Do you have a hard time expressing emotions? Is it difficult to understand it? Emotions rule our daily lives. People make decisions based on how they feel. But what are emotions? According to the American Psychological Association, emotions are “complex pattern of changes, including physiological arousal, feelings, cognitive processes, and behavioral reactions, made in response to a situation perceived to be personally significant.” In other words emotions are a state of feeling that results in physical and psychological changes that influence our behavior. The human brain is wired to detect threats or rewards, when one is detected the feeling section of the brain releases chemical messages or neurotransmitters. Emotions are the result of these chemical messages traveling from the brain all throughout the body.
There are 6 basic emotions, which are; happiness, sadness, surprise, fear, disgust, and anger. Happiness indicates that a person has done or witnessed something that enhances their well-being. When that happens dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin are released from the brain making you feel good and motivated. Sadness occurs when a person has done or witnessed something that is damaging to their well-being. Surprise is felt when something unexpected has occurred. It can be either negative or positive, depending on what has caused it. During dangerous situations, the emotion of fear will rise. Fear is used to get out of dangerous circumstances or to keep people from getting into them. Some of the changes a person will feel are elevated heart beat and quicker breathing. Due to the release of adrenaline and cortisone which prepares us for a flight or fight response. The emotion of disgust is felt to prevent people from contacting or ingesting dangerous substances. For example, disgust, is mainly the force that makes you to spit out toxic foods that might make you sick or even kill you. Anger is a protective and primal emotion that motivates people to defend themselves or loved ones from anything threatening.
Emotions are indicators of how things are going on in our lives. It keeps us on the right track by making sure that we are led by more than just our thoughts, perceptions, reasons and memories. Sometimes the reactions of the feeling region of the brain (limbic system) are so dominant that it affects our behavior, making us think irrationally at the moment an emotion surfaces. Many of the emotions people experience occur subconsciously, but our thinking can influence our emotions. This is how we can manage it, by understanding consciously our emotions we can obtain better control of our lives.
We feel guilt if we express our feelings of anger and fear because we do not want to hurt the feelings of others. This suppression can cause anxiety and depression. This behavior creates a negative outlook on life. Feelings are complex making it hard to identify and express them. You can identify your emotions by:
- Ask yourself, what am I feeling right now?
- Observe your feelings without analyzing or judging.
- Then ask yourself, what sensation are you feeling throughout your body and what form would you give this emotion?
By doing this your emotion can become concrete making it easier for identification. Afterwards you can express these emotions by:
- Expressing it verbally with a trustful friend, counselor or family member.
- Writing about it on a journal or if you prefer privacy you can write it out on a paper and then throw it away. (This can serve symbolically as form of recognizing your emotions and when you throw it away you are allowing yourself to continue without it holding you back.)
- Expressing your emotions physically in a non-aggressive manner such as dancing or exercising.
- Creating a fun hobby such as art, singing, hiking and gardening. Basically anything that entertains you constructively in a positive way.
Society has taught us that suppressing your emotions makes you stronger, when in fact it only hurts us in the long run. Allowing yourself to express your feelings correctly, will make you a healthier and happier person. Not until we recognize that, we as a society will continue to live in depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illnesses that can be prevented by expressing your emotions. What difficulties do you face when identifying and expressing your emotions? Do you have any other advice you would like to share with the readers? If so leave your comment on the bottom of this article.
For more information here are additional links to videos about emotions:
American Psychological Association. (2015). Glossary of Psychological Terms. http://www.apa.org/research/action/glossary.aspx?tab=5
Being Human. (2013). Basic Emotions. http://www.beinghuman.org/article/basic-emotions
Kendra Cherry. (2015). What Are Emotions. http://psychology.about.com/od/emotion/f/what-are-emotions.htm
Rehka. (2012). Learn How to Identify and Express your Feelings. http://www.cognitivehealing.com/depression/learn-how-to-identify-and-express-your-feelings/