Emotions Vs. Feelings
Although the two words are used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between emotions and feelings. So why does it matter?
It matters because understanding the difference between the two can help you change unhealthy behaviors and find more happiness and peace in your life. Emotions and feelings are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected but are also two very different things.
What Are Emotions
Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger. It takes our brains about 1/4 second to identify the trigger, and about another 1/4 second to produce the chemicals. Additionally, emotion chemicals are released throughout our bodies, not just in our brains, and they form a kind of feedback loop between our brains & bodies.
They originally helped our species survive by producing quick reactions to threat, reward, and everything in between in their environments.
Emotional reactions are coded in our genes. While they do vary slightly individually and depending on circumstances, they are generally universally similar across all humans and even other species.
- Motivate us to take action – to experience positive emotions and minimize the probability of feeling negative emotions.
- Help us thrive, survive and take action to avoid danger – Emotions serve an adaptive role in our lives. They motivate us to act quickly and take actions that will maximize our chances of survival and success.
- Help us make decisions – Our emotions have a major influence on the decisions we make. For example, what we decide to have for breakfast or which candidates we choose to vote for in political elections.
- Allow others to know us – Just as our own emotions provide valuable information to others, the emotional expressions of those around us give us a wealth of social information.
What Are Feelings
Feelings happen as we begin to integrate the emotion, to think about it, to “let it soak in.” We often use “feel” for both the physical and emotional sensation — we can say we physically feel cold, but we can also emotionally feel cold. This is a clue to the meaning of “feeling,” it’s something we sense.
Feelings are more “cognitively saturated” as the emotion chemicals are processed in our brains & bodies. Feelings are often fueled by a mix of emotions, and last for longer than emotions.
A feeling is a mental portrayal of what is going on in your body when you have an emotion and is the byproduct of your brain perceiving and assigning meaning to the emotion.
It may be the proverbial tightness in the chest, clenching of the teeth, butterflies in the stomach, a lump in the throat, tension in the neck and shoulders, or some other sensation. So a feeling in this sense is a communication coming from the body to the mind.
The Emotion VS. Feelings Takeaway
Emotions and feelings are not one-and-the-same although these words are often used interchangeably. As you have learned, our emotions serve a wide variety of purposes. Emotions can be fleeting, persistent, powerful, complex, and even life-changing. They can motivate us to act in particular ways and give us the tools and resources we need to interact meaningfully in our social worlds.
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