Why do you feel that way?

Google defines ’emotion’ as

 a strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.

Why do we cry while watching a movie? Why do we get excited when our favorite team is winning? Why does a breakup hurt so damn much? Before we dive deeper into the rabbit hole of our emotions, let us first look at three ways we try to make sense of everything. 

  • Sensory Perceptual Experiences:  Now if you took Psychology 101 then you know that Sensation and Perception can be broken down into their own individual units.  When we see a beautiful lake, it’s a part of our sensory perceptual experience. The mere act of ‘seeing’ is our sensation and when we attach the ‘beauty’ through our experiences from the past, it is our perception. 
  • Drives:  Drives are things that you instinctively want to approach or avoid. When you’re hungry, you search for food. When you see a lion at a distance, you avoid that road. 
  • Emotions: Our emotions are responses to our perception and drives. When you see that beautiful tree, you become happy. When you are hungry, you become grumpy. 
Why do you feel that way? 1

Our emotions are basically indicators that point us towards our underlying needs. Our negative emotions are indicating a threat to our underlying needs. Our negative emotions make us avoidant. Our positive emotions are indicating an opportunity to meet our needs. Positive emotions energize us. 

But us humans are not that simple. We have a whole level of self-consciousness thing going on for us. So we can or at least we try to control our emotions. We again do this in two ways. 

  • If you have constantly been told that exhibiting your sadness is a sign of weakness. Big girls don’t cry. Boys don’t cry kind of thing. Or, you yourself believe so then you may try to suppress them. Yes, not all emotions are to be displayed for eg. You can’t show that you’re jealous. They are our primal instincts. But when we suppress or distract our emotion, it gets jammed somewhere in our subconscious. This kind of control usually leads us to clinical mental health issues such as depression, suicide attempts et cetera. You might act impulsively when it’s too much. Blocking your partner. Saying things you would rather not because you are hurt. And you’ll shut yourself down because your emotions only cause you pain.  
  • The second approach involves understanding your emotions. Yes, you are hurt that you fell. Your elbow is wounded. But, it’s okay. You can get up and continue playing again. It’s just a scratch. You can use your pain to guide you in a more positive direction rather than lamenting on it. Avoiding pain is a painful experience in itself. We simply cannot. What we can do is embrace it and leverage it to better ourselves. Let the pain direct you towards what you need. Let the pain make you a better human being.   

Now to answer the above questions (why do we feel happy at weddings and sad at funerals? ) We tend to mimic the emotions of those around us and those around us tend to mimic our emotions. 

Emotional contagion is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. -Wikipedia

Knowing and understanding our emotions in a healthy manner not only helps us discover ourselves but also adds value to the lives we touch. 

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