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What Are Feelings?

Emotions are feelings. They can be part of our character, or caused by a situation we encounter or by people we are with. Emotions aren’t the result of conscious thought.

Positive emotions include: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Positive emotions make us feel good. For instance, interest makes us look at our surroundings, inspires curiosity and fascination with new stuff. Pride builds self-confidence; it’s standing back and feeling good at accomplishing something. Amusement makes us laugh and can instantly change our perspective. Love encompasses all of the other emotions, and floods our bodies with “feel good” hormones that reduce stress.

Negative emotions include: sadness, pessimism, guilt, anxiety, mindlessness, anger, and jealousy. Mostly, negative emotions make us feel bad. If it’s all we feel, if we get stuck, if it is affecting our relationships with other people, we need to talk to someone who can help break down the wall of negativity we’ve built around ourselves. Or if we’re on an emotional rollercoaster, where we’re happy one moment and sad or desperate the next, or if the ups and downs leave us feeling wiped out or out of control, seeing a school counselor or a therapist can help us get back in control.

Negative emotions can also be helpful. For instance, guilt can keep us from stealing, using drugs, or hurting someone. We know we’ll feel terrible if gossip or lie, so we avoid it. Anxiety helps us avoid danger, such as not walking alone on a deserted street at night, or leaving the stove burner on unattended. Researchers say we are more creative when we are mindless (zoned out), that short periods of emptiness result in bursts of insights about unresolved problems. We can use our anger to fix problems. For instance, if someone makes us angry by abusing a classmate, controlled anger gives us the courage to say something to stop it or to report the situation to someone who can.

We will feel most of these emotions at different times in our lives. Sometimes they sneak up on us, other times they hit us over the head. We need to be aware of them, to think thru how our emotions have triggered our actions. Sometimes it takes work to achieve inner peace, but it’s always worth it.

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