BackgroundI discussed emotions as simply an awareness of different hormone levels throughout our body. Yet that's only the concrete feeling of emotions. If emotions were only awareness of hormones, then how would one distinguish two feelings, which may have similar hormone levels, and yet would be caused by two different events?
To understand this, we have to recognize that emotions are both subjective sense of our hormones (or other chemicals such as neurotransitters) of which our consciousnesses are aware, as well as an associated abstract, rational thought, attached to a given feeling.
As such, this allows us to deconstruct several of our emotions, and enact what cognitive behavioral therapists attempt to do, in distinguishing the feeling from the underlying thought.
We'll take two emotions: jealousy and happiness. Each of these words is actually a catch-all term representing several underlying emotions.
JealousyJealousy can be thought of as one or more of the following: possessiveness, envy, and insecurity. Let's take the simplest, and most common, example of jealousy at an ex's new lover. While the concrete subjective feeling may be exactly the same, the experience of jealousy can be broken down into:
- Envy: Some subconscious thought makes you wish you were her (the other lover). You have the physical queasiness in your stomach, associated with a subconscious thought that you wish you had what the new lover has. Envy is a focus on the new lover.
- Possessiveness: "Mine!" An evolutionarily programmed, instinctual response, over your ex. It has nothing to do with the new lover, but everything to do with a sense of possessiveness over your ex. Possessiveness is a focus on your ex.
- Insecurity: "Maybe I'm not good enough?" The feeling of queasiness, associated with some deep unresolved insecurity Insecurity is a focus on yourself.
Before critics start claiming "I don't have these thoughts, I just feel jealous!" allow me to remind you, defensive reader, that these are subconscious thoughts, arising likely from an evolutionary incentive. Nothing you'd likely be aware of.
Each of these separate feelings are simply the same subjective emotion of jealousy (that "queasiness"), associated with a subconscious, automatic thought regarding either you (insecurity), your ex (possessiveness), or the new lover (envy).
Next we'll delve into happiness. Again, another catch-all term. This time, it's a concrete feeling associated with some feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters (likely dopamine, seratonin, adrenaline, etc., in some combination and flow), associated with a subconscious thought.
We could break down happiness along the dimension of the person and subject (happy for yourself, happy for him, happy for her, happy for them), but this time we'll discuss happiness in terms of time, and break it down into three constituent feelings.
- Pride: Happiness with the past. Happiness with some way you performed or acted, or some external result which occurred in your life. You can feel pride in yourself, or a loved one. Pride is a focus on the past.
- Contentment: Happiness with the present. Imagine Buddhist monks, or Yogis. Living in the present,completely content with the way the universe is unfolding. Or a Christian, content with the belief that God has as plan, and things are unfolding as they should. Present-minded. Mindful. Happy with where you are in life. Not a stray thought unnecessarily focused on longing for memories or trying to predict the future. Contentment is a focus on the present.
- Excitement: Happiness with the future. Forget about being proud of the past, or content with the present. Rather, from the perspective of driving a car, being happy with the speed and direction that car is moving through the Field of Choice. Excited about the probable outcomes the future may hold. Excitement is a focus on the future.
Our language contains many words describing emotions, which are really catch-all hierarchical terms (e.g. "happiness" and "jealousy"), and also many words describing more constituent, specific emotional building blocks ("contentment" or "insecurity").
Every emotion you feel is a combination of the physical, concrete feeling (e.g. joy or queasiness or cortisol or fear) associated with a subconscious automatic thought. By detaching the two from each other allows one to better understand oneself and have more control over the influence the external world (and other beings) have over one's emotional state.