and disgust (2).

But depending on the culture we grow up in, we can call them and experience them differently. Sometimes we can meet with culturally unique emotions (3).

For example, in Japan "Amae" (a feeling of pleasant dependence on another person), "Iktsuarpok" in Greenland (a feeling of expectation that leads to looking outside to see if someone comes) or "Schadenfreude" in Germany (a feeling of pleasure or satisfaction when something bad happens to someone else).


Do we feel emotion in the same way?

People differ in their awareness, and in their ability to recognize and name their sensations, to evaluate their emotional experience and their strategies for dealing with it. In a similar situation different people experience different emotions because they interpret what happened in different ways (4). This is one of the reasons why people behave differently in a similar situation. This shows that emotions are not universal. For example one person will be excited about the new job and the other person will feel insecure in this situation.

As I mentioned before, we are not only different in terms of the interpretation of the situations, but also in terms of the strategy for dealing with emotions. These strategies are more or less constructive. So one person will deal with fear and stress by running, another person will analyze the causes of these feelings very carefully and try to reduce their level by working "deeply" on them, another person will drink alcohol and another will eat chocolate.

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To sum up

Emotions are a very important factor in our lives and whether we like it or not, they play a very important role in our lives. Often emotions change our motivation, hinder and facilitate our actions, cause irrational behavior, influence our decisions, attitudes and choices. Understanding them is one of the elements of mental health. That's why it's worth knowing our emotions to know and become aware of ourselves, our behaviors and choices, which means increasing our emotional intelligence. It's not an easy job and it's not always a one-man job, but I can assure you it's worth it!




1. Keltner, D. & Gross, J.J. (1999). Functional Accounts of Emotions. Cognition and Emotion 13(5), 467-480

2. Ekman P., & Friesen, W.F. (1971) Constants across cultures in the face and emotion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

3. Russell, J.A. (1991). Culture and the Categorization of emotions. Psychological Bulletin 110(3), 426-450

4. Frijda, N. (1986). The emotions. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press.