In this Thought Post I consider dictionary definitions around the word ‘Emotion’ then adopt what I find to be a much-more-helpful description of Emotions, provided by the world-renowned psychologist and pioneer in the study of Emotions, Paul Ekman.
First, I looked at the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary to obtain their definition of Emotion. I have copied below Merriam-Webster’s definition of ‘Emotion’ and their definitions of two words used in their definition of ‘Emotion’ [‘Affective’ and ‘Feeling’].
It seems to me the Merriam-Webster definition of Emotion is cumbersome and circular. And, it is inaccurate.
So, Spirited Leaders has adopted Paul Ekman’s definition of Emotion [see below].
From Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary:
Definition of EMOTION
1a obsolete: disturbance b: excitement
2a: the affective aspect of consciousness: feeling b: a state of feeling c: 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
Definition of AFFECTIVE
1: relating to, arising from, or influencing feelings or emotions: emotional <cognitive and affective symptoms>
2: expressing emotion <affective language>
Definition of FEELING
1a (1): one of the basic physical senses of which the skin contains the chief end organs and of which the sensations of touch and temperature are characteristic: touch (2): a sensation experienced through this sense b: generalized bodily consciousness or sensation c: appreciative or responsive awareness or recognition
2a: an emotional state or reaction <a kindly feeling toward the boy> plural: susceptibility to impression: sensitivity <the remark hurt her feelings>
3a: the undifferentiated background of one's awareness considered apart from any identifiable sensation, perception, or thought b: the overall quality of one's awareness c: conscious recognition: sense
4a: often unreasoned opinion or belief: sentiment b: presentiment
5: capacity to respond emotionally especially with the higher emotions
6: the character ascribed to something: atmosphere
7a: the quality of a work of art that conveys the emotion of the artist b: sympathetic aesthetic response
8: feel 4
Definition of EMOTION [Paul Ekman’s, which we have adopted]
According to Paul Ekman, and to a degree I am simplifying and paraphrasing here, Emotions are defined by 7 characteristics:
1. Signals: Emotions are mental states, most of which exhibit consistent visible cues.
2. Automatic Appraisal: Emotions occur automatically and very fast...1/4 second.
3. Lack of Awareness: Consciousness plays little role if any...most Emotions are opaque to consciousness and thought. Nature did not want us to be able to consciously control Emotions. However, thoughts can re-trigger Emotions.
4. Not Unique to Humans: Other animals exhibit the same Emotions as Humans. There is no Human Emotion that cannot be seen in at least one other animal.
5. Short Duration: Emotions can last for extremely short periods (seconds) or longer, but they never last longer than a day. (longer-lasting ‘states of mind’ are defined as Moods)
6. Conscious Awareness of Emotions is a Skill: using special exercises, it can be developed. We can become skilled at self-monitoring, being present, and self-regulating. We need to explore the motivation and intent behind our Emotions. Knowledge and skill around motivation and intent will help us understand and control our Emotions.
7. Emotions can get us into trouble..."I lost my head". In fact, it seems Ekman thinks Emotions do present-day Humans little, if any, good. Emotions, all of them, are vestiges of evolution.