Emotions are quite literally our feelings. We feel them in our bodies. Sometimes we feel an emotion as a tingle, we can feel our bodies overheat and blood rush to our faces when we are embarrassed, we can feel muscular tension when we are angry or afraid, our hearts start to beat faster. But some emotions or feelings are more obscure, not so clearly felt or sensed. For example an emotion can be felt as heaviness in our chests when we are sad. It’s no wonder that we say things like “it just hurts so bad” and that we are brokenhearted when we lose someone. On the other hand we often feel an influx of energy and vitality when we are in love or anticipating an exciting or joyful event.

So why do we even have feelings? Why are they important? What do they do for us? Science says our feelings developed over millions of years of evolution. Emotions have the potential to serve us as a guidance system. They can help us to make decisions. Studies have been done that show when a person has had emotional connections severed in the brain that she cannot make even simple decisions. She doesn’t know how she feels about the choices. Though its not necessary to feel the fright or fight response as we once did, emotions still play an important part in our lives.

Our emotions can be a marvelous way of uniting us. Our separate belief systems and cultural differences have historically divided us, but feelings are universal and compassion, as another of our feelings, can serve to bring us together.

So why do we have so much trouble with our feelings? A typically older dictionary definition of emotions would be something like this: A mental state that arises spontaneously rather than through conscious effort and is often accompanied by physiological changes; a feeling: the emotions of joy, sorrow, reverence, hate, and love. Notice the word spontaneously—as if our feelings just flew around over our heads and came upon us without any thought. The natural conclusion with that kind of perception regarding emotions would be that we are completely powerless over them, at the mercy of whatever emotion may feel like attacking us at the moment, particularly the negative emotions.

Perceptions about our emotions are changing however and one newer definition I found in the dictionary is this: a conscious mental reaction (as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body. I don’t know about you, but I certainly like that idea much better. That means that if an emotion is a conscious mental reaction, then if learn to become aware of what I’m thinking that is causing the feeling then I can learn to respond to situations rather than simply react. That is freedom.

Stay tuned for more on emotions.

Author's Bio: 

Written by Gwen Phillips. Student of Course in Miracles for nearly twenty years. Sylva Method Graduate, Silva Masters Circle Participant, practitioner of various spiritual and metaphysical methods and practices. Visit http://www.newperspectivetoday.com.