The Difference Between Emotion and Feeling
Feelings are a psychological process. There are more than 1500 classified feelings, but emotions are physiological processes and there are only five.
The basic emotions are: joy, fear, disgust, anger, and sadness. These are the five ancient biological emotions. Such emotions posses a fully adaptive function, and we share them with the animal kingdom. Thanks to them, we have survived for thousands of years.
Emotions are a physiological process that produce specific chemicals. These chemicals are linked to information that we have received from a particular experience, allowing us to adapt to the situation. Therefore, these chemicals are responsible for reinforcing our neurological responses, guiding us to take action when facing a specific event.
Emotions do not make any distinctions between real or imaginative circumstances, and are much stronger than reason. There aren’t good or bad emotions; all of them are adaptive. The imbalances arise when we do not know how to manage them. Learning to recognize our emotions and becoming aware of what we feel in every moment can help prevent many emotional disorders, and power our general well being.
We need to experience emotions in order to feel alive, but normally we are use to feeling those of discomfort more, since those are the ones that are programmed in us. This happens because throughout so many years of human history, men have been living in constant danger: predators, starvation, natural disasters, etc. Learning how to process emotions and empower the ones that make us feel good will aid us in facing daily conflicts in a better way.
It’s important to understand the difference between emotions and feelings. Feelings are psychological processes. There are as many feelings as people. Feelings are the way that people interpret whatever they believe that the emotions are making them feel. There are more than 1,500 classified feelings in contrast with the five basic emotions that exist, driving us to take action in order to survive and find safety. The problem is that when we do not recognize them, we prolong their effects and do not take action. In this case, we end up being sick, as a consequence of the chemicals that our body releases pushing us to take action. The human body does its best to protect you, and if it “thinks” that you are in danger, it will do everything to keep you safe.
1- Joy allows us to reproduce: It’s a “winning” emotion that will repeat all the things that make us feel good. This emotion does not generate disease, and it’s the one that we need to watch over in order to feel the rest of them less. (Remember that we need to experience emotions in order to feel alive, at least until we figure out that the peace we all look for is the absence of emotions).
2- Fear allows us to protect ourselves from danger: Real danger makes us run, but when the danger is imaginary, we won’t recognize it and will not do anything about it since we have been taught that being afraid is for cowards.
3- Disgust makes us move away from danger: In ancient times, disgust was meant to protect us from poisonous or spoiled food. Today, it moves us away from emotional toxicity.
4- Anger makes us face danger: There are belief systems that DO NOT allow us to hate or attack. It’s not socially acceptable, so we often suppress this emotion or keep it inside to express later on. An example of this is when we have a conflict with our boss, a colleague, or a friend. We do not express ourselves in the moment, and when we go home, we take it out on the people that we love or trust the most (parents, partners, children, siblings). Another option would be that we wait until there’s a soccer game, and we can let go of our emotion by expressing it against the opposing team.
5- Sadness allows us to isolate ourselves so we can cope with loss:
Losses such as unprocessed mournings, denied or unrecognized loss, death of our loved ones, losing our job, or losing a business or a property, could bring us sadness. If we accept and embrace this sadness, we will free ourselves from it in a faster, more efficient way.
To recognize and express what we are feeling in every situation is the key to avoid emotional blockages in our bodies that in time, may produce physical illness.
As I said before, we need to experience emotions to feel alive. Sometimes, we even need to watch horror movies, get involved in risky sports, or ride a roller coaster. The important thing is to feel “something” so one can feel alive.
With this awareness, I encourage you to empower your feeling of joy and your sense of humor. You could watch comedies or even play like a child, or like an actor whose role is happy and joyful.
In time, and with practice, these emotions will become automatic and we will be happier. In experiencing these emotions, our problems will become easier to resolve.