Facts about emotions you probably didn’t know. Part 3: Functions of emotions 6 through 10.

Just to recap, in my last post, I discussed 5 functions of emotions.  What I have called functions are labelled as “aspects”, “values” or “purposes” of emotions by authors Michael A. Jawer and Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D. in their book  The Spiritual Anatomy of Emotion   from which this list is taken.

The comments on each function are a combination of the two authors and my own take on the specific function being discussed.

6. The Motivational Function: Emotions are a barometer of needs unmet or goals unfulfilled.

This is the very essence of what emotions are.  They are motivators and, by evolutionary “design” prepare us for action and “propel us toward acceptance or rejection of whatever external reality (we) (are) encountering” (The authors).

7. The Ethical function: Emotions facilitate socially acceptable behavior and serve as a powerful reminder when one fails to live up to standards whether held internally or externally.

Emotions such as guilt, shame, pride, and embarrassment appear in our children around the ages of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2.  They appear once the child had the cognitive ability including memory capacity to conceive of himself as a separate being in time and space.  These emotions are called self-conscious emotions.

These emotions alert us to our views of ourselves and our behavior often in the context of our goals (pride), and how we measure up to internal and external standards (guilt, shame, embarrassment).

The message of embarrassment is that we have violated some standard.  The message of guilt is that we have done something wrong which we regret.  The message of shame is that there is something wrong with us as a person.

The ethical function of self-conscious emotions is to alert us to when we have crossed some internal or external line of appropriate behavior and to motivate us to take action to  correct the transgression.

8. The Developmental Function: Emotions are essential to personal development and self-actualization.

The authors note that emotions alert us that we are in the middle of a difficult situation so that we can learn from it much like a fever alerts us that we are fighting off an infection.

9. The Evolutionary Aspect: The emotional feedback loop, which involves the recognition of what we and our fellow individuals are feeling, is the driver of our species’ progress.

As I have noted in my books and my posts, emotions evolved to help us survive as a species.

The authors note that the emotional interaction between human beings      “(drives) our species’ rapid intellectual and cultural development”.

10. The Qualitative Function: In tandem with thinking, emotions determine the quality, value, and, ultimately, the meaning human beings place on their lives.

I teach an Introductory Philosophy Class and one of the topics I cover is what makes each individual unique.  One of the examples I discuss is a man who was very interactive, emotionally expressive and involved with his family and his surroundings.  Following a brain tumor, he was unable to experience emotions.  He would look at a picture of a man emaciated by hunger and note that he was looking at a “very skinny man”. Intellectually, he responded to the picture but he was devoid of emotion.

Emotions add color to our lives. Emotions allow us to experience  an interaction in addition to understanding it.  The technical term for these experiences is qualia.   A physical example of qualia is the difference between knowing about and seeing a red apple and experiencing the essence of a bright red apple.

Your emotions allow to experience many different aspects of an interaction. You go to a lecture. While I can video the lecture and record the content, what you take away from the lecture will be very different if you are bored than if you are excited.  This difference is entirely based on the emotions you experience.  This is qualia.

The authors quote Psychiatrist Elio Frattaroli who states, “The simple act of paying attention to your inner world, to the finely tuned layers and qualities of inner experiencing… crystallizes the core meanings of your life.” (citations noted in the book).

The qualia in your emotions creates your experience.

I welcome your comments.

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