What are emotions?

The ability to express, understand and use our own and other people’s feelings is called emotional intelligence. The short word for it is EQ. The psychologist Daniel Goleman means that EQ is as important as IQ. EQ affect relations, our work life and how we feel both physically and psychologically. One of the most important ingredients in EQ is to understand your own emotions. Another important factor is be able to understand other peoples feelings. The meaning of this is to be able to take another persons perspective and be able to share this feeling with that person.  All feelings are important. This is the case despite the fact that feelings could be both positive and/or negative. But feelings could be difficult to understand. Researchers in psychology try to find the answers to many questions. What are feelings, can you understand them and what is the purpose of these feelings. Researchers have worked with this for ages. Most researchers agree upon that all our feelings have something important to tell us. They exist so that we can understand ourselves and communicate with others. We can also develop and train our own EQ. This is done by expressing our feelings, to understand them and use them and other peoples feelings. It is a constant learning process which in itself is what EQ is all about.

Introduction to emotions:

People are different, but there is something that unite almost all people around the word; the ability to feel. Most researchers makes a distinction between affects, emotions and feelings. Affects are the most basic way of expressing feelings. People have nine basic affects;

  • Interest
  • Sorrow
  • Anger
  • Disgust
  • Sadness
  • Surprise
  • Joy
  • Fear
  • Shame

We are born with all of them except the last three ones. People all over the word have the same basic affects. They prepare us for a certain way of acting and are linked to certain expressions in our face as well as physical reactions. They are activated in the  same situations and can be expressed quickly and automatically but do not last for a very long time. Take an example: You stand close to a steep hill or in a skyscraper. Almost all people would feel some kind of arousal in their body, namely fear. Affects exist in each and every one of us. Small children, old people, rock stars and doctors, Americans, Russians, i.e. Within everyone. It works as communication between people regardless of origin and background. Emotions is a little different from affects. They have a experiental component. They are formed through experience. Lady Gaga is used to perform and sing which she gets appreciated for. She probably feels joy and interest when she gets off the stage. Someone who has never performed might feel afraid or shame instead. Feelings on the other hand are more about the personal experience within the emotion itself. Our experience of joy can differ. Joy for me is a good feeling in my stomach that makes me feel totally calm. Joy might lead to a smile and an outburst of laughter to almost anything. Emotions and feelings are similar. It can be difficult to see the difference. Sometimes it does not matter if it is an emotion or a feeling. Therefore we will describe them as the same thing.

Jonas Hjalmar Blom & Maria Wallin

  • Surprise ( Jonas Hjalmar Blom)

When something unexpected happens the first feeling is often surprise. It can be difficult to understand this feeling, since it often leads to another different kind of feeling. Therefore we often tend to mix up surprise with something else. We might not even recognize that we get surprised. When you learn how it is to feel surprised, you can also understand the difference between the actual surprise feeling and what this feeling leads to. Think about the situation when you have decided to meet a friend. Your friend is supposed to come home to you. You wait and wait and you long for her to come home to you and play. When the doorbell rings you run to the door to open. But, when you open the door it is not your friend, but your neighbor. Your expectation was to see your friend but instead something happened that you did not expect. What would you feel then? Probably surprised.

When things happen that we have not expected, we often feel surprised. When you get surprised you often become unsure of yourself and wonder about what could happen. Therefore we often want to learn more, or understand more when we get surprised. It makes us interested and curious. It might take a little while before we realize what has happened. When you have understood you often feel something different than surprise. This can happen very quickly. Take the example above, you open the door and meet the neighbor instead of your friend. Then you might first be surprised and then happy to se your neighbor.

You might also be surprised and then sad because your friend is late and you are longing for you two to play together. You might have read about other feelings at this blog. Some of them activate you and some passivize you. Surprise can be classified as activating since it makes you explore your feeling. You could also say that surprise is a neutral feeling. It is the feeling coming after surprise that is positive or negative. Describe the last time you were surprised, what happened?

  • Joy (Maria Wallin)

The best feeling I know is joy. If feelings could be friends, my best friend would be joy and I would play with this friend as often as possible. It is not before we are 4-5 weeks old that we can show joy by smiling. Smiling is the expression that are most linked to the feeling of joy. It might seem that newborn babies smile before they have the possibility to actually feel joy. The reason for this smile might instead be that the baby has done number two rather than feeling joy. Joy is rewarding. It makes us do more of the things that have led to the feeling itself. The feeling of joy often arise when we have managed to do something new, for example tying our shoestrings all by ourselves. The feeling of joy comes to us and says “bravo, you made it, cool!”. We celebrate this by rewarding ourselves with the feeling of and have a good time together. Joy can strengthen our self-assurance in different ways. It is therefore important that we can feel joy to be able to develop as secure people that are comfortable and know who we are and can be happy together with others.

There are lots of things that can make us happy and different things make people happy. Some things that make me happy are my cat Sixten, to be able to bike, learn about new things and be together with my family and friends like Jonas. Things that make me happy might not be things that make other people happy. Every person is unique and it is important that they are allowed to be so. For example, I love merry go-rounds but it makes Jonas so sick that he vomits. Children often know better than adults what makes them happy. It might seem odd but sometimes adults pretend that they are happy to be able to fit into the society and among other people just because they are supposed to. Some grown ups might for instance say that they like to read books that are difficult to read even if they don’t understand a thing. Who knows, they might even have thought that reading Donald Duck would have been more fun. But it can also be difficult to understand what they really feel inside. To be able to fully understand what you like you should listen to what your body tells you, especially what your stomach tells you. A warm, comforting feeling is usually spread in your body when you feel joy. Children are often better at listening to the body than grown ups and to actually do what they like. Children are therefore better at feeling you than adults.

Other feelings might be more difficult and adults often need to explain these feelings to children for them to be able to get a better understanding. But, with joy, its vice versa and children can help adults who do not know what they actually feel is funny. Joy is a fantastic feeling. Sometimes it can feel that it would be sufficient with this feeling, why not skip the other more difficult feelings. But, if we would only feel joy we would become lazy and stop doing new things. We need all the other feelings to encourage us to things we would not do otherwise. So even if it would be tempting, it is good that we are not all the time together with the feeling of joy, even if it is a very positive feeling to have as often as possible.

  • Anger (Jonas Hjalmar Blom)

Anger is one of the strongest feelings you might have. It is important because it shows the people around us that we are not content with something. Sometimes you do something that you regret afterwards, when you are not angry any more. When you learn to understand anger, you can handle it better, both your own feeling and others. Then you don’t have to regret it afterwards. If you have played Peppy Pals you might remember when the dog stumble over the pie. It feels like the dog feels a lot at the same time. The dog did not want to stumble over the pie, and became dissatisfied.When the dog gets dissatisfied it gets angry. Think about the last time you got angry, what did you do? I will give you some example of things that can happen in your body when you get angry. When we are really angry, it happens a lot in the body. It is a significant feeling. You might be very warm or very cold. You might shake, clench your fist, and bite your teeth and jaws. Some people start to yell and cry. You also want to do things such as kicking someone or something. This means that anger is a feeling that can be activating. You want to do something. It is like you want the anger to let go of your body.

Anger can clearly be bee seen. It can make other people afraid. Sometimes you might hear from other people “don’t be so angry” when you are really angry. Then it is difficult to calm down and it might get you even angrier. Luckily there are things that work to handle be able to handle angriness. The feeling of anger shows that we are not content. It might be difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is. In these situations it is important to talk to someone and explain why you are angry.

The horse might have said “I feel stupid because I slipped over the stupid pie”. If you strain your jaws or clench your fists you might try to relax. It is difficult, but every time you try it gets easier. In the play, the dog gets over his anger pretty quickly. This is how it usually is with anger. It is a strong feeling but it passes away quickly. Otherwise it would be hard to be angry for a long time. Now you know what to do to be able to use your anger in a good way. This would make you and people around you feel better. Can you recognize this? As someone near to you how it feels to be very angry. Maybe you can explain to them what they should do when this happens the next time.

  • Fear (Maria Wallin)

Fear is the fastest feeling in the world and can get to us really quick when we are not prepared. The feeling of fear can be nasty and horrible. But it can also feel jittery and funny, like butterflies in your stomach, which can be a wonderful but also weird feeling. Nevertheless, fear is a good and important feeling. If we would not be afraid so often it could lead us to do dangerous things that would hurt us. To be afraid often and for a long time is not good but to be afraid from time to time is good. As with other feelings, the feeling of fear wants to tell us something special, it wants to say, “look up, there is something dangerous around you and you need to be careful”

Fear makes us pay attention to things that happens around us. We quickly respond to or start to wonder if there is something dangerous that we need to protect ourselves from. If there is something dangerous, we might need to protect ourselves. For example, if a stone comes flying, we need to duck. People are different and some of us might be afraid of special things such as heights, the darkness, spiders, thieves etc. Some people might even be afraid of clowns. You might get over this and stop being afraid of special things. You might also continue to be afraid of some things. It is ok to be afraid as long as you don’t feel bad and that this feeling comes often. You should talk to an adult if that is the case.
Sometimes you might even feel afraid even if it is not a dangerous situation. You might feel afraid of flying, but not when you are going with a car, even if it is safer to fly. Sometimes an adult needs to explain to you that things are not dangerous even if you might be afraid of them.
From time to time it is good to get used to things that you are afraid of. Many people can be afraid of cycling. It is not until you have got a grip of the balance, the pedals, the handlebars and the bumps on the road that you don’t feel afraid any more. So when fear say to you, be careful, listen to this feeling and be careful by using a helmet or letting someone explain to you how to handle the bike. But the more you try, the feeling of fear disappear. Instead you feel happy when you whistle along all by yourself without a steering wheel or some adult helping you to keep your balance.

Fear can also be a funny feeling that makes you feel butterflies in your stomach. Sometimes we are afraid when there is nothing dangerous around us but we are going sliding a helter-skelter. It wouldn’t have been so fun if we would not be a little bit afraid. The feeling of fear makes us feel the butterflies in our stomach. This is due to the fact that the helter-skelter is safe and you can be afraid because it is not dangerous. If the helter-skelter had been rusty, broken and full of sharp nails it would have been another thing. The place would have been dangerous that could have hurt us. So when fear say to you, don’t slide this helter-skelter you should listen and do what it tells you to do.

We should not let fear take to much place in our life’s and decide our actions in situations where it exist no danger. This can prevent us from doing funny things, which you should not allow it to do. When you get afraid, it might be difficult to judge what is dangerous or not. It might also be difficult to decide what to do when you feel afraid. In these situations it is good to ask and adult that you trust. It is important that adults take the feelings of fear serious when children talk about them and that they can explain things in a good way.
It is good to feel afraid and accept this feeling as well as other feelings. Because fear wants us to be careful with ourselves and others, so we don’t get hurt or sad. We need to listen to what the feeling of fear say to us and do what it says when we encounter something dangerous. But we should not let fear stop us from doing nice things that are not dangerous but a little bit creepy, such as sliding a helter-skelter. Because at the same time fear might be a nasty feeling, it might also be funny and challenging.

  • Shame (Maria Wallin)

Shame is a difficult feeling that we quickly want to get rid of. When we feel ashamed we bend our head down, look down and blush. We get a bad feeling in our stomach and it can make us feel really bad. Sometimes shame is very difficult to understand for children and adults. Children should not feel shame so often and it is important that adults are quick to help those children who feel shame. Adults need to explain the feeling and make it understandable, the cause of shame and where it comes from. This is important to be able to do get rid of the feeling in a proper way.
We are not born with the possibility to feel shame; this feeling arise when someone is able to feel socially dismissed. When I feel ashamed it feels that I want to disappear or at least get invisible. Shame can struck us so hard and with such a power that it is difficult to distinguish us from the feeling itself. This can be explained by the fact that I do not want to disappear but I want the shame to go away. Get away, Let me be! This is how it can feel and how you would scream to shame when it arises. And that is the point of shame. It may seem a little bit odd but shame makes us do things to be able to get rid of the actual feeling. It makes us do things that we might not have done if we wouldn’t have felt like we did. I will try to explain what I mean;
Shame has an important function for solidarity and relationships. It can show us that we care for each other and show respect for others thoughts, feelings and opinions. Because even if we are generally nice to each other we will hurt other people, and offend and quarrel with each other despite the fact that we don’t want to. The reasons for this can be many such as misunderstandings, considerations, mistakes or anger. The most important is how we handle it and are able to get things right again. Shame can teach us to learn these things. But it can be really hard, even for adults.

When we hurt someone, shame might arise and point a finger to us and say, “you there”!. That was not nice, you better get things right so you can be friends again. Until you do, the feeling of shame can be painful. As said, shame is a feeling we want to get rid of and to be able to do that we might have to do something to make the person we have hurt happy again. We might have to ask for forgiveness or give something back (as the horse did in the play). In this way shame can teach us something to think of when we experience the same situation again. In this situation shame works well and makes us understand and listen to other peoples feelings, teach us about new things in the world and other peoples emotions.

In other situations, shame can be really bad. Sometimes people can feel shame that should not do so since they have not done anything wrong. I will take an example. When I was a kid, one of my classmates could say that I was not allowed to play with the others, and that I was ugly and bad. I felt shamed and I also felt that something was wrong. This is called harassment and next time I didn’t dare to ask if I could play with my classmates, even if I wanted to. I didn’t find a way to get rid of the shame. This reduced my curiosity, my willingness to explore new things and interests and I got afraid to ask if I could play with the others. As said before, shame ruled two emotions we talked about before; it made me afraid and reduced my curiosity. I became afraid to be rejected and that stopped me from doing things I wanted to do. As said before, shame is a difficult feeling and my classmate probably didn’t understand that he made me very sad. To be able to understand that, you need to be able to understand how other people think and feel and that can be difficult for children. An adult should have helped both my classmate and me. My classmate to understand how sad I became when he said those words and me to be able to get rid of the feelings of shame and fear, and to hear from someone that there was nothing wrong with me.

Shame is necessary as an education tool but may also lead to too much inhibition. It is important that adults are careful to interrupt a child with criticism when the child is curios and wants to explore things. Lust and the drive to explore new things can be restrained and shame will take over. This might restrain children to develop to the best versions of themselves since they might not dare to do so due to shame and fear. When shame works, as it should do it makes us care about each other and our solidarity, which makes us feel good together. Shame can make us understand when we have done something wrong so we can make it right again. But shame can also be bad if the wrong person feel it. As an adult it is important to “bite the head off shame” for children who explore this feeling. The best way to do this is to talk about it and make the feeling understandable and easy to handle.

  • Sadness/Sorrow (Jonas Hjalmar Blom )

One of the most difficult feelings is sorrow. Sorrow can make us depressed and sad. It feels heavy in the whole body. Some people don not want to show other people that they are sad. But it often feels better when you tell someone that you are sad or depressed. When I was five years old my big sister had a lot of dolls. She loved these dolls and played with them a lot. One day I did something that made my sister very sad. I took a scissors and cut the hair of one of he dolls. Then I took some crayons and painted a beard and glasses. When my sister found out she started to cry. She told our mother what had happened. She became very sad and depressed. You might recognize this situation yourself? You might have done something that led to that someone else got sad or maybe you have been sad yourself? Can you remember these situations? Sorrow is a difficult feeling. A feeling you often want to get rid of. When you learn to recognize it you can also learn to use it in a good way.

When you become really sad and feel sadness your body might become heavy. You might get a thick feeling in your throat and feel tears coming in your eyes. It is common that you start to cry when you are sad. You might not feel for playing with others, eat or do funny things as you usually do. You often do nothing at all i.e. sadness makes us passive. Some people wants to be alone when they are sad. Other people want to be with people they like very much. It can be difficult to tell other people when you are sad. But the sadness often becomes easier to handle if you tell someone. One way of doing it is to tell someone you trust that you are sad. The person you tell often tries to help you understand why you are sad. Next time you feel sad, what would you do?

  • Disgust (Maria Wallin )

If the feeling disgust could talk it would say “ugh”. The important thing with disgust is that it helps us not to eat and drink different things that actually can be bad for us. Disgust can be produced pretty easily. Just imagine someone coming to you and offering a big glass of steaming soft poo-poo with a straw inside. The thought of drinking would produce a feeling of disgust for most people. You might even start to make faces just thinking about drinking poo-poo. It is good that we feel disgust in this case, because if we would eat poo-poo we would probably be sick. Disgust is therefore an important feeling to be able to survive. It makes us stay away from and keep a distance to things that can be dangerous for us to eat and drink. We often make a face when we see or smell something that produces disgust. We can also spit if we eat something that we thought would taste good but was disgusting, for example when we eat a fruit that is rotten. To spit or make a face is the most common expressions for the feeling of disgust. Most people would agree on that poo-poo is disgusting. Other things that people think are disgusting could be more individual and differ between cultures and countries. One example is to eat frogs. In France many people like to eat frogs and find eat delicious. They would even say that frog legs are a delicacy. This is different in Sweden where many people would say that it is disgusting to eat frogs. It is the same thing with disgust as with the other feelings, disgust wants to tell us something and it is good to listen to this feeling when it arise.

More information and useful links can be founder here: EQ – SEL useful Links