Emotions are subjective experiences (perception of a wedding) that bring about change in our psychological state (feeling excited), physiological state (faster heartbeat), and behaviour which is the expression of emotions (smile). Emotions are basically how we deal with matters or situations that we find personally significant, and they can be directed towards something or someone.
There are various emotions. The latest research indicates that there are about 27 various emotions, but that there are a smaller number of basic emotions. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions theory suggested eight basic emotions namely: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anger, disgust and anticipation that influence all other emotions we feel. However, Ekman proposed seven different emotions that are universally experienced by all people in the world, which are happiness, sadness, surprise, anger, fear, disgust and contempt.
Nonetheless, the issue is not about the number of emotions, rather that emotions are an intrinsic part of all human beings. Emotions do not stratify us along the lines of our biological anatomy – male or female, irrespective of our social and cultural beliefs or upbringing. In some households or cultures, there is a misconception that feeling emotions is unacceptable if you’re a boy, or expressing emotions whether male or female is not welcomed, especially, crying as it is connoted to weakness. This type of thinking is the demise of healthy functional human beings because all human beings have, and experience emotions, therefore, need to express them. Suppression of emotions is the contributing factor of many different mental health illnesses.
“Emotions are information. Negative is a label. An emotion we don’t like is ‘negative’; an emotion we do like is ‘positive’. The former we want to end asap; the latter we wish to last. Learn to love both. Neither lasts forever.”
Integral to note is that there are no good or bad, positive or negative, pleasant or unpleasant emotions. These are labels put on emotions based on human experiences. However, all emotions are valid and require us to embrace them. If we separate ourselves from the emotions that we classify as unpleasant or bad, we are indirectly denying the existence of the authentic self. This, in turn, creates false consciousness in us that creates false expectations of people and the world around us, as a result, we build a fake reality that the world is perfect and that life is good, and everything is bound to work out all the time. When in actual fact, the world that we live in does not present only the good, it presents us with challenges, more so now. Having a bad day at work is okay; feeling sad or not so okay is also okay because fundamentally we are wired to experience negative feelings at times. It’s part of who we are. When we become too positive-minded, it can create a lot of internal conflict in us when we face life-altering adversaries, such as loss of job or death. The too positive mind might find it confusing to comprehend, accept and process the perceived unpleasant emotions, which can affect our mental health. Also, unhealthy positivity is dangerous because it can limit us from regulating our emotions in a healthy manner. To be fully functioning healthy human beings, we need to embrace the world with its various presentations and understand that life can be pleasant and unpleasant at the same time. But in doing so, also, to understand that how we perceive our emotions and the connotations we attach to them, and how we respond to our life experiences based on our emotions, and how to regulate our emotions is also crucial in setting the trajectory to being healthy functioning individuals. When we understand the role of our emotions as providing us with information, and not directing our lives, we can then learn to be in control of our emotions and strive towards emotional agility.
Let us become aware of all our emotions, acknowledge them all, feel them all, embrace them all, process them all, and take charge of them all when we experience them. There is professional help available through various channels if you need it.
Let’s be human.