What are emotions?

What are emotions?

Emotions are emotional states that we experience. Subjective reactions to the environment that are accompanied by organic-physiological and endocrine changes of innate origin. Experience plays a fundamental role in the experience of each emotion. It is a state that ensues, suddenly and abruptly, in the form of more or less violent and more or less temporary crises.

Emotions have an adaptive function of our organism to our surroundings


  • 1 What processes include emotions
  • 2 Six types of emotions
  • 3 Facial expressions of emotions
  • 4 Behavioral components
  • 5 What causes fear at the physiological level?
  • 6 What is Emotional Intelligence?
  • 7 Emotions in scientific research
  • 8 Final reflection

What processes include emotions

In the human being, the experience of an emotion usually involves a set of cognitions, attitudes and beliefs about the world, which we use to assess a specific situation and, therefore, influence the way in which this situation is perceived.

Emotions have long been considered unimportant and the most rational part of the human being has always been given more relevance. But emotions, being emotional states, indicate personal internal states, motivations, desires, needs and even objectives. Even so, it is difficult to know from the emotion what the future behavior of the individual will be, although it can help us to intuit it.

After a few months of life we ​​begin to express basic emotions like fear, anger or joy. Some animals share with us those basic emotions. In humans they become more complex thanks to language, because we use symbols, signs and meanings.

Each person is different

Each individual experiences an emotion in a particular way, depending on your previous experiences, learning, character and the specific situation. Some of the physiological and behavioral reactions that trigger emotions are innate, while others can be acquired.

Charles Darwin observed how animals (especially in primates) had an extensive repertoire of emotions. This way of expressing emotions had a social function, since they collaborated in the survival of the species. They have, for the most part, an adaptive function.

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Six types of emotions

There are six basic categories of emotions:

  • FEAR. Anticipation of a threat or danger that produces anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity.
  • SURPRISE. Shock, amazement, bewilderment. It is very transitory. You can give a cognitive approach to know what happens.
  • ASCO OR AVERSION. Disgust, disgust, we tend to get away from the object that dislikes us.
  • GO TO. Anger, anger, resentment, rage, irritability.
  • JOY. Fun, euphoria, gratification, happy, gives a feeling of well-being, security.
  • SADNESS. Sorrow, loneliness, pessimism.

The emotions they have different functions:

  • FEAR: We tend towards protection.
  • SURPRISE: It helps to orient us in the face of the new situation.
  • ASCO OR AVERSION: It produces rejection of what we have before us.
  • GO TO: It induces us towards destruction.
  • JOY: It induces us towards reproduction (we want to reproduce that event that makes us feel good).
  • SADNESS: It motivates us towards a new personal reintegration.

Facial expressions of emotions

Humans have 42 different muscles in the face. Depending on how we move them we express certain emotions or others. There are different smiles, which express different degrees of joy. This helps us to express what we feel, which on many occasions it is difficult for us to explain in words. It is another way to communicate socially and feel integrated into a social group. We must bear in mind that man is the social animal par excellence.

Different facial expressions are international, within different cultures there is a similar language. We can observe how in blind or deaf children when they experience emotions they demonstrate it in a very similar way to other people, they have the same facial expression. Possibly there are genetic, hereditary bases, since a child who does not see cannot imitate the facial expressions of others.

Although the expressions also vary a bit depending on the culture, sex, country of origin, etc. Women have more sensitivity to better capture facial expressions or emotional signals and this sensitivity increases with age. Another example is the faces of the Orientals, especially the Japanese, they are quite inexpressive, but it is for others, because at an intimate level they express their emotions better.

Facial expressions also affect the person who is watching us by altering their behavior.. If we observe someone who cries we get sad or serious. We can even cry like that person. On the other hand, the anger, joy and sadness of the people we observe are usually quite well identified. Fear, surprise and aversion are worse identified.

Behavioral components

Emotions have particular behavioral components, which are the way they are shown externally. To some extent they are controllable, based on the family and cultural learning of each group:

  • Facial expressions.
  • Actions and gestures.
  • Distance between people.
  • Non-linguistic components of verbal expression (nonverbal communication).

The other components of emotions are physiological and involuntary, same for all:

  • Tremor.
  • Blush
  • Sweating
  • Restless breathing
  • Pupillary dilation
  • Increased heart rate

These components are those that are at the base of the polygraph or the "lie detector". It is assumed that when a person lies, feels or can not control their physiological changes, although there are people who with training can manage to control it.

What causes fear at the physiological level?

When we face a stimulus that causes us fear or fear, our body reacts by activating. In this way, we prepare for any fight or flight reaction that is necessary in order to protect ourselves, since our most basic impulse is that of survival.

Activation occurs as follows:

  • The frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex by the action of the hypothalamus activates the adrenal gland.
  • The adrenal gland releases adrenaline.
  • The pupils dilate
  • The thorax widens
  • The heart dilates, the blood supply increases.
  • There is an increase in blood pressure.
  • The muscles contract.
  • The liver releases glucose, the fuel of the muscles.
  • The skin pales.
  • The bronchi dilate to increase the volume of oxygen.
  • In extreme cases the urinary bladder will empty.

What is emotional intelligence?

In the same way that IQ (intellectual quotient) is recognized, Emotional Intelligence can be recognized. It's about connecting emotions with oneself. Knowing what I feel, being able to see myself and see others in a positive and objective way. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to interact with the world receptively and appropriately.

Basic and proper characteristics of the emotionally intelligent person:

  • Possess enough self-esteem.
  • Be positive people
  • Know how to give and receive
  • Empathy (understand the feelings of others)
  • Recognize one's feelings
  • Being able to express positive feelings like negative ones
  • Being able to control these feelings too
  • Motivation, illusion, interest
  • Have alternative values
  • Overcoming difficulties and frustrations
  • Find balance between demand and tolerance.

Daniel Goleman explains that Emotional Intelligence is the set of skills that serve to express and control feelings in the most appropriate way in the personal and social field. It includes, therefore, a good handling of feelings, motivation, perseverance, empathy or mental agility. Just the qualities that make up a character with a good social adaptation.

Emotions in scientific research

The psychologist W. Mischel did an experiment with four-year-old children. He gave them a candy and told them that he had to leave a moment, but that they should wait for him to come back before eating it, if they did so he would give them another candy as a reward. The time that remained outside was only three minutes.

There were children who did not wait and ate the candy. Subsequently, he followed the children and observed that those who had not eaten the candy, were more resistant to pressure, more autonomous, more responsible, more loved by their peers and better adapted in the school environment than the others.

Final reflection

All people are born with special and different characteristics, but many times the way we have to behave or face life's challenges are learned. Since we were little, we can see how for a boy it is not so well seen to cry and express his emotions as in a girl. In addition, men are required to be braver, self-confident.

We can also observe how, according to cultures, women are less valued, both personally and in the workplace, which is the source of oppression and ill-treatment. We acquire all this without realizing it now. from the moment we come into the world we behave as we have been "taught" to behave.

Loving oneself, being more generous with others or accepting failures, does not always depend on what we have inherited. So that We must be able to continue learning and improving our attitudes day by day. Learn to be more emotionally intelligent, in short, to be happier.

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