What Is Emotion And Its Importance?

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Emotions infuse our experiences with passion, interest, and meaning. Emotions are also sources of pain and disturbance. They can motivate actions that we later deeply regret.

Without emotions, our lives would be unimaginably different, drab, and bland. Emotions have influences beyond our individual lives. Human emotions have impacted human history. As most emotion scholars now say, without emotions, humans would likely not have survived as they struggles to exist in the harsh environments on our planet.

An emotion is complex. When most people think of emotions, they think of their feelings. But the feeling component is only one aspect of an emotion; emotions also include physiological responses (heart rate may increase, sweating may occur, muscles may tense, etc.), brain activity, thoughts, expressions (facial, body gestures, etc.), and other elements.

Although many emotion-related experiences—such as moods and emotion-related personality traits—occur over relatively long periods of time, emotions themselves are time limited.

Emotions are reactions to external or internal events and last over a few seconds, minutes, or hours. Take, for example, the experience of a snake jumping toward you. Your reaction, an emotion, includes heart rate and blood pressure increase, a feeling of fear, and fearful thoughts. This reaction is brief; another reaction based on this experience would occur only if you conjured up a memory of the jumping snake. In the case of remembering the jumping snake, the emotional response was created by you—you created an internal stimulus that led to an emotion.

Over the ages, the way emotions have been viewed has evolved. In ancient Greek times, emotions were generally thought of as inconveniences, experiences that had to be controlled or managed. Now, many modern scholars adhere to evolutionary or social perspectives, or both, and see emotions ad functional.

According to the evolutionary approach, emotions evolved through natural selection because emotional reactions (e.g., fear, disgust) had survival value. Social and interactionist perspectives hold emotions function in our social lives.

For instance, affiliative emotions, such as love and attachment, bond us together, also increasing our probability of surviving and enriching our lives. However, viewing emotions from functional perspectives may create a problem: how do we reconcile the fact that many mental disorders, such as depression and anxiety disorders, are disorders of emotion? The next page will discuss how scholars have addressed this enigma.

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