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30 May 2013

Feelings vs Emotions: The Difference

This entry is part 2 of 6 in the series Feelings, Emotions, Intuition - Difference

BreadIn a previous post, I outlined the differences among feelings, emotions and intuition. Using a food analogy, feelings are ingredients, emotions are foods and intuition is the message the meal gives us. This post dives deeper into the difference between feelings and emotions.

As the food analogy implies, many feelings can comprise an emotion. Beyond this, the primary difference between the two is the “call to action” emotions prompt in us. After all, the word emotion breaks into e-motion, meaning, “to bring out motion.”

In this sense, feelings are nouns and emotions are verbs, feelings are a state of being and emotions a state of motion. For instance, the emotion driving us to help someone can contain many feelings such as empathy, happiness, guilt, sadness and pity. In fact, all these feelings might play in some form or another:

  • Empathy can encourage us to change the feeling of others so we can share it.
  • Happiness can encourage us to spread it directly or indirectly.
  • Guilt can encourage us to “return a favor.”
  • Sadness can encourage us to correct the problem.
  • Pity can encourage us to help those who can’t help themselves.

While each of these feelings can stand alone as an emotion, in virtually all cases emotions are an integration of many feelings. We just won’t realize it. Moreover, when others ask, “Why did you do that?” we will tend to find a rationale that fits but won’t necessarily represent our feelings. Some feelings will be very conscious but others won’t be.

Again, the food analogy has been helpful to people. Beyond that if we remember emotions comprise feelings and represent a state of motion, we’ll be able to distinguish them from feelings in a way that will help us understand and appreciate ourselves better.


Series Navigation<< Feelings, Emotions, Intuition And Their DifferencesEmotions vs Intuition (Pt 1): Conceptual Difference >>

2 Responses

  1. I totally agree with the statement that people MOST often, if not always, cannot express their feelings or emotions behind the choice that was made. They will make obviously wrong statements about their motivation or reasons. so, asking after the fact is not very useful. It would seem that a deeper understanding of the process that led up to the decisions is the only way to know “how we got here.”

    1. Mike Lehr

      First, let’s give people some leeway. Feelings and emotions are very difficult to express. Consider all the songs written about love; they don’t all say the same thing even though they are about the same thing. I wouldn’t use the term wrong, maybe inaccurate. There might be some truth in what they say just not the complete truth. Also, keep in mind that the way people rationalize their emotions says something about them. Everything we think, do, say, buy, build and so forth says something about us. So, this makes asking after the fact worthwhile. Interpreting these after the fact is very important towards understanding others and ourselves.

      Another way to look at this is that people don’t have reasons for their decisions. They just decide that way because they want to; it’s a function of their personality. For instance, a person who likes structure and organization will tend to choose a more process-oriented solution to any problem. A person who like more flexibility and freedom will tend to look for an approach that is more trial & err like. Instead of asking what is the reason behind a decision, we should ask, “What is it about their personality that is driving them toward that decision?”

      Let’s keep in mind that often people make decisions without much thought. This happens frequently when we’re just following rules, procedures and processes. It also happens if we’ve been conditioned to react in a certain ways. In the end though, the major thrust of your point is right. A deeper understanding does help. I would only add that in addition to understanding the process we need to understand many of the influences acting upon that process, many of which do so subliminally.

      As reference, this post, “Shopping for Rationales: Justifying What We Want” (http://blog.omegazadvisors.com/?p=273) explains in more detail the connection between our emotions and thoughts.

      Thank you for the comment.

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