The term emotion does not have a definition that up to now is widely accepted. Various contributions have been made, both experimental and theoretical, which try to explain what the functions and origins of human emotions are.

The main problem for the theoretical conceptualization of emotions arises from the relationship between cognition cognitive psychology ) and physiological foundations . Those who defend the cognitive perspective propose that these processes are essential for the creation of emotions. In this way, any of the reactions depend on the affective component.

On the other hand, from the biological perspective, an emotion is interpreted as only dependent on physical gestures and expressions . Therefore, they are spontaneous reactions that can be evoked without the participation of cognitive aspects.

What are emotions?

Emotions are generally defined as responses or reactions , whose origin is physiological. These are expressed through bodily changes that are generated from the interaction with situations that occur in the environment. These are experiences that depend on perceptions and attitudes. They are elements that allow you to have a specific assessment.

Emotions are stimuli that happen impulsively and quickly. They correspond to what perception has identified. These bodily responses are considered necessary because they allow us to know and understand the information that is being received from outside. Emotions help guide people’s behavior .

Stimuli are dependent on several components: biochemical processes neurophysiological processes , cognitive processes and behavioral processes. Emotions have been determined to have a number of functions:

  • Adaptive
  • Emotional
  • Social.

They have an adaptive function . They help to facilitate having an appropriate response that corresponds to the demands of the situations that occur in the environment. For example, fear favors defensive reactions such as flight and immobility.

They have a social function, since they allow to have a behavior that develops according to interpersonal relationships. In this way, an informative exchange occurs with other people, by demonstrating what the emotional state is through facial or verbal expressions. This is how the intentions, state or affective values are known .

Regarding the motivational function , an emotional reaction makes it easier for the individual to begin to have a behavior that facilitates the achievement of proposed objectives. This is a function that depends on the dimension or intensity of said emotion. For example, sadness results in a survival behavior which is expressed in the search for company.

What are the characteristics and functions of emotions? 

They differ from feelings because they are expressed in different ways. The feelings are more durable , while emotions occur in a section of the mind in which short knee – jerk reactions are generated. In this way, it is possible to modify behavioral aspects such as postures and facial gestures.

They are characterized by depending on a series of components that help them to fulfill different functions. In other words, for a person to experience an emotion, a complex process has to be started in which several factors intervene . The components involved are described below:

  • The physiological components are those that allow the activation of an emotion. They work as a physical preparation for the body, this involves making changes in the nervous and endocrine systems.
  • There is an expressive and behavioral component ( behavioral psychology ) . This is reflected in facial expressions and in body postures. The cognitive aspect also intervenes, the experimentation of an emotion is subjective.
  • The neurophysiological responses and biochemical depend on various physiological processes. These occur in different sections of the brain, in turn within the endocrine and central nervous systems.
  • Behaviors such as facial expressions and approach movements are combined with verbal behaviors such as changes in voice intonation.
  • Sociocultural and educational factors influence emotional expression. Some social norms modulate the process of expression which can inhibit or facilitate its manifestation.
  • The cognitive component also depends on the affective experience . In this way the perception of an emotion changes drastically in different situations.

It is understood to be a multi-dimensional experience ; and that also depends on a complex system in which the behavioral, expressive, cognitive, physiological, subjective and adaptive intervene.

All are elements of human nature. Therefore, theoretically emotions are the result of multiple reasons, which makes it difficult to use a single definition to refer to them.

How are emotions classified? 

They are classified into two main groups that are subdivided into other categories. Primary emotions are differentiated from secondary ones , it is established that some of them are more positive than others. However, they are all necessary because they allow us to know useful information to get to know the person.

Primary emotions

Primary emotions are also called basic. They are often described as those that allow us to understand what a person really feels. To this group belong some that are considered more positive when compared with others.

The emotions known as healthy are those that allow us to understand situations and needs in a better way:

  • Anger allows us to know which limits have been violated.
  • Sadness signals a loss or a need for affection.
  • Fear indicates when you are in a dangerous situation.
  • Surprise allows one to inquire or investigate situations that are new.
  • The disgust indicates that an experience is not being nice.
  • The joy is the proof that something positive has happened or has achieved a goal that will provide benefits.

Secondary emotions 

They are the ones that allow you to maintain a defensive attitude . They tend to hide information that is very important on a personal level. Sometimes they serve to hide emotions that have a greater intensity. They serve as a protection because they allow the protection of beliefs or ideals that have limitations.

An example of this type is found in the feeling of sadness , which is usually blocked. At the social level, it has been established that crying or anger are not aspects that should not be shown in public.

Examples of emotions 

They depend on physiological aspects, which in turn are related to biochemical processes. A good example is found in the change in heart rate or in the acceleration of breathing . Both are reactions that are related to fear or surprise .

Other examples of this type are the secretion of adrenaline and also the increase of glucose. These are changes that violate the chemical balance of the system. The same happens with sweating, it can increase or decrease drastically.

They also show positive and negative aspects of the personality , but they are a reflection of what is happening in the environment. The most important emotions are shown below:

  • Acceptance is the willingness to face a situation
  • Affection is related to love. AND
  • Appreciation is the demonstration of esteem towards a person, it also means that it is reciprocal.
  • Joy manifests itself as a positive state of mind, it supposes the demonstration of satisfaction.
  • Love is the show of affection towards a person or something.
  • Well-being means that there is a somatic and psychic balance.
  • Fun is the entertainment and wellness demonstration.
  • Enthusiasm depends on the passion for an activity, person or topic.
  • Hope is the confidence in being able to achieve a desired objective.
  • Happiness is absolute satisfaction.
  • Humor is the demonstration of attention with respect to something comic.
  • Illusion is the demonstration of hope and emotion.
  • Motivation is a reaction that stimulates enthusiasm and energy.
  • Passion is related to love and sexuality .
  • Satisfaction is the fulfillment of a desire or action, it allows to generate greater confidence and security.
  • Boredom arises from lack of stimuli and distractions.
  • Burden is an emotional burden that produces fatigue.
  • Anguish is related to a concern or because of suffering.
  • Guilt is the feeling of responsibility for an action that had negative consequences.
  • Disappointment is the disappointment that arises from a situation that did not have the expected results.
  • Despair is the absence of patience, a feeling of helplessness and that the goal cannot be achieved.
  • Disgust that there is the reaction to an unexpected result.
  • Frustration is the impossibility of failing to satisfy a desire.
  • Outrage, anger at considering a particular situation unfair.
  • Anger is the display of anger.
  • Fear is the demonstration of rejection and also the perception of danger.
  • Worry is the concern before the uncertain.
  • Anger is the expression of anger through violent and aggressive behavior.
  • Sadness is emotional pain that is caused by a trigger.
  • Shame is discomfort due to humiliation, rejection, or fear of ridicule.
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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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