Differences between emotions and feelings

The difference between emotion and feeling is something that often causes confusion when it comes to understanding how the human mind works.

The concepts of emotion and feeling can be easily confused and, in fact, even in the world of psychology, they are often used as if they were synonymous.

However, some authors argue that there are differences between emotions and feelings and therefore these are words used to refer to different mental phenomena.

Distinguish between emotion and feeling

When we talk about this topic it is important to keep in mind that there are different theories about emotion, Which provide various explanations on the functioning of our emotional and psychic facet and, from a neuroscience point of view, on the functioning of the part of the brain responsible for the production of emotions: the limbic system.

However, among authors and researchers who separate the concepts of feelings and emotions (such as Antonio Damasio), there is a certain consensus when it comes to indicating how they differ.

Let’s first see how these two words are defined.

What is an emotion?

An emotion is a set of neurochemical and hormonal responses that predispose us to react in one way or another to an external (like the sight of a spider) or internal (like a childhood memory) stimulus.

This means that an emotion is what is generated by the limbic system of the brain when groups of neurons relate to certain experiences, so we are predisposed to act in a certain way.

Indeed, throughout our life, our brain not only “memorizes the data”, but also learns certain ways in which we must react to these experiences. In one way or another, information about what we are going through goes hand in hand with information about how we react confronted with this; they are not two separate types of information.

This is why, if we learn to associate insects with bites, when we see 1 of them, we will tend to experience the sensation of fear: our body will have learned that with this visual information, it is the right reaction.

    What is a sensation?

    A sensation is similar to an emotion and is closely related to the limbic system, however in addition to this spontaneous, uncontrollable and automatic predisposition, it includes a conscious evaluation that we make of this experience, that is, in a feeling there is a conscious appreciation of the emotion and of the subjective experience in general.

    For example, if we see a spider, we will be able to self-examine how we feel and think in such a situation and think about what other experiences this situation reminds us of, what are the different ways in which this stimulus can be reacted. to., how rational is the disgust or fear we feel, etc.

    what is the difference between both?

    As we have seen, emotions and feelings have to do with something irrational which has to do with the subjective way in which we experience a situation. None of these phenomena can be translated faithfully into words and without leaving many nuances in the inkwell, and it is the other person who, making an effort of empathy, must build in his mind and from his own experiences what we should be feeling.

    However, the basic difference between emotion and feelings is that the first is totally basic, primitive and unidirectional (In the sense that it is something that arises automatically upon presentation of a stimulus) while feeling includes the ability to consciously think and reflect on what one is feeling and therefore has to do with the ability to think in abstract and symbolic terms.

    Works of art, for example, are the classic characterization of feelings, as they are abstract sublimations of emotions. In a poem, there are not only emotions, but there must also be feelings, something that allows you to symbolically express what you are feeling.

    Therefore, feelings are two-wayAs there is something that goes from the most basic and primitive mental processes to consciousness, but there is also something that goes from consciousness to how this situation is assessed and experienced in a holistic and holistic way.

    The two are inseparable

    And here’s an apparent paradox: even though the concepts of feeling and emotion refer to different things, in the practice where there is an emotion there is always a feeling (Or more). Both are presented at the same time, and the words we use separately exist conceptually only in theory to allow us to more accurately understand which part of conscious experience we are describing.

    In the same way as where there are genes there is an environment which influences the way they are expressed, emotion and feelings cannot be presented separately (in the conscious and healthy human being) and the two will overlap. The distinction between the two is more virtual and theoretical than material.

    That is why the difference between feeling and emotion is only used because it is useful in certain cases and because each of them could explain different neurological processes that work in parallel, not because we can effectively isolate a feeling and separate it from the emotion with which it presents itself. In psychology and neuroscience, for better or for worse, things are not that simple.

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