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The reason for the existence of emotions

Emo­tions con­trol our lives. Whether you like it or not, every emo­tion guides our deci­sions, our minds and even our health. We are accom­pa­nied by them every day. Our emo­tions make us laugh, rejoice, cry, scream. But they also enable us to make the impos­si­ble pos­si­ble, serve as our pro­tec­tion and guide and accom­pa­ny us on our per­son­al and right path.

There are always dis­cus­sions about what belongs to the basic emo­tions (or super­groups). We agree here on sev­en, based on Paul Ekman: hap­pi­ness, sad­ness, fear, anger, dis­gust, sur­prise, contempt.

The emo­tions are con­trolled in the head and release the cor­re­spond­ing neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and hor­mones. These in turn influ­ence our entire body and our actions. Emo­tions there­fore not only have a cog­ni­tive influ­ence, but also set moti­va­tion­al, phys­i­cal and neu­ro­phys­i­o­log­i­cal reac­tions in motion.

This means that the emer­gence of an emo­tion is only the begin­ning of a longer chain of events.


  1. one analy­ses and inter­prets a sit­u­a­tion, depend­ing on one’s own expe­ri­ence, and asso­ciates an emo­tion with it
  2. this emo­tion (joy, sad­ness, fear, dis­gust, anger, sur­prise, con­tempt) is felt
  3. and trans­mits the infor­ma­tion to the body, such as the facial mus­cu­la­ture, to react instinc­tive­ly. This is where, among oth­er things, the micro-expres­sions arise
  4. final­ly, there is the con­sid­ered reac­tion, i.e. our actions that are vis­i­ble to others.


But why do you need emotions?


They are an impor­tant part of life. They make it pos­si­ble to con­trol and pro­tect the self. Even the neg­a­tive emo­tions that we don’t real­ly like to feel orig­i­nal­ly serve to pro­tect our­selves. Let’s take fear as an exam­ple. Fear is one of the most impor­tant emo­tions that most inten­sive­ly con­trols one’s own actions. Fear of being alone, fear of being hurt, fear of los­ing free­doms, fear of con­trol, fear of the abyss, fear of height, fear of spi­ders, etc.

All these fears have their ori­gin and their rea­son — they pro­tect the per­son who feels them (the ori­gin is often more com­plex than the rea­son alone). It is there­fore impor­tant to look at one’s own fear in order to under­stand it.

A few ques­tions can help you to under­stand it better:

Why do you feel the fear?

What phys­i­cal and men­tal symp­toms accom­pa­ny it?

What trig­gers this fear in you?


Under­stand­ing the emo­tion not only helps you to get to know your­self bet­ter (intra-com­mu­ni­ca­tion), but also enables you to com­mu­ni­cate clear­ly with the out­side world (inter-com­mu­ni­ca­tion). In every sit­u­a­tion, an emo­tion aris­es in us, which is not only impor­tant for us, but also for our envi­ron­ment, because we com­mu­ni­cate our emo­tions to them, non-ver­bal­ly as well as verbally.

The clear­er we are about our own emo­tions and the bet­ter we can under­stand them, the bet­ter we can be con­scious­ly guid­ed by them and act with our envi­ron­ment. Every emo­tion must there­fore be cat­e­gorised and assigned in order to under­stand and guide our future actions.


“Clear and hon­est com­mu­ni­ca­tion cre­ates trans­paren­cy, trans­paren­cy cre­ates trust, trust again cre­ates open­ness and hon­esty, which in turn lays the foun­da­tion for long-last­ing rela­tion­ships. And so the cir­cle closes.”


Gain­ing con­trol over one’s own emotions


Con­trol­ling our own emo­tions is an impor­tant part of our lives. While we can rarely pre­vent our emo­tions from being pre­sent­ed and com­mu­ni­cat­ed to the out­side world, we do have an influ­ence on how we deal with them. Let’s refer back to our pre­vi­ous exam­ple with fear. So this means that we can analyse the fear we feel and thus find out whether it is a result of self-pro­tec­tion (for exam­ple, stop­ping on a very busy road) or whether the fear is mere­ly pre­vent­ing you for no rea­son (for exam­ple, the fear of being hurt in a love rela­tion­ship, thus pre­vent­ing you from ful­ly engag­ing with a loved one).

Depend­ing on how we analyse the sit­u­a­tion, this affects our behav­iour. This means that we can influ­ence how we react to cer­tain emo­tions once their ori­gin is clear­er to us. Peo­ple who behave wrong­ly in the eyes of oth­ers do not nec­es­sar­i­ly behave objec­tive­ly wrong­ly, but always on the basis of past expe­ri­ences and the analy­sis of their own emo­tions based on them. This also plays a big role in ver­bal and para-ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Which words one uses and how one empha­sis­es and artic­u­lates them not only pro­vides an insight into one’s own cul­tur­al envi­ron­ment and how one was brought up, but also reflects one’s own emo­tion­al state.




Micro-expres­sions are reflex­ive, uncon­trol­lable con­trac­tions of the facial mus­cles that last for a frac­tion of a sec­ond and com­mu­ni­cate a feel­ing to the out­side world via facial expres­sions. There are many dif­fer­ent micro-expres­sions, but sev­en basic emo­tions (accord­ing to Paul Ekman) are fun­da­men­tal­ly defined: Joy, Sad­ness, Fear, Anger, Sur­prise, Mépris and Dis­gust. These are uni­ver­sal­ly recog­nis­able and pro­vide an insight into a per­son­’s intu­itive emo­tion­al state. (Cul­tur­al dif­fer­ences should nev­er­the­less be not­ed here. In Asia, for exam­ple, smil­ing is used in a cul­tur­al­ly dif­fer­ent way.) They arise from an expe­ri­enced emo­tion in the brain and are passed on “unfil­tered” to the facial mus­cles via infor­ma­tion and are thus vis­i­ble to oth­ers (in the case of micro-expres­sion, these are often hard­ly recog­nis­able because they hap­pen very quick­ly and peo­ple tend to sup­press or want to cov­er them up. For exam­ple, that inner gut feel­ing that every­one is famil­iar with when inter­act­ing with some­one for the first time is prob­a­bly based on the sub­con­scious per­cep­tion of a micro-expres­sion. Non-ver­bal­ly, these are very use­ful for analysing infor­ma­tion passed on in com­mu­ni­ca­tion with others.

This trans­mis­sion of infor­ma­tion works, but also vice ver­sa. Laugh­ing a lot, by which we mean the gen­uine laugh­ter that comes from the heart, sets in motion emo­tion­al mus­cle feed­back, which, with the help of neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that in turn stim­u­late the spe­cif­ic brain zones, ulti­mate­ly brings about and rein­forces the feel­ing of joy. Accord­ing­ly, this also has a direct, albeit small, influ­ence on the mind.

Con­verse­ly, this means that a per­son who, for exam­ple, con­stant­ly pulls his eye­brows togeth­er (an indi­ca­tor of anger) tends to be more tense and thus also more quick­ly excitable and stressed.

In pos­i­tive psy­chol­o­gy, laugh­ter exer­cis­es are pre­scribed based on this. These are sup­posed to stim­u­late a feel­ing of hap­pi­ness and well-being. For exam­ple, a smile when talk­ing on the phone is trans­ferred to the voice and thus has a pos­i­tive effect on the per­son on the oth­er end of the line. The con­ver­sa­tion is thus pos­i­tive­ly influ­enced. Here the exter­nal influ­ence of the emo­tions felt becomes clear.


Becom­ing hap­pi­er through under­stand­ing one’s own emotions


Under­stand­ing and deal­ing with one’s own emo­tions is thus a fun­da­men­tal neces­si­ty for every human being. Recog­nis­ing one’s own emo­tions cre­ates the nec­es­sary basis for inter­pre­ta­tion in order to inte­grate them more eas­i­ly into every­day life and to be able to com­mu­ni­cate them to the out­side world. This puts you in a calmer state of mind, which not only has a pos­i­tive phys­i­cal expe­ri­ence as a con­se­quence, but also has a pos­i­tive effect on the way you deal with oth­er peo­ple. All this has a pos­i­tive effect on one’s own life in the long term.


Emo­tions there­fore say noth­ing about whether one is strong or weak, but they help us to find our own indi­vid­ual path to a hap­pi­er life. It is there­fore impor­tant to under­stand exact­ly what you are feel­ing, why you are feel­ing this emo­tion, towards whom and to clas­si­fy this exact­ly in the respec­tive life sit­u­a­tion in order to act in a relaxed and bal­anced way when deal­ing with oth­ers but also with yourself.


P.S.: A very vivid fam­i­ly film was made about this, which I can rec­om­mend to every­one: Alles ste­ht Kopf (OV: Inside out)

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