We can define emotions as a set of physiological reactions that everyone experiences in front of the stimuli that are presented to us.
They are brief, they can be more or less intense, they are immediate and fleeting.
There is a wide range of emotionssome derived from others, but we say we have 6 basic emotions.
- Anger or anger
- to fear
These are basic emotions because they can be recognized and expressed in the same way in human beings. Charles Darwin, known for his theory of evolution, already said that the facial expression of these fundamental emotions was genetic. Almost a century later, Ekman, an expert in nonverbal behavior analysis, along with Wallace Friesen, introduced the FACS (Facial Codification System).
This system brings together like a map of the face, in which we appreciate every gesture we make with our faces, no matter how small. What Ekman said is that these facial reactions or microgestures are innate and unconscious, although once the reaction occurs we can successfully control them.
What is the difference between emotion, feeling and mood?
As we have defined it, emotion is an ephemeral, transient and brief physiological reaction that we experience in front of a stimulus that presents itself to us.
Feelings are in a way the evolution of emotions, that is to say they are generated from emotions, through mental processes. Feelings involve thought, reflection, awareness of emotions. Also, unlike emotions, they are not linked to a specific experience, but are more generic, for example the feeling of guilt.
The atmosphere would differ from the previous ones by being, perhaps, the least intense and the most lasting. Moreover, it is less specific than an emotion because it does not depend on anything concrete either.
Why is it important to identify, recognize and express emotions?
We can divide basic emotions in:
- Pleasant: joy.
- Unpleasant: tristeza, anger, miedo, disgust.
- Neutral: surprise.
It is important to know that every emotion serves us something (adaptation and survival), even the most unpleasant have their function. What happened ? That these unpleasant emotions have or generally have a negative connotation. For this reason, these are emotions that we tend to avoid.
The following examples that we can receive from society come to mind: “you can’t be sad because it makes you weak”, “you can’t be afraid because it’s cowardly”. Many times we have heard these phrases, or even come to say them thinking that in this way we will make the people we love “stronger or better” or even believing that in this way we will prevent them from suffering negative emotions.
Knowing how to identify, recognize and express one’s emotions allows us, in addition to the adaptation and survival mentioned above, strengthen our bonds, make conscious decisions, be able to deal with situations in a more adaptive way. All of this leads us to feel better, both with ourselves and with others.
When we identify and express emotions, we tend to have better emotional regulation, using adaptive strategies to deal with unpleasant emotions.
Some of these strategies are:
- Seeking social support
- physical exercise
- Awareness of emotion and ability to process it
However, when we fail to achieve adequate emotional regulation, we can use other tools that would be unsuitable, the end of which is the avoidance of said emotions: suppress emotion, substance use, rumination (enter thought loops). For this reason, it is important to work on emotional regulation.
What happens when we don’t show emotions?
Sometimes it can happen that in the family environment there are difficulties of emotional expression, and people learn that it is necessary to repress certain types of emotions, which in the long term can generate problems of discomfort, anxiety or depression.
In extreme cases we may find that this leads to alexithymia, that is, a disorder that is characterized by the inability to express emotions, or even to identify them in ourselves. This does not mean that people with this difficulty do not have emotions, but that they do not know how to identify them, they have repressed them, as a defense mechanism. In these people, it is very difficult to reach the emotion, although therapies such as clinical hypnosis can give very good results when they reconnect with their emotions.
Let’s talk about emotional intelligence: what is it?
This concept was introduced by the authors Salovey and Mayer with the following definition: a subset of social intelligence that includes the ability to control one’s own feelings and emotions, as well as the feelings of others, to distinguish between these feelings and to use this information to be able to guide both our thoughts and our actions”.
On the other hand, Goleman, considered the father of emotional intelligencedefines it as: “the ability to recognize one’s own feelings and the feelings of others, to motivate oneself to be able to manage one’s emotions correctly, both within ourselves and in our relationships with others”.
Emotional intelligence, like any skill, is learned and can be trained and improved. What do we get with emotional intelligence? Improved emotional management, better strategies to deal with difficult situations, demonstrations of affection and empathy, which will improve our social relationships, asking for help when we need it, not suppressing unpleasant feelings, but see what they are for.
What can help us get it?
- Reflecting on how we feel, giving ourselves time for it.
- Accept what we feel. And that doesn’t just involve the emotion itself, but sometimes it involves accepting to feel vulnerable, weak, and those “negative labels” that we put on ourselves if we let ourselves be carried away by certain emotions.
- Accept that there are things we cannot control, acknowledging our limitations and our strengths.
- Talk about emotions. Often we think it’s not going to help us and instead it allows us to care and listen, even sometimes we can step back and understand better.
- Appreciating the positive things we do, no matter how small they may seem.
If you need help managing your emotions and learning from them, remember that Psycho Almeria you have at your disposal specialized psychologists who will help you in a personalized way.