Studying our emotions

Identify and precisely define our emotions is a necessary first step for manage them and also for improve our self-knowledge.  The focus in this post is not merely from the point of view of psychology, but from a humanistic perspective that includes the spiritual dimension of man, in line with the following definition:

Spirituality, as it is conceived here, is directly related to five concepts: transcendence, connection, consciousness, life sense and detachment.

What are emotions?

It is not easy to define; let us consider a few definitions. First a classical thought:

They are all those feelings that both affect humans, changing their opinion, and that can cause pain or pleasure, such are anger, grief, fear and the like with their opposites. – Aristotle –

A modern definition is:

The mental aware reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling generally directed toward a specific object and usually accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body and mind. Merriam-Webster dictionary –

We can see that in both ancient and modern definition the word sensation, an awareness of sense signals (external sensation) or internal signals of body or mind. Also both definitions coincide in the strong effect of emotion affect your body, your mind and your behavior.

Positive and negative emotions

The first classification of emotions differentiates them into two classes:

  • Positive emotions aroused emotional state is pleasurable, welfare; eg joy.
  • Negative emotions aroused emotional state is painful discomfort; example: anger.

And a third class:

  • Neutral emotions aroused emotional state can be of comfort or discomfort, depending on context; example: surprise, which can be good or bad.

There are different opinions on this classification; some believe that there are not “negative” emotions, as all are useful in the sense of telling us something is happening; a possible answer to this objection is that the “negative” term in this context does not necessarily mean that it is bad and should be eliminated, only it refers to the state that accompanies the negative emotion is upset. My personal opinion is at the other extreme: negative emotions can be minimized or even eliminated, becoming unnecessary, as they are reactions that occur in the mind, and the mind is extremely malleable. What do you think, reader?

More negative emotions than positive and neutral

In the next picture some “emoticons” used in the Internet for graphically show emotional states. If the reader is entertained in classifying them as positive, negative or neutral, you’ll notice that there are many more negative. In addition, it happens to be more easily and frequently fall and remain in negative emotional states rather than positive (“law of hedonic asymmetry” –  Frijda -1988).


Some emoticons: notice there are more negative than positive ones

In my personal opinion, this asymmetry is only true when the person, subject of emotions, have a  mind of predominantly acting in the materialistic level, egocentered; on the contrary, in the mind spiritually oriented, in the sense we defined spirituality, this asymmetry switch sides, and positive emotions take highest weight naturally. Why? Such mind has:

  • transcendence: the personal ego in no more “the center of the Universe”
  • connection: the ego feels isolated, so in danger, but when we feel connected, this feelings dissipates
  • consciousness: the person is aware of the reality, beyond their thoughts
  • life sense: we know our goals, our aims in life
  • detachment: act as a good actor in scene, playing your role as well as you can, but always remembering you are more than the role

With all this powers, negative emotions lose strength and usefulness, becoming unnecessary. By the way, the set of such spiritual skills conform the so named “spiritual intelligence”, by similarity with the term “emotional intelligence”. Want to know more about? Hope so!


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