Emotions, Part 1

Emotions, Part 1

What Are Emotions?

Emotions are the kind of thing you can’t live with and can’t live without. They are, perhaps, the most complicated and confusing part about being human and at the same time the most beautiful. A double-edged sword, emotions reveal the vibrancy of life and can also lead to pain and suffering. A life with too little emotion is cold and dull, and a life with too much emotion is overwhelming and chaotic. So, how do we find the right balance?

The following is a guide meant to simplify and demystify the emotions. In this article, I’ll be delving into each basic emotion, offering a big-picture understanding, and providing a rudimentary roadmap for bringing awareness and harmony to this area of human experience.

 Varying Views

People have been attempting to understand and systematize the emotions for thousands of years, and philosophers and scientists have spent generations examining their origins. Even today there remains a debate about how to define, measure, and categorize them. Some say that emotions come from the brain, others assert from the soul. Some claim that only two basic emotions exist, while others have outlined over 34,000 different kinds. Some state that emotions and feelings are synonymous, while others describe feelings as a broader term that includes physical sensations. For the sake of my sanity and your precious time, I won’t be wading into these debates. Instead, I’d like to clarify how I conceptualize emotions so that we can streamline the discussion.


To start, let’s explain the term. Broadly speaking, emotions are the product of the heart. By ‘heart’ I don’t mean the physical organ, but rather the deeper-dimensional energy field centered at the chest and spread out spherically around the entire body. Just as thoughts are created by the mind, so emotions are produced by the heart, and every emotion we experience emerges out of this heart-field as a unique energetic pattern.

In popular culture, the concept of emotions being “e-motions,” or energies in motion, is fairly accurate. Emotions are energy states that, when unimpeded, generally flow outward and upward through the body. Oftentimes though the emotions don’t flow because we obstruct them…but more on that later.

I’ve chosen to define emotions as those pure energetic feeling states that are without influence from other feelings or thoughts. Oftentimes, we have complex emotions that are not fundamental but are a combination of two or more emotions, or even a mixture of emotions and thoughts. For example, I would not consider ‘disappointment’ to be a pure emotion because it is a blend of sadness + negative thinking. ‘Contempt’ would also not be a basic emotion since it is generally anger + disgust. Likewise, ‘shame’ and ‘guilt’ are more thought-based than they are feeling-based, ‘grief’ is a process with several phases and emotions, and ‘peace’ is not an emotion at all but rather the felt-experience when all emotions are absent. Thus, the ones I’d like to explore are the primary feeling states that the heart is originally encoded with; the building blocks of the heart.

The Seven Basic Emotions

According to the above definition, there are seven distinct fundamental emotions – happiness, sadness, love, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust – each one being an essential component of life. Each of these seven have many synonyms as well as unique physiological and behavioral characteristics. Defining them is impossible due to their subjective nature, nor is it necessary since we all intuitively know what each one feels like. However, a simple understanding informed by both evolutionary biology and psychospiritual philosophy can go a long way in helping us navigate them.

The Purpose of Emotions

From an evolutionary biology perspective, each emotion exists for one purpose: survival. Happiness gives us a reason to live and the energy with which to do so. Sadness teaches us to avoid maladaptive social situations and strengthens our desire for happiness. Love encourages social cooperation and reproduction. Fear signals to us when we may be in a life-threatening situation and provides the adrenaline to do something about it. Anger empowers us to fight and defend. Surprise helps us identify unexpected situations and act quickly if necessary. Disgust protects us from unhealthy sensory stimuli. In these ways, each emotion delivers unique information and energy to aid in the continuation of the species.

From a psychospiritual perspective, the emotions tell a different story. In this context, their function is to contrast between light and darkness, or positivity and negativity, and to ultimately point us toward our true nature as spiritual beings. Happiness reveals our inherent fullness, while sadness exposes our essential emptiness. Love is the power that expands and unites, while fear is the force that contracts and divides. Anger informs us that something we care about has been violated, surprise reminds us of the mystery of manifestation, and disgust clarifies our values. In these ways, the emotions aid in our self-discovery.

Essentially, each of the seven basic emotions is like a coin with two sides – one side is physical and aids in the preservation of the organism, and one side is metaphysical and aids in identity formation and dissolution. Both sides are necessary for delivering the complete experience of human life.

The Importance of Understanding the Emotions

At this point, you may be wondering why any of this information is important. The reason is that the emotions are some of the most powerful forces that influence our daily lives. It is not an over-exaggeration to state that they are the biggest human motivator, and underestimated at that. Many of our thoughts, ideas, and actions stem from our emotions…and much of the time we don’t even know it! An introductory understanding of them will, at the very least, help you navigate your life with greater ease. Moreover, my hope is that these words will pique your interest and inspire you to delve deeper into your emotions, thereby increasing your understanding of self and others, and ultimately open the hidden door to your soul.

…continued in Part 2…

Emotions are a critical source of information for learning.
~ Joseph LeDoux