Emotions can be difficult to define. We know we feel them, but what are they, really? Emotions are a mix of our sensory perception (sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell) of the world and how we interpret it.
Emotions provide us with physical sensations in our body which can influence how we think and drive us to act. When it comes down to it, emotions fulfill important evolutionary purposes for us.
First, they give us valuable information about ourselves. We feel our emotions through bodily sensations and link it to the specific emotion in our brain. This process is our body quickly trying to inform us about the situation. It can even serve as an alarm system for us, (“I feel scared in that old abandoned house”). Sometimes we interpret information from emotions correctly, and sometimes we do not (but more on that later!).
Second, emotions propel us to act. Feeling a particular emotion will inspire, trigger and/or drive us to a specific action. Where they enable us to communicate with others. People respond to other people based on their emotions, which can be seen through facial expression and our body language. (“You could see the fear in my eyes when I got startled by the creaking floorboards in the old house”)
That’s why it’s important for us to understand our emotions and what information they are trying to provide. This is also the reason it is important for us to tune in more mindfully to the bodily sensations that emotions provide, so we can understand the information better.
On the flipside, emotions can be problematic when they get too intense or are too much for the situation; if emotions drive us, then we need to have knowledge of how to steer. Emotions, like a bumpy road on a rainy day, can get hard to navigate through, especially when they become too intense. It’s when we let the emotions take the wheel and let them drive us to act in ways that land us in trouble, are not helpful, and/or are counter to the outcome we want.
Psychologist Dr. Robert Plutchik created a wheel of emotions based on the six basic emotions that encompass all the different feelings at different intensity levels. With so many variations of emotions, it would be helpful to refer to the wheel to help identify what were feeling.
Having emotional intelligence is beneficial for helping us manage our emotions and emotions can get tricky. This is where we come in! Let’s get to know each of our six basic emotions! Emotions 101 is a crash course on the best subject ever, you!
Ready to learn more about you? Access Emotions 101 and pick from any of the six basic emotions to get started.
Dalgleish, T., & Power, M. J. (Eds.). (1999). Handbook of cognition and emotion. New York, NY, US: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
Donaldson, M. (2017). Plitchik’s Wheel of emotions–2017 Update.
Linehan, M. (2015). DBT skills training manual (Second edition.). New York: The Guilford Press.