Are Emotions and Feelings the Same? (A Complete Guide)

In this guide, we will answer the question- “Are Emotions and Feelings the Same?”. We will also delve into understanding the six basic emotions.

Are Emotions and Feelings the Same?

No, emotions and feelings are not the same.

Emotions vs Feelings

The terms emotions and feelings are often used interchangeably. It is important to understand that emotions and feelings are not the same. An example outlined by Dr.Neel Burton in his article, clearly explains the difference. 

A person says “I am grateful”.

This could mean one of the three things:

They are presently feeling grateful for something (emotional experience/feeling)

They are generally grateful for that thing (emotion/sentiment)

They are a grateful kind of person (personality trait)

Emotions

Emotions are lower-level responses. They are neurobiological responses elicited in response to an emotional stimulus. They are lower-level responses that occur in the subcortical and neocortex regions of the brain. The subcortical region also houses the amygdala which is responsible for emotional arousal. The amygdala is also responsible for regulating the release of neurotransmitters in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is associated with the consolidation of memories. Hence, emotional memories are strong and tend to last longer.

Emotions result in bodily reactions to different situations. These bodily reactions can be measured objectively by the means of heart rate (Electrocardiogram/ ECG), brain activity (Electroencephalogram/EEG), skin-conductance (Galvanic Skin Response/GSR), facial expressions, pupil dilation(eye-tracking)

An emotion can be perceived as a feed-back system. It impacts behavior indirectly. This behavior enables one to either avoid or pursue the emotional outcomes. Further, this behavior may also guide and alter future behavior by stimulation retrospective appraisal of actions.

Feelings

Feelings are the conscious expression of these bodily reactions that constitute emotions. The origins of feelings lie in the neocortical regions of the brain. They stem from emotions and are molded by personal experiences, memories, beliefs, and thoughts associated with that emotion. 

It essentially is a meaning assigned to an emotion.

Emotions are more enduring than feelings. Unlike feelings which are conscious experiences, emotions are latent to an extent. They are experienced subconsciously or consciously. They can only be felt through the emotional experiences that give rise to it. However, it can also be discovered through thoughts, actions, desires, and beliefs associated with it. 

Oftentimes, emotions can remain repressed for years. Emotions like hatred and jealousy towards a loved one may be unearthed during the course of psychotherapy.

A feeling is an emotional experience, although not all emotional experiences are feelings. Emotional experiences are generally brief and episodic.

Emotional experiences can also be subjected to defense mechanisms at the conscious level. This occurs when one is unable to accept or tolerate the emotional experience. Consequently, they may misattribute the type and/or intensity of the experience, or misattribute the object or its cause. Schadenfreude is defined as the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others. It is often construed as sympathy. This reduces the unacceptability associated with the emotional experience. Construing envy as indignation is another example.

Basic Emotions (source: verywellmind.com)

Psychologist Paul Eckman identified six basic emotions which he believed existed universally across cultures. These six emotions can be described as:

Happiness

We are all striving for happiness, aren’t we? Happiness is a pleasant emotion. It is marked by feelings of joy, well-being, satisfaction, and gratification. This is one of the basic emotions. It can be indicated through facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. This includes the act of smiling, a relaxed self, and a pleasant tone, respectively. 

If you ask people what makes them happy, you are bound to receive a number of responses.

“A car”. “A well-paying job”. “Family”. “Music”. “Pets”. 

There is no limit to the different sources of happiness for people. This is likely to differ from person to person. Our definition of happiness will be shaped by our culture, experiences, and individual opinions.

Research has indicated a link between happiness and health. Experiencing happiness is linked to feelings of physical and mental well-being. Further, happiness has been known to lead to other factors like marital satisfaction, longevity. On the other end stress, anxiety, and loneliness are linked to lower immunity, decreased life expectancy, and other problems related to one’s mental and physical well-being.

Sadness

We all experience sadness at some point or the other. It is marked by feelings such as grief, hopelessness, and disappointment. It can be expressed through crying, a dampened mood, withdrawal from people around. The extent to which one feels sad will depend on the cause, and people’s coping mechanisms. People can have either healthy or unhealthy coping mechanisms. At times, people continue to ponder upon the cause of their sadness, dwelling in their negative thoughts. They may avoid people. Further, they may engage in unhealthy behaviors like binge eating and binge drinking. This might only increase their sadness.

Prolonged sadness can lead to depression. How each person copes with sadness will also differ.

Fear

Fear is an emotion that plays a role in survival. It alerts one of any dangers in their surrounding. When a person is experiencing fear, they enter into flight or fight mode. This allows them to deal with the danger in their surrounding. This can be indicated by facial expressions, body language, and physiological response. These include widening the eyes, trying to escape/leave the situation, rapid heart rate, and respiration rate, respectively.

Of course, not everyone experiences fear in the same way. Some people may be more sensitive to fear. Further, certain situations or objects may be more likely to trigger this emotion. This emotional response is elicited in response to a threat in our environment. This threat might also be a potential object/thought. 

People will most likely have different responses to the same object. Some might be more sensitive to particular stimuli than others. Further, some individuals might prefer to engage in fear-inducing activities like certain sports. This gives them a certain thrill. When a person is repetitively exposed to a particular object of fear, it might lead to a sort of acclimatization. This may reduce feelings of anxiety and fear.

Disgust

When we are disgusted, we might display this in different ways. One, a person might have facial expressions like curling the lips, physical reactions like vomiting, and body language indicator like turning away from the object.

Disgust is a product of evolution. It stemmed from a reaction to foods that could be fatal. Disgust can be elicited in response to an unpleasant smell, taste, or sight. One can be disgusted by things like infection, and poor hygiene. This is the body’s mechanism to avoid objects/situations that can be fatal to it. Further, there is something known as moral disgust. This is seen when people see others engaging in behaviors they consider to be morally wrong.

Anger

When a person gets angry, they are likely to experience feelings like frustration, hostility, and agitation.  Anger has a role in the body’s flight and fight mechanism. When a person perceives danger in a situation, the emotion of anger might help them fight the threat in the environment. They might display this emotion in the following manner:

Facial Expressions: Frown

Tone of Voice: Yelling, Shouting

Aggressive Behaviors: Hitting

Physiological Responses: Sweating

Generally, anger is always perceived with a negative connotation. However, it might act as a positive tool. It might help one in expressing themselves. It can motivate a person to find a solution to the issue that has triggered the motion. 

However, if a person gets angry even at the drop of a hat, it can be problematic. Uncontrollable anger can pose problems in a relationship. In severe cases, it might lead to very violent tendencies. Therefore, if a person is struggling with anger, they should engage in anger management strategies. Anger has also been seen to affect a person’s physical wellbeing. It might push a person to engage in behavior that might be unhealthy like smoking, drinking, etc.

Surprise

Surprise is a very brief emotion. It can be positive, negative, or neutral in nature. For example, one might be surprised by a positive situation or a negative situation. 

Positive: You walk home on the eve of your birthday to find all your friends waiting to surprise you.

Negative: You are walking on the road all alone. You suddenly feel a hand on your shoulder. You are startled and scared.

This might be indicated by facial expressions like widening the eyes, verbal reactions like screaming, and physical responses like jumping. Surprise can also activate the fight and flight response. Further, when a person is surprised, they are likely to remember more facts. We tend to learn more from surprising pieces of information and remember surprising events more vividly.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we answered the question: Are Emotions and Feelings the Same?. We also delved into understanding the six basic emotions.

FAQs: Are Emotions and Feelings the Same?

Which comes first emotions or feelings?

The emotion comes first. However, the feeling that follows will differ from person to person and situation to situation. The feelings one will experience will be influenced by one’s experiences and temperament. Thus, two individuals might experience the same emotion, yet label it differently (laughteronlineuniversity.com).

What is the difference between affect, emotion, and mood?

An affect comprises a range of feelings people can experience. On the other hand, emotions can be indicated by body language and facial experiences. Whereas a mood is a state of mind. It is less intense than an emotion. A mood might not require contextual stimuli to be elicited (dbtcentresouthbay.com). 

Is happiness a feeling or emotion?

Happiness is a pleasant emotion. It might be characterized by feelings of contentment, joy, and satisfaction (verywellmind.com).

What are some happy emotions?

Emotions beyond happiness include joy, gratitude, pride, serenity, amusement, hope etc (verywellmind.com).

References

Imotions 

What’s the Difference Between a Feeling and an Emotion

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201412/whats-the-difference-between-feeling-and-emotion

The Difference Between Feelings and Emotions https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/difference-feelings-emotions/

The 6 Types of Basic Emotions and Their Effect on Human Behavior

https://www.verywellmind.com/an-overview-of-the-types-of-emotions-4163976

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