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Understanding Your Emotions And How They Affect You

How do you deal with your emotions? Do you procrastinate about them, trying to suppress them, or just ignore them altogether? No matter how much you think you ‘know’ about yourself and your emotions, there will always be new challenges and old wounds that need to be healed. But understanding how emotions affect us is something we can start doing right now. The truth is, our emotions aren’t as black and white as we like to think. Even though we may feel one emotion at a time, underlying feelings of sadness, joy, anxiety or contentment are actually common across a range of situations. Our emotions also change over time. When we first experience an emotion it may be fleeting but over time it can have more lasting consequences. Understanding how these changes in our emotional makeup manifest will help us to become more mindful in the future so that these undesirable effects don’t become too frequent.

What Is Emotion?

In simple terms, emotion is what happens when your brain ‘thinks’ something. Your emotional brain, in particular, has two types of neurons: ‘sensory’ neurons which respond to outside stimuli, and ‘introspectory’ neurons which communicate with yourself. The ‘sensory neuron’ which receives input from the outside world and ‘theory’ neurons which generate the ‘brain’s’ own ‘emotional’ response are what we call the ‘emotional’ parts of our brains. While both the ‘sensory’ and ‘introspectory’ neurons can cause us joy or sadness, most of the time our ‘sensory’ neurons are in charge of our feelings and our ‘introspectory’ neurons are more focused on self-awareness. Your emotional brain is more active when you’re happy, sad, or ‘neither’ (neutral) than when you’re experiencing negative emotions (‘fear’, ‘anxiety’, or ‘hurt’). This is because the ‘sensory’ neurons are responsible for sending out ‘feelings’ which are based on your emotion at the time. Your ‘introspectory’ neurons, on the other hand, are the ‘why’ neurons and they allow you to connect the dots between your present emotions and your past experiences.

Why Do We Experience Emotions?

The short version of why we experience emotions is because our brains are designed to feel. Our neurons are designed to be able to detect and respond to stimuli that can cause us both positive as well as negative emotions. When you’re in a positive mood, your brain is processing information in a way that makes you feel happy. Likewise, when you’re in a negative mood, your brain is processing information in a way that makes you feel sad. When those two emotions start to mix, your brain is actually in a ‘ Zen state’ where it’s up to you to tell yourself ‘this is not me, this is happy’. Your brain is actually in a state of ‘over-activation’ which can be harmful because it’s causing you to overthink and over-analyze. When you’re in a ‘fear’ or ‘anxiety’ state, your brain is trying to protect you. If it can’t get enough information from your senses, it’ll send a ‘warning’ message to the rest of the brain so that you don’t have a panic attack. So, while your brain is trying to ‘alert’ you to potential dangers, it’s also ‘overriding’ your ‘fear’ or ‘anxiety’ signals.

Different Types of Emotions

There are basically four types of emotion; positive, negative, cognitive, and automatic. Let’s explore each of these types of emotion in more detail. Positive emotions are called ‘positive’ because they have a tendency to ‘flourish’ or ‘blossom’. You’ll often find these emotions in situations where you feel happy for the person or thing that’s causing the emotion. Negative emotions are called ‘negative’ because they have a tendency to ‘subside’ or ‘fade’. You may experience these emotions when you’re feeling ‘down’ or ‘troubled’. Cognition refers to the ‘thoughts’ that are running through your brain at the time. An example of a ‘thought’ could be the word ‘dog’ which is ‘cognitive’ in nature. Automatic emotions are feelings that occur without any ‘thoughts’ running through your brain. You may feel happy or sad without thinking about it.

How We Feel: The Scanner In The Brain

The ‘scanner’ part of our brain which ‘sees’ emotions is actually located in the ‘front’ of the brain. This part of the brain is responsible for ‘reasoning’ and makes use of ‘scanning’ or ‘looking’ functions to feel your emotions. When you experience a certain emotion, your brain sends ‘signals’ to the ‘receiver’ part of your brain which is actually located in your ‘receiving’ area. When this happens, your ‘scanner’ brain ‘sees’ that emotion and interprets it in a ‘feeling’ way. Your ‘receiver’ brain then ‘rubs’ (or ‘receives’) the ‘signals’ back out to the rest of your body so that you ‘feel’ the emotion again. This ‘receiving’ part of the brain is actually located in your stomach, ‘psi’ (probability) areas of your brain, ‘the amygdala’ (which causes ‘fear’), and ‘the thalamus’ (which ‘monitors’ your mood).

How We Talk About and Understand Emotions: The Listening Process

We all have different strategies when it comes to dealing with our emotions. Some people like to ‘simmer’ them down so that they ‘forget’ about them quickly while others like to ‘explore’ them so that they can gain a ‘better’ understanding of them. A lot of people prefer the first approach but actually, neither of these ‘approaches’ are necessary. The most important thing is to simply ‘listen’ to yourself talk and ‘read’ your emotions with your own ‘judgements’. In other words, don’t try to ‘know’ your emotions by yourself. Ask yourself these questions and get help if you need it. If you ‘listen’ to yourself talk, you’ll probably discover that you ‘talk’ about your emotions a lot. We talk to ourselves ‘externally’ even when we ‘seem’ to be ‘alone’. The ‘talking’ we do to others is actually a ‘scanning’ function that your ‘receiver’ (i.e. ‘judgemental’ brain) uses to ‘read’ other people’s ‘signals’.


The truth is that we all experience emotions in different ways. There are many different ways that you may feel happy, sad, afraid, or even ‘neither’. The important thing is to understand how your emotions change over time and how you can better deal with them in the future. The more you understandyour emotions, the easier it will be to cope with them when they come up in life.

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