The Meaning of Our Emotions

The Meaning of Our Emotions

Our emotions are important and they are first physiological and second, psychological.  Physiologically we receive information from the world around us and this information is processed by the brain.  At this level our bodies are recognizing familiar sensory patterns, which triggers a physiological response called an emotion.  Biological emotions include hunger, temperature, thirst, pleasure, and pain.  We are more responsive to emotions that involve hearing and smell and we are more emotionally responsive to pain and thirst.

Emotions are powerful and many changes occur throughout the body when an emotion is experienced.  Depending on what we sense, organs and muscles will respond and either distort or enhance our mental processes.  For example, if you experience pain, you may not be able to think clearly.

There are components of emotion including arousal, feelings, and motivation.  Arousal is energy that allows us to respond emotionally.  This emotional energy is present every day, even when we sleep.  Arousal is important because if we experience abnormally high levels of arousal, over-stimulation can occur.  This over-stimulation is often seen in compulsions, obsessions, insomnia, and mania.  When our arousal levels are low, we can relax, although abnormally low levels can produce sleeping too much or depression.  There are specific emotions related to levels of arousal including anxiety (high levels) and withdrawal (low levels).

Emotions can also motivate by sending signals throughout the body that prepare us for action.  If the underlying motivational emotion is good, we may experience joy or awareness.  If the underlying motivational emotion is negative, we may experience fear, anger, or frustration.  Motivation can incite change though and alter how we think and behave.

Feelings are subjective.  No two individuals will experience a feeling the same way.  Feelings are the part of emotional processing that operates the slowest and they are often difficult to understand.  Feelings are experienced based on associations on a personal, subjective level.  Sometimes a memory can produce a feeling and even a familiar smell can make us feel something.  Emotions come first though followed by a specific type of feeling.  The type of feelings experienced vary from person to person and situation to situation.  Individuals assign meaning to their feelings and usually this is done on a subconscious level.  Feelings are also difficult to measure because they are experienced in so many different ways.

Emotions play a vital role in how we behave and can sometimes become overwhelming.  Many individuals who experience high and low levels of emotionality can often have difficulty dealing with daily life.  An individual can become depressed, experience anxiety, or withdraw from loved ones.

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