What Exactly is an Emotion?

This question seems simple and innocent. Instead, it opens the door to a snarky and tangled complexity. It is not easily answered. Biology, psychology, and spirituality provide different insights. Here is how I see it.

When you feel angry (i.e., have the emotion of anger) you are not only having an emotional experience, you are having an intellectual one as well, for you are simultaneously thinking angry thoughts. You CANNOT feel angry without thinking angry. Just like you cannot be thinking angry thoughts without the corresponding feeling of anger.

But as you think angry and feel angry, your body is fully involved with physiological reactions. Chemicals and hormones are flooding your body. You are being prepped for fight or flight. Adrenaline is surging. Your nervous system is firing on all cylinders. Parts of your brain are lighting up with activity. Muscles are being prepared for high energy response.

So, feeling angry is not just an emotional matter, it is physiological as well. Heck, you may as well throw some instincts into the mix. Whatever they are!

So, is an emotion just a feeling? That’s hard to answer.

I prefer to say it this way: Not “I feel angry,” but “I am angry.” That is a state of being or condition of being statement that includes your total experience of body, emotions, thoughts, will, instincts, and more.

I could say the same for feeling sad.
Or feeling glad.
Or feeling anxious.
Or feeling hopeful.

God has so designed our human nature, that we human beings are human feelings, human thinkings, human wantings, human desirings, human relatings, human expressings, human willings, human decidings, and human actings. Every aspect of our humanity is part of being human.

That is what we see from the psalmists. They feel, think, express, desire, yearn, want, long for, sense, choose, and act who they are in every situation you can think of.

God, here I am – I am angry.
God, here I am – I am scared.
God, here I am – I am lonely.
God, here I am – I am desperate.
God, here I am – I am full of joy.
God, here I am – I am in love and love is in me.

God, here I am – I am _____________ (fill in the blank and start your conversation with Jesus).

And you will soon hear Jesus saying back to you, “Here I AM. I AM ________________ (and discover how Jesus will fill in the blank for you).

Pastor Brian

Brian Rice

What I love most about my job:

Having the ability to empower and resource leaders to bear much fruit that lasts. Being a part of a team of friends and missional servants committed to changing the world.
Brian Rice

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