What are emotions and why do we have them?

Emotions have an important role. They alert us that something has happened in our environment that we need to pay attention to. They are our cue to look after or protect ourselves.

Consider these emotions (of course there are more reasons why you might experience each emotion)….

Emotion Why????
Anger You, or someone you care about, is attacked, insulted, or hurt by others; you want to retaliate and defend yourself.
Anxiety You sense potential danger in the future, e.g., you might be worried about the outcome when you go to court next week.
Fear You believe there is a threat to you or someone you care about. 
Sadness You have lost someone or something important to you; things haven’t worked out how you hoped they would.
Shame Your actions could lead to being rejected by friends if they found out what you have done.

The strength of the emotion and how long it lasts will depend on how likely the expected outcome is and how important the outcome is to you.

At times, the facts of a situation might not explain the intensity of the emotion.

For example, if a friend doesn’t return your phone call immediately, you might think they don’t want to be friends anymore. You might start to feel sad, thinking the friendship is over. But they call you the next day, and are really sorry they didn’t call earlier – they had been unwell. Sometimes the way we view a situation can impact how we feel.

Further Resources