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What are Emotions?


What are Emotions?

When we talk about emotions what exactly do we mean? What are emotions? Do we all feel them in the same way?

Much recent research has looked into this and when we study emotions over all different  cultures and populations, it seems that there are just  seven basic emotions. We  all express these emotions facially, in pretty much the same way.

The seven basic emotions

These are anger, fear, disgust, joy (or happiness), surprise, sadness and contempt. Each of these basic emotions has many variations within it. For example, anger can be felt as rage, fury, bitterness, hate, irritation, envy or torment. Joy can be felt as cheerful, amused, delighted, contented, optimistic or elated. Sadness can include misery, despair, hopelessness, grief and sorrow.

We often feel more than one emotion at one time, or “mixed feelings”. In the midst of deep sadness, we can still smile at something happening around us.  It’s important to understand that there are no “good” or “bad” emotions – we need to experience the full spectrum. Negative emotions aid in our survival and can be vital clues that situations in our lives need attention.

Some of us are better at identifying our individual emotions than others. Many of us, especially if we have experienced trauma in our lives, have quite a tough time identifying our feelings. Realise that all feelings, both positive and negative, are valid and a normal part of life and don’t even judge them. They change, they are expressed, and then we return to normal. The idea is to first recognise feelings so that we can control what we do with them. Follow these three simple steps:

1.Name your emotions

When you feel overwhelmed by emotions, stop, and take time out to name them. This gives us a sense of control over them and helps us to express emotions verbally rather than needing to act them out. Also recognise gradations – “I’m feeling really angry, but I can also notice some fear in there.”

2.Don’t judge them

Simply observe them, don’t beat yourself up over feeling as you do. Feelings do rise and fall.

3.Be curious

Ask yourself: “What percent of your feeling fits with what just happened in the here-and-now? How much of it is probably related in some way to the trauma?  50%? 80% ? Feelings always make sense. Like a scientist who observes with detachment, see if you can identify the cause or trigger of the feelings. Distinguish between feelings and actions. You don’t have to do anything with feelings if you choose not to. Or you might constructively express your feelings in writing or talk things over with someone you trust.

Book a counselling session today!

Need some advice and support?

If you would like to talk over an issue that is troubling you and you would like to talk it over in complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.


See also Control Your Anger, Mindfulness and Acceptance, Staying Emotionally Healthy