Emotions By Dr Anmol Arora ( Sr Homoeopathic Specialist )

emotion

emotion

Emotion: An Introduction

What is emotion?  A feeling?  Then what is a feeling?  These terms are difficult to define and even more difficult to understand completely.  People have been attempting to understand this phenomenon for thousands of years, and will most likely debate for a thousand more.

The analysis of emotions has been ineffectual up till now since they are very difficult to identify, except for a few such as fear and anger. Many years ago I began an intense psycho-analysis (which I did on my own). It took me five years of constant awareness to finally identify the range of emotions that I usually experience.

The peculiarity of any particular emotion is that, whilst it is just an emotion, it is nevertheless intimately associated with specific mental attitudes and ideas that have become characteristic of that emotion. In general, I found that each emotion acts as a nucleus for pre-set ideas about the world. This fact gives rise to a notable phenomenon. As one emotion fades away and the next one is generated, so the ideas in a person’s mind automatically change , the fresh emotion brings with it its associated ideas.

A person is always experiencing some emotion at any time, since when the present emotion fades away so another emotion will take its place and be felt by him / her. No single emotional response can be permanent. When any emotion, such as anger, is experienced the person can stay angry only for some time , eventually the anger will fade away and a fresh emotion will arise.

Many people orientate on feeling responses to the world: an abundance of good feelings, and emotional satisfaction, become the criteria for a successful life. However, emotions present problems for the ego. When emotions become intense they neutralise intellectual concerns. In fact, common negatively-valued emotions such as self-pity, fear, anxiety, as well as moods like depression, actually tend to inhibit rationality – in particular, intense anxiety seems to produce a mental fog in one’s mind, making it impossible to study. Understanding the nature of emotions has profound implications for psycho- therapy

Emotion: Feelings

One area of confusion is that feelings are often loosely equated with emotions. This is all right for colloquial use. I can ask a friend how he is feeling today , it would be awkward to ask him how emotional he is being today. Some people might take offence if they were thought to be emotional, whereas it is acceptable for them to show feelings. However, there are fundamental differences between feelings and emotions.

There are just three feelings :  the pleasant one, the unpleasant one, and the neutral one. This is the Buddhist understanding and I verified this fact directly during the time when I used to practise meditation. In the past, some moral theorists believed that the neutral feeling is only an equal mixture of both pleasant and unpleasant feelings, so that the net effect is zero. But meditational awareness disproves this assumption.


Definition

An emotion is a mental and physiological state associated with a wide variety of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours. It is a prime determinant of the sense of subjective well-being and appears to play a central role in many human activities.

Etymology

The English word ’emotion’ is derived from the French émotion and émouvoir. This is based on the Latin emovere, where e- (variant of ex-) means ‘out’ and movere means ‘move’ The related term “motivation” is also derived from movere.


Nervous system and Emotion

There are two parts of the nervous system that are especially significant:

The limbic system and

The autonomic nervous system

The Limbic System

The limbic system is a complex set of structures that lies on both sides and underneath the thalamus, just under the cerebrum.  It includes the hypothalamus, the hippocampus, the amygdala, and several other nearby areas.  It appears to be primarily responsible for our emotional life, and has a lot to do with the formation of memories.  In this drawing, you are looking at the brain cut in half, but with the brain stem intact.  The part of the limbic system shown is that which is along the left side of the thalamus (hippocampus and amygdala) and just under the front of the thalamus (hypothalamus):

emotion

emotion

Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus is a small part of the brain located just below the thalamus on both sides of the third ventricle.  (The ventricles are areas within the cerebrum that are filled with cerebrospinal fluid, and connect to the fluid in the spine.)  It sits just inside the two tracts of the optic nerve, and just above (and intimately connected with) the pituitary gland.

The hypothalamus is one of the busiest parts of the brain, and is mainly concerned with homeostasis.  Homeostasis is the process of returning something to some “set point.”  It works like a thermostat:  When your room gets too cold, the thermostat conveys that information to the furnace and turns it on.  As your room warms up and the temperature gets beyond a certain point, it sends a signal that tells the furnace to turn off.

The hypothalamus is responsible for regulating your hunger, thirst, response to pain, levels of pleasure, sexual satisfaction, anger and aggressive behavior, and more.  It also regulates the functioning of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which in turn means it regulates things like pulse, blood pressure, breathing, and arousal in response to emotional circumstances.

The hypothalamus receives inputs from a number of sources.  From the vagus nerve, it gets information about blood pressure and the distension of the gut (that is, how full your stomach is).  From the reticular formation in the brainstem, it gets information about skin temperature.  From the optic nerve, it gets information about light and darkness.  From unusual neurons lining the ventricles, it gets information about the contents of the cerebrospinal fluid, including toxins that lead to vomiting.  And from the other parts of the limbic system and the olfactory (smell) nerves, it gets information that helps regulate eating and sexuality.  The hypothalamus also has some receptors of its own, that provide information about ion balance and temperature of the blood.

In one of the more recent discoveries, it seems that there is a protein called leptin which is released by fat cells when we overeat.  The hypothalamus apparently senses the levels of leptin in the bloodstream and responds by decreasing appetite.  It would seem that some people have a mutation in a gene which produces leptin, and their bodies can’t tell the hypothalamus that they have had enough to eat.  However, many overweight people do not have this mutation, so there is still a lot of research to do!

The hypothalamus sends instructions to the rest of the body in two ways.  The first is to the autonomic nervous system.  This allows the hypothalamus to have ultimate control of things like blood pressure, heartrate, breathing, digestion, sweating, and all the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions.

The other way the hypothalamus controls things is via the pituitary gland.  It is neurally and chemically connected to the pituitary, which in turn pumps hormones called releasing factors into the bloodstream.  As you know, the pituitary is the so-called “master gland,” and these hormones are vitally important in regulating growth and metabolism.

Hippocampus

The hippocampus consists of two “horns” that curve back from the amygdala.  It appears to be very important in converting things that are “in your mind” at the moment (in short-term memory) into things that you will remember for the long run (long-term memory).  If the hippocampus is damaged, a person cannot build new memories, and lives instead in a strange world where everything they experience just fades away, even while older memories from the time before the damage are untouched.

Amygdala

The amygdalas are two almond-shaped masses of neurons on either side of the thalamus at the lower end of the hippocampus.  When it is stimulated electrically, animals respond with aggression.  And if the amygdala is removed, animals get very tame and no longer respond to things that would have caused rage before.  But there is more to it than just anger:  When removed, animals also become indifferent to stimuli that would have otherwise have caused fear and even sexual responses.

Related areas

Besides the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala, there are other areas in the structures near to the limbic system that are intimately connected to it:

The cingulate gyrus is the part of the cerebrum that lies closest to the limbic system, just above the corpus collosum.  It provides a pathway from the thalamus to the hippocampus, seems to be responsible for focusing attention on emotionally significant events, and for associating memories to smells and to pain.

The septum, which lies in front of the thalamus, has areas that seem to be centers for orgasm.

The ventral tegmental area of the brain stem (just below the thalamus) consists of dopamine pathways that seem to be responsible for pleasure.  People with damage here tend to have difficulty getting pleasure in life, and often turn to alcohol, drugs, sweets, and gambling.

The basal ganglia (including the caudate nucleus, the putamen, the globus pallidus, and the substantia nigra) lie over and to the sides of the limbic system, and are tightly connected with the cortex above them.  They are responsible for repetitive behaviors, reward experiences, and focusing attention.

The prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the frontal lobe which lies in front of the motor area, is also closely linked to the limbic system.  Besides apparently being involved in thinking about the future, making plans, and taking action, it also appears to be involved in the same dopamine pathways as the ventral tegmental area, and plays a part in pleasure and addiction.

The Autonomic Nervous System

The second part of the nervous system to have a particularly powerful part to play in our emotional life is the autonomic nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system is composed of two parts, which function primarily in opposition to each other.  The first is the sympathetic nervous system, which starts in the spinal cord and travels to a variety of areas of the body.  Its function appears to be preparing the body for the kinds of vigorous activities associated with “fight or flight,” that is, with running from danger or with preparing for violence.

Activation of the sympathetic nervous system has the following effects:

dilates the pupils

opens the eyelids

stimulates the sweat glands

dilates the blood vessels in large muscles

constricts the blood vessels in the rest of the body

increases the heart rate

opens up the bronchial tubes of the lungs

inhibits the secretions in the digestive system

One of its most important effects is causing the adrenal glands to release epinephrine (aka adrenalin) into the blood stream.  Epinephrine is a powerful hormone that causes various parts of the body to respond in much the same way as the sympathetic nervous system.  Being in the blood stream, it takes a bit longer to stop its effects.  This is why, when you get upset, it sometimes takes a while before you can calm yourself down again!

The sympathetic nervous system also takes in information, mostly concerning pain from internal organs.  Because the nerves that carry information about organ pain often travel along the same paths that carry information about pain from more surface areas of the body, the information sometimes get confused.  This is called referred pain, and the best known example is the pain some people feel in the shoúlders and arms when they are having a heart attack.

The other part of the autonomic nervous system is called the parasympathetic nervous system.  It has its roots in the brainstem and in the spinal cord of the lower back.  Its function is to bring the body back from the emergency status that the sympathetic nervous system puts it into.

Some of the details of parasympathetic arousal include…

pupil constriction

activation of the salivary glands

stimulating the secretions of the stomach

stimulating the activity of the intestines

stimulating secretions in the lungs

constricting the bronchial tubes

decreasing heart rate

The parasympathetic nervous system also has some sensory abilities:  It receives information about blood pressure, levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, and so on.

There is actually one more part of the autonomic nervous system that we don’t mention too often:  The enteric nervous system.  This is a complex of nerves that regulate the activity of the stomach!  When you get sick to your stomach or feel butterflies when you get nervous, you can blame the enteric nervous system.


Types of emotion

type of emotion

type of emotion

Primary and secondary emotions

Some authors use the terms primary and secondary emotions. I find this distinction quite helpful. A primary emotion is what we feel first. The secondary emotion is what it leads to.

Anger is a good example of a secondary emotion.  There are many possible primary emotions which, when they are intense enough, can lead to anger. We might feel insulted, pressured, cheated, etc. If these feelings are at a low level we are not likely to say we feel angry. But if they are intense, we commonly say we feel “angry.”

Depression is another example of a secondary emotion. Or we might call it a “catch-all” term. Depression can include feeling discouraged, hopeless, lonely, isolated, misunderstood, overwhelmed, attacked, invalidated, unsupported, etc. Normally it includes several feelings. These more specific feelings are what I would call primary emotions.

Secondary, “catch-all” terms like anger and depression do not help us much when it comes to identifying our unmet emotional needs (UEN’s). When all I can say is “I feel angry,” neither I nor any one else knows what would help me feel better. But if I say I feel pressured or trapped or disrespected, it is much more clear what my UEN is and what would help me feel better. A simple, but effective technique, then, is to identify the primary emotion.

Emotions by groups

Here is a categorised, tree structured list of emotions

Primary emotion Secondary emotion Tertiary emotions
Love Affection Adoration, affection, love, fondness, liking, attraction, caring, tenderness, compassion, sentimentality
Lust Arousal, desire, lust, passion, infatuation
Longing Longing
Joy Cheerfulness Amusement, bliss, cheerfulness, gaiety, glee, jolliness, joviality, joy, delight, enjoyment, gladness, happiness, jubilation, elation, satisfaction, ecstasy, euphoria
Zest Enthusiasm, zeal, zest, excitement, thrill, exhilaration
Contentment Contentment, pleasure
Pride Pride, triumph
Optimism Eagerness, hope, optimism
Enthrallment Enthrallment, rapture
Relief Relief
Surprise Surprise Amazement, surprise, astonishment
Anger Irritation Aggravation, irritation, agitation, annoyance, grouchiness, grumpiness
Exasperation Exasperation, frustration
Rage Anger, rage, outrage, fury, wrath, hostility, ferocity, bitterness, hate, loathing, scorn, spite, vengefulness, dislike, resentment
Disgust Disgust, revulsion, contempt
Envy Envy, jealousy
Torment Torment
Sadness Suffering Agony, suffering, hurt, anguish
Sadness Depression, despair, hopelessness, gloom, glumness, sadness, unhappiness, grief, sorrow, woe, misery, melancholy
Disappointment Dismay, disappointment, displeasure
Shame Guilt, shame, regret, remorse
Neglect Alienation, isolation, neglect, loneliness, rejection, homesickness, defeat, dejection, insecurity, embarrassment, humiliation, insult
Sympathy Pity, sympathy
Fear Horror Alarm, shock, fear, fright, horror, terror, panic, hysteria, mortification
Nervousness Anxiety, nervousness, tenseness, uneasiness, apprehension, worry, distress, dread

Basic and Complex Emotions

Many theorists define some emotions as basic where others are complex. Basic emotions are claimed to be biologically fixed, innate and as a result universal to all humans and many animals as well. Complex emotions are then either refined versions of basic emotions, culturally specific or idiosyncratic. A major issue is then to define which emotions are basic and which are complex.

Basic emotion Basic opposite
Joy Sadness
Acceptance Disgust
Fear Anger
Surprise Anticipation
Sadness Joy
Disgust Acceptance
Anger Fear
Anticipation Surprise
Complex emotion Composed of… Complex  opposite
Optimism Anticipation + Joy Disappointment
Love Joy + Acceptance Remorse
Submission Acceptance + Fear Contempt
Awe Fear + Surprise Aggressiveness
Disappointment Surprise + Sadness Optimism
Remorse Sadness + Disgust Love
Contempt Disgust + Anger Submission
Aggressiveness Anger + Anticipation Awe

Social and Non-social Distinction

Emotions can also be classified according to those that can occur when the individual is alone and not thinking about others, and those which seem more essentially socially directed. Examples of proposed social emotions include jealousy, love, hatred, guilt and gratitude.


Theories of emotion

The mainstream definition of emotion refers to a feeling state involving thoughts, physiological changes, and an outward expression or behavior.  But what comes first?  The thought?  The physiological arousal?  The behavior?  Or does emotion exist in a vacuum, whether or not these other components are present?  There are five theories which attempt to understand why we experience emotion.

James-Lange Theory

The James-Lange theory of emotion argues that an event causes physiological arousal first and then we interpret this arousal.  Only after our interpretation of the arousal can we experience emotion.  If the arousal is not noticed or is not given any thought, then we will not experience any emotion based on this event.

EXAMPLE: You are walking down a dark alley late at night.  You hear footsteps behind you and you begin to tremble, your heart beats faster, and your breathing deepens.  You notice these physiological changes and interpret them as your body’s preparation for a fearful situation.  You then experience fear.

http://allpsych.com/images/jameslange.gif

Cannon-Bard Theory

The Cannon-Bard theory argues that we experience physiological arousal and emotional at the same time, but gives no attention to the role of thoughts or outward behavior.

EXAMPLE:  You are walking down a dark alley late at night.  You hear footsteps behind you and you begin to tremble, your heart beats faster, and your breathing deepens.  At the same time as these physiological changes occur you also experience the emotion of fear.

http://allpsych.com/images/cannonbard.gif

Schachter-Singer Theory

According to this theory, an event causes physiological arousal first.  You must then identify a reason for this arousal and then you are able to experience and label the emotion.

EXAMPLE:  You are walking down a dark alley late at night.  You hear footsteps behind you and you begin to tremble, your heart beats faster, and your breathing deepens.  Upon noticing this arousal you realize that is comes from the fact that you are walking down a dark alley by yourself.  This behavior is dangerous and therefore you feel the emotion of fear.

http://allpsych.com/images/schachtersinger.gif

Lazarus Theory

Lazarus Theory states that a thought must come before any emotion or physiological arousal.  In other words, you must first think about your situation before you can experience an emotion.

EXAMPLE:  You are walking down a dark alley late at night.  You hear footsteps behind you and you think it may be a mugger so you begin to tremble, your heart beats faster, and your breathing deepens and at the same time experience fear.

http://allpsych.com/images/lazarus.gif

Facial Feedback Theory

According to the facial feedback theory, emotion is the experience of changes in our facial muscles.  In other words, when we smile, we then experience pleasure, or happiness.  When we frown, we then experience sadness.  it is the changes in our facial muscles that cue our brains and provide the basis of our emotions.  Just as there are an unlimited number of muscle configurations in our face, so to are there a seemingly unlimited number of emotions.

EXAMPLE:  You are walking down a dark alley late at night.  You hear footsteps behind you and your eyes widen, your teeth clench and your brain interprets these facial changes as the expression of fear.  Therefore you experience the emotion of fear.

http://allpsych.com/images/facialfeedback.gif


Sociology of emotions

We try to regulate our emotions to fit in with the norms of the situation, based on many – sometimes conflicting – demands upon us which originate from various entities studied by sociology on a micro level — such as social roles and ‘feeling rules’ the everyday social interactions and situations are shaped by — and, on a macro level, by social institutions, discourses, ideologies etc. For example, (post-)modern marriage is, on one hand, based on the emotion of love and on the other hand the very emotion is to be worked on and regulated by it.

The sociology of emotions also focuses on general attitude changes in a population. Emotional appeals are commonly found in advertising, health campaigns and political messages. Recent examples include no-smoking health campaigns and political campaign advertising emphasizing the fear of terrorism.

Human Emotional Needs

All humans have basic emotional needs. These needs can be expressed as feelings, for example the need to feel accepted, respected and important. While all humans share these needs, each differs in the strength of the need, just as some of us need more water, more food or more sleep. One person may need more freedom and independence, another may need more security and social connections. One may have a greater curiosity and a greater need for understanding, while another is content to accept whatever he has been told.

One of the major problems I have observed in schools is the treatment of all children as if their emotional and psychological needs were identical. The result is many children’s needs are unsatisfied. They then become frustrated, as any of us do when our needs are unmet. They act out their frustration in various ways which are typically seen as “misbehaviour.” This is especially evident when children are expected to all do the same thing for the same length of time. The better we identify their unique needs and satisfy them, the few behavioral problems. It is also evident when they are made to do things which are not interesting to them, or when they are not challenged enough with things which are relevant to their lives. One of the things teenagers who are cutting themselves seem to have in common is they are extremely bored at school as well as emotionally neglected, over-controlled or abused at home.

In dysfunctional families it is most often the emotional needs which are not met. The children and teenagers are getting enough to eat and they have a roof over their heads, but their emotional needs are not being met.

It is helpful to become more aware of these emotional needs as a first step towards helping each other fill them.


Importance of Emotions

Here are a few of the reasons our emotions are important in our lives.

Survival

Nature developed our emotions over millions of years of evolution. As a result, our emotions have the potential to serve us today as a delicate and sophisticated internal guidance system. Our emotions alert us when natural human need is not being met. For example, when we feel lonely, our need for connection with other people is unmet. When we feel afraid, our need for safety is unmet. When we feel rejected, it is our need for acceptance which is unmet.

Decision Making

Our emotions are a valuable source of information. Our emotions help us make decisions. Studies show that when a person’s emotional connections are severed in the brain, he can not make even simple decisions. Why? Because he doesn’t know how he will feel about his choices.

Boundary Setting

When we feel uncomfortable with a person’s behavior, our emotions alert us. If we learn to trust our emotions and feel confident expressing ourselves we can let the person know we feel uncomfortable as soon as we are aware of our feeling. This will help us set our boundaries which are necessary to protect our physical and mental health.

Communication

Our emotions help us communicate with others. Our facial expressions, for example, can convey a wide range of emotions. If we look sad or hurt, we are signalling to others that we need their help. If we are verbally skilled we will be able to express more of our emotional needs and thereby have a better chance of filling them. If we are effective at listening to the emotional troubles of others, we are better able to help them feel understood, important and cared about.

Happiness

The only real way to know that we are happy is when we feel happy. When we feel happy, we feel content and fulfilled. This feeling comes from having our needs met, particularly our emotional needs. We can be warm, dry, and full of food, but still unhappy. Our emotions and our feelings let us know when we are unhappy and when something is missing or needed. The better we can identify our emotions, the easier it will be to determine what is needed to be happy.

Unity

Our emotions are perhaps the greatest potential source of uniting all members of the human species. Clearly, our various religious, cultural and political beliefs have not united us. Far too often, in fact, they have tragically and even fatally divided us. Emotions, on the other hand, are universal. Charles Darwin wrote about this years ago in one of his lesser-known books called “The Expression of Emotion In Man and Animal”. The emotions of empathy, compassion, cooperation, and forgiveness, for instance, all have the potential to unite us as a species. It seem fair to say that, generally speaking: Beliefs divide us. Emotions unite us.

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