Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 2: The Functions of emotions 1 through 5.

There is a book entitled: The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion  by Michael A. Jawer and Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D. in which the authors list 10 values of emotions.  The authors refer to these values as “purposes” or “aspects”.  I think a better term in function.

In this post, I discuss purposes 1-5.  I will discuss the values 6-10 in my next post.

Disclaimer: The “functions” are taken from the book. The commentary is a combination of my take on the “function” and the authors.

  1. The Self awareness Function: Emotions enable individuals to discriminate “us versus them”.

When we become aware of our own emotions and those of others, we can use the contrast between what we feel about a situation and what others feel to improve our sense of self and learn about how we are interpreting a situation.

Have you ever had the experience of sitting down to a meal, eating too much, and commenting, “I didn’t realize I was so hungry.”  In this example, you are “learning” about your own internal state by observing your own behavior.

When you experience an emotion and analyze the nature of the perceived threat, you can learn about your own values.

2. The Adaptational Function: Emotions enable the individual to react quickly and expeditiously to changes in his or her environment.

This was, and is, the basic function of emotions.  Emotions evolved as primitive threat detectors to help us survive as a species.  This is the “fast track” process I write about in my books and my posts.

3. The Collectivity Function: Emotions enable individuals to communicate something of importance to one another.

A very important function of emotions is to inform others about how you perceive a situation and give them the opportunity to respond accordingly.

The emotion of anger communicates that you are ready to go to war.  When we lived in caves, or even today, an angry face and body posture clearly says “Back off, I am a force to be reckoned with.”

In the process of mastering your emotions, awareness of this function of emotions lets you both read other people and use other’s reactions to you to help you determine how you want to effectively deal with the interaction in which you find yourself.

4. The Interpersonal Function: Emotions cement bonds between people, especially between parents and children.

The authors note and tone of voice are crucial to the healthy development of an infant.

You also experience this function of emotions when you tell you significant other or your kids that you love them. And, you can see how emotions work when people come together in times of emergencies, shared experiences of mourning or distress or joy. Ever watched a sporting event when the home team scores an important point?

5. The Continuity Function: Emotions are integral to memory and learning.

The authors note that memory and learning is strongly reinforced when accompanied by strong emotion.

There is a concept known a “flashbulb memories”.  A significant event occurs about which you have very strong emotions and the memory including everything about your situation at the time is solidly burned in.  For older readers, like myself, the Assassination of President Kennedy is such an event.  For younger readers, it might be the death of  Princes Diana.  For all of us the 2001 bombing of the the Twin Towers certainly qualifies.

The same phenomenon can occur whenever an event is accompanied by strong feelings.

Functions 6 -10 will be discussed in the next post.

I welcome your comments.

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