Emotions VS. Feelings

My final mental health placement in nursing school has come to an end. It was an enjoyable experience and I feel like I have gained so much more confidence and knowledge over these last few weeks. One of the objectives I set myself for this placement was to deliver an education session to a group of clients. The topic I had been tasked with introducing was centered around identifying the differences between emotions and feelings. As I stopped to think about this topic, I realised that this was going to be harder to teach than I originally thought.

We always talk about emotions and feelings, but how many people actually realise there was a difference between the two? I certainly didn’t! After doing some learning of my own I managed to come to a rather simple understanding of what made them different. I hope to explain my own understanding of these within this post.   

Emoji’s can actually be a good tool for practising putting a name to emotions!

From a search online and through discussion with my experienced colleagues I managed to learn a few things which helped me to understand how emotions and feelings differ from each other. I learnt that emotions precede feelings and feelings are the reaction to the emotions. Emotions are also innate and shared among all of us. We all experience the same emotions, however the feelings which result from these emotions can be unique to each individual.

I found that the best way to understand these concepts was with the help of an example. Let’s take the emotion of anger. Everyone is familiar with anger, but the way we feel and react to this emotion can vary between people. A mother may experience anger as an emotion but may also experience feelings of anxiety in response to this anger. She may worry that her anger could result in her hurting someone she loves. In comparison, we could observe a school bully sharing this same emotion of anger, but the bully may react with different feelings. The bully may instead experience feelings of empowerment as he directs his anger towards others in order to make himself feel better.

There is much more depth to this topic which I struggle to wrap my head around. Many of the labels for emotions and feelings can be interchangeable and my own explanation may not be the most accurate, but I think this is a good first step towards learning how to identify emotions and understanding how you may react to them. Being able to identify emotions is an important skill to have if you want to maintain or develop good mental health and well-being. Perfection of this skill may allow you to identify causes for different emotions and may also help you learn how to manage reactions to strong emotions.  

Please get in touch with me if you have your own opinions or understanding on this topic, I would love to learn more about it!


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