emotions and feelings

Nico Fridja wrote that emotions and feelings are different. (check out his  book The Laws of Emotion!)

Emotions are raw, beyond our control– they arise spontaneously and have a physiological base. Because of that, they are inherently more obvious to others. When we’re happy dopamine, serotonin kicks in and we can’t help but smile, if not a cheerful grin, maybe a subtle crinkle of the eyes. When we’re afraid, it’s adrenaline and that basal fight-flight instinct that fuels fear. Same for sorrow, anger and shame (yes believe it or not).

So those are emotions. Neurochemical fluctuations in our brains that we supposedly can’t help but show.

Feelings are broader, cognitive-based, and consequently much easier to hide. “We are not suddenly hijacked by our feelings as we are by out emotions.” Guilt, anxiety, jealously, indignation, helplessness– these are feelings, and the list goes on. Humans have always been able to mask, moderate and channel our feelings better than our emotions; to slap on a facade and assure the world we’re fine.

But I feel (feel!), that this distinction is soon becoming history. Who hasn’t seen a person smile through tears or face off fear? What happens then, when we learn to mask our emotions?


One thought on “emotions and feelings

  1. If you’re implying that it’s a bad thing, well… your fears are not unfounded. It’s possible to mask emotions. SAS personnel are trained to do that under resistance to interrogation. As for us – even though we’re not SAS, we mask our emotions all the time because the context requires us to.

    I guess it’ll make a pretty dull, monotonous world – no laughter, no smiles and no toxic concoctions of expletives from different languages.

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