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How Our Emotions Are Designed to Benefit Us

Updated on October 14, 2012

Emotions Conceal Our Needs

Emotions are designed to ensure our survival.
Emotions are designed to ensure our survival. | Source

Emotions Affect Our Entire Body and Mind

Emotions affect us in every aspect of our being. An event or our environment causes our mind to perceive something. Our body sends out chemicals that cause us to feel an emotion, and we take action. If we are scared, we may run, if we are happy, we may dance, if we are sad, we may cry, if we are angry we may hit. Our reaction is specific to the situation and the benefit that we will derive from our actions.

Emotions come as a result of situations. Various emotions will be felt in response to the issues someone is confronted with, or events that trigger a memory. Emotions happen because of a specific event. Grief comes from loss. Anger comes from a perception of being insulted or frustrated. Fear comes from feeling threatened. Happiness comes from gains.

We react to our perceptions. We feel positive emotions when we believe we have achieved something satisfying, whether it is real or not. We have a negative emotion when we feel threatened by something real or imagined. All events elicit an emotion. We are thinking, feeling beings. When people don’t feel emotions on a consistent basis, there may be psychological issues going on. Some people have trouble dealing with their deeper feelings and may cover them up. If this behavior started in childhood, it may be indicative of some emotional problems. People who feel emotions in a shallow way, almost like they are projecting an image, may have narcissistic personality disorder. At its simplest level, when we try to shut down some emotions, we cut off the ability to feel all emotions. The fear of having to deal with negative emotions, makes us unable to feel even the good emotions. To be happy, takes risks. We risk the feeling of disappointment, if things don’t turn out the way we wanted them to. Happy feelings are in relation to what it feels like to be happy and to not be happy. If we fear what it feels like to feel sad, and we shut down those feelings, we won’t know happiness either.

Our Perceptions Affect Our Emotions

Emotions relate to learned behavior going back to our childhood. Emotions cause a psychological reaction and a physical reaction. When we have an emotion, we usually act it out. Anger may lead to punching, hitting or breakings, sadness makes us cry, fear makes us scream and shake, happiness makes us sing and dance. We react to a situation that is important to our own selves in some way.

Emotions hide our major concerns. We worry about our loved ones, and we react if they get hurt. We feel happy when our loved ones have achieved success in some way. If the things we are concerned about threaten our security, we will have an emotional reaction. If you lost money in your wallet, you will have an emotional reaction, because of what that money means to you. If you feel sad for someone else, the pain you are feeling relates to some concern you have for yourself. You may feel envious toward someone else because of the meaning it has personally to you. Who we love, and why we love them has a lot to do with what needs we believe that person fulfills for us.

Knowledge alone, doesn't create an emotional reaction. We react because there is a personal meaning connected to the event, experience, or knowledge. Our emotions are based on our perceptions of reality and how they presently concern us. A good actor makes us believe what we are watching is real and we react emotionally to what we are observing. We believe what we are watching, and become engaged in it. The situation touches something we can relate to and it evokes feelings within us.

Emotions and Our Reactions

We have an emotional reaction based on the events we perceive to be true.
We have an emotional reaction based on the events we perceive to be true. | Source

What Makes Us Have an Emotional Reaction

People may know that smoking is bad for them, they know this is true, but don’t do anything about it. How we interpret and evaluate situations dictates how we respond emotionally.

The perception of smoking really affecting them are not close enough to motivate them to change. In other words, someone may more readily give up smoking if they become fearful that it may compromise their health. But if they don’t have this fear, they will probably continue smoking. We have an emotional reaction to something because it relates to something we care about. We often take the future more lightly than we should. People don’t save for retirement when they are younger, for this same reason.

Emotions can give you discipline and motivation that mere thoughts do not have the power to do. Simply telling someone not to be afraid of heights, will not help them get over this fear. But if you subject the person, gradually to height exposure, they can sometimes learn to master their phobia. Experiences are related to our emotions. What we view as our reality, is how we react emotionally to things. Sometimes our imagination interferes with reality. If we don’t discern the difference, we react to our imagination. What our thoughts tell us is real, we deem real.

Our emotions respond to changes, expected and unexpected, favorable and unfavorable. The greater the change, the stronger the emotion. We respond to the things we must adjust to. The relationship between the event and our personal frame of reference affect the emotion that gets attached to this change. Our prior exposure may prepare us to feel a certain way. Our emotion is a reaction to the unexpected. Our emotion will be different if we were expecting the outcome to be different. This emotional response applies to little and big things. We bring our car in for repair, and feel relief that the cost is far less than we expected. We feel disappointment if we were expecting a phone call and it didn’t come.

We get used to some emotions, and never get used to other. We never get used to pain, deprivation, misery. We get used and the feeling fades in relation to the same event that caused us happiness, pleasure, satisfaction. These positive feelings are dependent on change and goes away as the situation stays the same when we are feel continual satisfaction. In contrast painful feelings don’t go away, even when the adverse conditions persist. We never get used to discomfort. It is our coping skills that help us adjust to the negative situations we must endure.

Our emotions come about because we need to respond to an action in order to ensure our survival. When there is no more action needed, the emotion goes away. It is possible to elevate our level of happiness, it just doesn’t come naturally to us. Time doesn’t heal wounds, the way the old adage says it does. What time does do, is give us repeated exposure to events that make the event not so new to us. So the response is not as strong. We get used to the circumstances we are dealt with. Our emotions don’t respond the same way, if we have a prior frame of reference to the same situation. Our emotions don’t diminish with time, but our reaction will be at a lower degree than it previously was, simply because our survival mechanism does not have to respond with the same intensity, since we have had prior exposure to it.

Why We React the Way We Do

Our Emotions Consume Us at That Moment

But we can have an equally strong emotional reaction to something that resembles the original situation. Repeated exposure dulls our reaction. Things that trigger the memory of the initial issue will create as strong an emotion as the original situation did. People who suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have this reaction frequently. If the emotional experiences are fresh, the old pains will never grow old, they only point us to old the hurts, the old emotions that refer to the prior events.

Emotions are a one way street. When we have an emotional reaction to something, our body, mind and soul are certain that this is the way we must react. There is an absoluteness to emotions. It becomes a focal point of our thought and actions at that very moment in time. We don’t consider if our emotions are appropriate at that moment, we just know we have a feeling and we must react to it. It probably goes back to our emotions and survival. We are not designed to question our fight or flight response. To do so, could delay our reaction and endanger us. We are designed to react quickly. We don’t have the time to think about what our reaction should be. Our perception dictates our emotions. Our emotions dictate our reactions, and there is no stopping this process, once it has been launched. Our emotional response is somewhat automatic, based on what our perceptions tell us. For every emotion we have, we have a reaction. We need to react quicker to things that threaten us, which is always with negative emotions.

Emotions may flow from within us, but they are somewhat regulated by us. Someone might feel so angry, they may want to punch someone. Some don’t stop themselves. Some think of the consequences and will still show their anger, but perhaps in a less violent way. So many times, we inhibit some of our emotional response. Even control, can be considered part of our emotions. We react to our perceived reality. The spontaneous way we respond is an outgrowth of our environmental conditions that have predisposed us to these feelings. We might not be able to control the emotion that happens, but we can put the brakes on a full blown emotional response that allows all our feelings to dominate the situation and act completely impulsively.

Human beings, if given the opportunity, will try to view alternatives so that the emotional reaction is the least negative it has to be. In some situations, we may try to deny that the issues will affect us so that in this denial, we won’t have to respond emotionally. Let’s say a student in class didn’t do their homework. They may believe the teacher won’t call on them,, so that they don’t have to feel anxious about not doing the assignment.

Emotions and Logic

By the same means, we use our emotions to create the best situation for ourselves, or what we believe to be the best situation at that moment in time. An example of this can be seen in someone showing their anger to get the other person to back down. Someone may cry in front of someone else so they can get help for their grief. Our physical and emotional reaction to fear might really stop us from doing something dangerous. People try to

Sometimes we unconsciously depersonalize ourselves from the situation because the emotions may overwhelm us. We use denial, illusions of hopes, avoidant thinking, and we block things out to minimize the strong emotions we might have to a situation that is too much for us to handle. People may go into shock from traumatic events, severe threat, pain, abuse, failure and other scenarios that make reality difficult to bear.

Emotions are an innate response. Logic involves cognitive purposeful engagement of our brain to look at a situation in a realistic way and to be able to weigh the consequences of the action or inaction we take. What we believe to be true, we will react to. Our reaction is in proportion to what the situation warrants, to how much it concerns us, to how real it seems to us, to what we have previously been exposed, to the intensity of our reaction, to the consequences, to getting the best reaction from our emotional response, and to other factor that play a part in our emotion.

Logic plays a part in our emotional response. Reasoning may help us make choices about how to react because the end desire is usually to have greater pleasure and less sorrow. Emotions do not always let us choose the wisest way to react. What we believe to be true, starts a process that may or may not allow us to invoke our voluntary choice to reason about emotions.

Our Behavior and Our Emotions

Do You React Before You Think?

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    • viveresperando profile image

      viveresperando 5 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

      I am sure I will find and already do find your hubs interesting. I might not make my comments very detailed due to I've had unwanted lurking in the past on my comments on other sights and learned to keep somethings to myself (still learning) lol. But know if I am processing it is because your article has inspired thinking, pondering, learning, and understanding. I make this clear though just because I might understand a point of you, does not necessarily mean I agree. But I understand. :)

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Tom, So now I am finding out more of your sordid past. I am glad you are in a better place now, than when you were younger. There is a lot to be said for maturing. Sometimes we need to go through things in order to appreciate where we are today. Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts and your kind comments.

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Viv, Thanks for your kind comments. Emotions are complicated and there is a lot to write about it, so I am not surprised you are still processing it. Stay tuned, I have more hubs coming out about emotions. I hope you will stop by and let me know if you find them interesting too.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, great well written and informative hub which made it a very interesting read. Just like Bill i am in a much better place emotionally than i was when i was a teenager. Well done !

      Vote up and more !!!

      Have a awesome week my friend !

    • viveresperando profile image

      viveresperando 5 years ago from A Place Where Nothing Is Real

      Found this interesting. Still processing all of it. :)

    • toknowinfo profile image

      toknowinfo 5 years ago

      Hi Bill, there is so much wisdom in what you have said. I am glad you are in a better place now.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      An excellent look at emotions and how they affect us. I have found that the older I get the more I am aware of my emotions and what is causing them. Just another reason why I am happy growing older, because when I was younger I was at times out of control and that is never enjoyable. :)

      I hope you are having a peaceful Sunday my friend!