The Difference between Emotions & Feelings
By Aaron John Beth’el
Many years ago when I first began writing contemplations, I had a profound insight about emotions and feelings, when I realised that I had some contemplations listed under the heading of Emotions, and other contemplations listed under Feelings. I questioned myself, as to why I had listed some under one title, and others under the other title. In my contemplative practice that followed, I realised that there is a huge difference between Emotions and Feelings.
I now believe that the meshing of emotions and feelings, where we use the terms synonymously as though they are the same thing, has caused us to lose the most primary knowledge of ourselves, and especially what love itself is, which also determines our relationships to others, as well as our relationship with nature, or even beyond.
It appears that in our recent history, much of humanity has lived in an emotionally subconscious state, simply because it was easier to do so, and because precedents for living more consciously were rare.
Furthermore, because life was lived on a largely emotional, subconscious state, then the mixing together of emotions with feelings, was most likely the result of a lack of conscious insight.
This understanding of a meshed view of emotions and feelings has been passed down to us.
For an initial understanding of how I have defined emotions and feelings, please regard so-called positive emotions as being under the heading of Feelings, whilst negative emotions are simply placed under the heading of Emotions. However the ramifications of this are much more complex, which I will explain.
Today, when we experience an emotion, for the most part, we have usually already entered a state of obsessive thought beforehand, which then becomes somewhat hypnotic, so then we are no longer truly aware of the present, or of the truth or love of others, or even of our own true nature.
Furthermore, this obsessive thought or hypnosis, produces destructive chemical and electrical responses in the body and mind, which can deepen or reinforce the emotion. Therefore, ultimately we cannot control our own body or emotions, unless we become more mindfully conscious. When we are mindful, we are aware of our perception in the present.
Yet although we tend to regard emotions and feelings as being the same, at times we do semi-realise that they are different states, for example if we see someone being emotional, we do not usually say that they are in a feeling state, particularly if it is someone we do not know or like. But we will often call our own negative emotional states, feelings, because we tend to be kinder to ourselves, or to those we love. (This is because the word feeling, in society, has a more honourable, heart-centred basis to it, than the word emotion). Or we may hear that someone hurt anothers feelings, rather than someone hurt their emotions. Similarly we do not for example, say that someone is emoting joy, but rather, they are feeling joy. We also know that when we see someone experiencing emotions such as anger, jealousy, depression and so on, that they are largely not in touch with themselves, or what they are experiencing, but are substantially dominated by such emotions.
On the other hand, those people we see experiencing feelings of kindness, love, compassion and joy, are not dominated by such feelings, but instead are consciously expressing them.
When we start to become aware of the difference between emotions and feelings, by noting when we use the word emotion, or the word feeling, we will begin to uncover and realise the differences between them.
From amongst the various sources of etymology of the word Feel, there are definitions such as, to touch, caress, and to consciously transcend beyond troubled thought, as well as the ability to be aware or respond with a so-called higher emotion such as compassion. So in other words, there is a move towards communion. Whilst the etymology of Emotion, is to separate and move away, to stir up, shake, upheave, and is based on the agitation of thought.
Primarily I consider that feelings radiate from the unconditional heart, true nature, or soul, and are therefore sensitively tuned to aware and intuitive states.
It appears to me that there is a powerful connection between the heart (the first organ to function after conception, which also generates the most powerful electromagnetic force in the body) and our brain, as well as perhaps infinite connections beyond the heart, when it comes to feelings.
Whereas emotions tend to reflect from the conditional ego mind, which can be inflated or deflated, and they are based on ego neediness.
Essentially if we believe that emotions and feelings are the same, then we are actually believing that our ego, and our true nature (or soul) are the same.
Unconsciously we have mixed insecure, fearful and angry emotions, with the radiance of love. Emotions, however are not the expression of love.
To give a practical example of a feeling; When we stand on a beach watching the sunrise, experiencing a sense of oneness and joy with life, we know that we are not emoting joy, we are feeling it! There is no driven need to explain this state to others, to be selfish, demanding, judgmental, to unload it on anyone, to justify it, or seek sympathy. However when we contrast this with the forceful, emoting state of anger for example, we habitually experience a sense of wanting to unload and justify our angry emotion, and to make demands, or afterwards to seek sympathy with others.
So why then do we continue to believe that two entirely different states of being, that of separating, burdensome, dominating emotions, and transcendent, communing feelings, are the same?
To put it simply, the difference between emotions and feelings is this; “Any state that has a burdened mind and produces a sense of separation from the joy of life, is likely to be an emotion. Alternately, any state that is burden free, and in unity with the joy of life, is likely to be a feeling.
At some point everyone appears to have received a separating, emotional wound when love was denied to them as a young child. The emotions around this perceived denial of love has been said by researchers to be imprinted as a memory in the amygdala area of the brain.
Unfortunately young children do not have developed cognitive abilities, or the awareness of feelings, in order to understand emotional wounds.
The child eventually discovers that others just wont give it the attention it wants, and eventually realises that the best way to get attention, and hopefully affection and love, is to try and control those around it, either passively or aggressively by using emotions. Unfortunately the presence of this needy child can remain subconsciously within us for the rest of our lives.
Therefore when emotions arise, the emotionally wounded inner child is attempting to survive by finding love and connection, through control.
The subconscious wanting of this “needy love” becomes the driving force and self-justification for having an emotion; that others are not doing what they are supposed to be doing, “loving me without condition.” Essentially we cannot depend on anyone to provide this love, we have to learn to provide it for ourselves.
So emotions arise as a reactive response to not having enough connection, power or control, particularly with regards to love. However such power struggles invariably fail, and we have all experienced that.
Emotions attempt to gain power by using aggressive emotions, or they are the failure or yearning of our attempts for this power, by entering passive emotions. In the process we cut ourselves off from love.
When we are in a state of genuine love (or feeling) then emotions are naturally and effortlessly absent. When we are in any emotional state however, we are strangely lost, not ourselves, because we have separated ourselves from love and feelings.
Because emotions and feelings are currently considered the same, it allows us to have an emotion, under the mistaken idea that emotions are our true “feelings.” And therefore we believe that these emotions are the state of our heart (or love), when in fact emotions are based upon, and substantially arise, from an early ego conditioning belief state, of not getting enough.
On the other hand, our feelings are the expression of a light heart. They are innocent, there is no sense of deceit or contraction to them.
Our ability to feel, creates an openness for empathy with ourselves, others and nature.
Feelings connect us to our true nature or soul, and to the life-field of the earth and beyond. They connect us to the larger reality, both microscopically as well as universally, and to the deepest beauty and mysteries of life.
True feelings are actually the natural state of a human being.
This means that we can be happy without a reason, yet many believe that they can only experience happiness when something in the outside world appears to go in their favour, and this is where commonly called positive emotions arise. For example, emotional happiness is based on a self-centred desire of some kind being fulfilled in one’s life. However as soon as the desire fails to come to fruition, so does the happiness, and then negative emotions such as anger, fear, sadness or depression are usually entered into. This is not a feeling based happiness, which is happy for its own sake.
All so-called positive emotions have a similar foundation. For example, emotional love is based on the possession and neediness towards another. It is not based on the pure innocence of serving and offering love, which is feelings based love.
Basically, so-called positive emotions are like negative emotions… they arise from a place of separation, and likewise they eventually become a burden. They have a self-centred foundation, because they are fundamentally ignorantly-derived, investment states, looking for a return.
Some people will say that emotions are a sign of our humanity, particularly when it comes to emotions such as grief or sadness. However, whilst these emotions are considered normal, they are also biochemically toxic to our wellbeing. I believe that such harmful consequences of our emotions, is a sign of a lack of their coherence with our greater health and wellbeing, and therefore they are not an end-point in terms of our evolving consciousness.
It seems to me that with increased awareness, we will come to understand life to a far greater degree than we do now, and consequently be able to move beyond such consciousness-limiting emotional states, whilst reaching towards greater understanding with our more transcendent feelings.
Whenever we experience emotion, we experience separation, and therefore pain in varying degrees. Yet when we experience feelings, we experience union, and therefore joy. Consequently feelings empower us, whereas emotions largely disempower us.
Emotional tendencies will often be stored in the body/mind from past traumatic events, and we may re-activate them, using our reactive mind when we encounter similar circumstances. Our reactively based emotions will be either passive or aggressive, depending upon which was the best ego survival strategy, from our personal history.
For example, when we are threatened in any way, many of us regress to the primitive, reactionary mind of our childhood. The fallout of unresolved anger, threats of punishment, and emotions of rejection that we experienced as children, come flooding back into our current state, and we can either become reactively driven, or passive and overly pleasing. If we can awaken to the moment, and realise where these emotions arise from, we can respond in a less reactionary manner.
When we have the awareness to consciously choose feelings, rather than react with our subconsciously programmed emotions, we become more self-determined. This brings us the ability to live more in love, in the present. And therefore we can regain our innocence, as emotional guile is no longer necessary. From the greater perspective of love, we see things in a new light, and therefore there can be appreciation, understanding and compassion.
It appears to me that there is a lower circuit operating between our ego, and the needy inner child and emotions, which influence and reinforce each other. Yet there is also a higher circuit between our true nature and heart and soul, with that of feelings and love, which similarly influence and reinforce each other.
We can connect to the higher circuit through breathing consciously and gently, as well as through such things as good posture, consciously radiating love from our heart, looking with a soft smile and visual focus, being grateful, and focusing the mind with mindfulness, meditation, or prayer.
It occurs to me that human beings have been created with an internal choice. Either we suffer the constricted and lonely pain of emotions, by living through a much reduced version of ourselves on the lower circuit. Or we can choose the higher circuit, where we are in unity with life, and where love is present.
Researchers have found that consistently happy people choose an attitude of seeing their life and the world graciously, generously and positively. This attitude creates favourable effects on the mind/body with increased self-esteem and receptivity to life, which then causes less arousal of the autonomic nervous system to create a fight, flight or freeze response, or other intense emotional states. Furthermore these emotional states have been proven to be a cause of heart attack and other diseases. (Chinese medicine also claims that excessive emotions can damage our vital organs).
In other words, human beings are essentially designed to function optimally with feelings, rather than emotions. So from this we can say that the true state of a human being, is to be more in feeling (or love) rather than emotion.
Moreover, when we experience genuine love and feelings, it does not seem possible for any of us to have ever said, that we wanted to avoid or move out of them, simply because love and feelings are the most natural, most pleasurable state to be in, not just with another, but with life itself. The same cannot be said for emotional states….we all want to get out of them, because they simply don’t feel good.
Although there is ongoing research about the source of emotions in the brain, it has been said by researchers in the past, that our negative emotions arise from the more ancient, survival-based, self-centred, limbic system in the brain including the amygdala and hippocampus. Whilst our unconditional feelings arise from the cerebral cortex and particularly the prefrontal lobes. So there is an apparent difference in the source of emotions and feelings in the brain.
However, researchers working on the source of emotions in the brain, are primarily focused upon the current understanding of emotions and feelings as being the same, as well as including emotional definitions of love, based on love as desire, romance or sex, rather than love being a state of awareness, selflessness, joy and compassion. Consequently, the research findings support only a limited understanding of what love and feelings actually are, and from where they may originate in the brain.
Furthermore, researchers have found that the heart and stomach also contain neurons and neurotransmitters, which likely transmit and modulate our emotions or feelings with various channels to the brain, as well as to the rest of the body.
I believe it would make sense that love and feelings arise from either the most evolved parts of our body and mind, or that they arise from our entire brain, heart and overall body, entering a state of conscious entrainment. With such entrainment, our whole being becomes coherent, and at the height of feelings, or the expression of love, we may experience a scintillating, quivering state of oneness, beyond our local experience of time and space on earth.
I believe humanity will evolve into a more feelings based existence. That feelings will lead us to peace, as well as to the recognition of what true love is, as a state of bliss-filled freedom.
The primary state that this feeling of love creates in us, is one of openness. This in turn enables union with that which is within, and that which is without.
We begin to feel and witness life, “as it is’ without judgmental constraints. We begin to feel the earth and the universe. And we realise that we are here for an immense and perhaps devotional or sacred purpose.
But if we do not know this difference between emotions and feelings, we will not know who we are, or what love truly is.
Once we begin to know this difference, emotions may still arise, yet with this knowledge, they begin to loosen their grip, so that awareness becomes our predominant state of being, not emotions, and therefore emotions do not need to rule our lives.
Individually I believe we are here to create truth, peace and love, rather than insist that others give us these things. I believe that we have come here primarily to love, rather than to seek to be loved. For love is the only truly free state that a human being can exist in.
If we do not know this, then the needy, wounded, inner child gets to direct our lives, and tries to get love from others.
I believe that love is our essential nature, and that It exists in the present, so therefore we can only access it now. And that it is also transcendentally pure, so we cannot be grasping of love.
Love is inclusive, not exclusive; we cannot own or possess love; as it appears to simply yet profoundly be, the open consciousness of infinite expression.
At the height of love, there is the impression that unconditional intelligence joins with unconditional heart, to reflect unconditional soul. And yet, even our own novice-like love is still the most conscious state we can express as an evolving human being. Through love, our awareness of reality is gradually expanded, and we begin to know existence more intimately.
Love appears to be the joyous force of connection between our inside and our outside. It is a rapture of joy, exploding, and forever extending from below the cellular level, to fuse with, and encompass everything beyond into the infinite. And because love is always present (though it may not be obvious according to our state of awareness), it embraces infinity and eternity simultaneously. Primarily love is the force of openness that invites us to leave duality, and to re-enter unity.
So how do these definitions of feelings-based love impact our understanding of relationship?
I have observed that there are two pathways in relationship…the feeling path, and the emotional path.
The emotional path is immature in terms of true love, and is doomed to fail.
Inherently the emotional path is the one concerned with the survival of the ego and the species….it creates the chemical, sexual bait that causes the forces of attraction, and then later possession, control, manipulation, jealousy and so on. Love is not really present here.
The feeling path is where love and truth are present. The feeling path is far more unconditional, there is little or no controlling, possessing, or emotional baggage.
It seems to me that the best outcome for our experience of emotional love, is for it to be the training ground for moving into feelings based love. I also believe that feelings love is the training ground for moving into the transcendental love of infinite expression.
Generally we go through emotional love first, and many of us remain stuck in it our entire lives. It is characterised by the passive or aggressive manipulation for power and control, and by the emotionally wounded inner child attempting to get love from others. It subconsciously operates on a flawed definition of love, which is the emotional dependence, or possession of another. It craves a return for any effort….continually fearing that love will not be returned. When others support its reality, it becomes happy. When others do not uphold it, it becomes blaming, angry, rejected, lonely, fearful, depressed, jealous, hateful and so on.
But feelings love is more selfless…there is nothing to gain from another. Affection is freely given. The true nature or soul of the other is seen and loved.
Feelings love is open, aware and present. It is focused on offering and giving, rather than receiving. In feelings love, we are open to joy; we are flexible, confident, free, and aware of beauty and beyond.
In order to move out of emotional neediness, we need to begin to love selflessly….as that is the only kind of love there is.
The by-product of this, is that it also makes us more magnetic and attractive to our lover.
However being emotionally needy, creates an energy of opposition to our lover, which will eventually repel them.
How many of us have had a relationship not based on emotionally possessing another, or lived with emotional dependence, and with fear of insecurity, with wanting and needing, with control, domination, submission or jealousy at the ready?
Alternately, how many of us have truly experienced a feeling, love based relationship?
Fundamentally, love is no longer present in relationship when freedom is broken apart, when control becomes the subtle or not so subtle ploy, when openness becomes a liability, when jealousy lies in wait below the surface, when possessiveness attempts to lock up another, or when emotions are considered to be the truth and are used as a masquerade for love.
This of course is all driven by woundedness. I am convinced that the driving force of this emotional woundedness is an insatiable hunger for an iron-clad security, and a possessing love.
However throughout the history of humankind, these needs have never been able to be fully satisfied, no matter how many lovers, or how much money or power has been accumulated.
It seems that until we heal our emotions, particularly the emotional woundedness of the inner dependent child who seeks resolution through emotions, that emotions will continue to rule our lives, as well as our civilisation….from relationships, to addictions, to greed for money and power, to despoliation of the environment, to the rise of Dictators, and to warfare in the world.
When faced by all of this, it appears that our emotions, along with our needy inner child require a great deal of healing. Yet we begin to become healed and integrated, when we choose the aware, feeling circuit.
One of the most important keys to being centred in feelings is, as I mentioned previously, to breathe consciously, silently and gently. (There are many other useful actions and procedures mentioned in the contemplations on Emotions).
When we breathe unconsciously, we have a greater tendency to be mentally negative and reactive, as well as to enter emotional states. When we emotionally react, our breathing tends to get stuck, or becomes suppressed and difficult.
There appears to be a connection between breathing consciously, which helps us to remain in the present, mindful, and in feelings. Or alternately, breathing unconsciously, which fosters being stuck in negative past or future time frames, with an un-centred mindset, whilst getting lost in emotions.
Conscious breathing helps us to remain aware. And therefore our awareness will teach us alI we need to know, for all discomfort is also a prompting by our consciousness, to seek a higher, more transparent clarity.
If emotions predominate in our lives, we have forgotten that happiness is our true state, we have forgotten the commitment to our own true nature, we have forgotten gratitude, and we have forgotten to love.
When we emote, we are losing aware consciousness, we are slipping into the darkness of subconsciously reactive, primitive, fear-based, survival responses. During or after, we may become aware of a loss of our peace, love, wisdom and centred presence, whilst solely fixated on our own self-centred emotional reality. Or in other words, we are less able to see the bigger picture, and therefore less benevolent, or less of a humanitarian in the world.
Accordingly, whatever we emote, is teaching us the lesson of opposition; that we need to come authentically from the opposite place of integrity.
Emotions are simply and profoundly, the opposite to what we truly want.
Our separated, emotional basis, has also largely disconnected us from our relationship with nature…which likewise gives us the opposite to what we deeply want.
It seems to me that ego has come more and more to the fore in human beings, as we have moved further away from having a natural existence in nature. Through the process of civilisation, we have experienced a deep sense of separation, insecurity and loneliness, from not being in nature’s coextensive environment, or in other words, our level of emotion has likely increased.
Often we experience our environment whether inside or outside as if we are watching a movie. This is particularly noticeable when traveling in a car. The constantly changing scenes unfold before our eyes, like we are watching a movie. In other words we are often largely removed from experiencing a full sensory perception of our environment.
This separation has also meant that we have little or no ability to observe the subtleties of nature, or to deeply commune with nature in an ego-less way. However, once we begin to understand the cause of this sense of separation, and with it the meshing of emotions and feelings, then our transformational feelings can once again become the gateway to a deeper connection and communion with others, the environment, and with nature.
A sense of separation can increase our ego-based emotions, causing further stress, which in turn increases the need to forget such emotions at times, through pseudo-communing activities and addictions like drugs, alcohol, comfort food, shopping and so on. But the consequence of such actions and addictions, only further increases our emotional proclivity, as well as increases the sense of separation from ourselves.
Furthermore, if we go into nature holding a disconnected, emotional ego, as well as wearing ego-based or conformist expressions, such as cosmetics, fragrances, fashionable clothing and so on, then we may enter with a discordant tone, and correspondingly, the various animated species in nature around us, may sense our disconnection, and probably avoid, or at worst may even attack us.
Therefore anything that increases ego, which at first may briefly give us a sense of being unique, striking out, or of belonging to a particular group, will probably increase our sense of separation, as we realise later that it is a short-lived high.
Similarly in the landscape where we live, our separation may also mean that we experience only a surface level of all that we see, as we view it like a kind of three dimensional video, or a somewhat random collection of disengaged objects.
Yet above all, authoritarian-instigated, ego-based, emotionally charged blame and counter blame has been the biggest cause of fear, anger, upset, conflict and war in the world. But as long as we continue to believe that separating emotions are our primary state of being, then we will remain under their power, and under the congtrol of authoritarians, and therefore the problems of the world will continue.
Furthermore, human prejudiced, groupthink ego attitudes, and resultant disconnection, and separation have also caused some of the most emotionally destructive, social attitudes and standards on earth.
Consequently I believe that the emotions of hatred, fear, anger, greed and prejudice are the most destructive energies in the world today. These pain filled emotions are usually based in ignorant, inherited, social, indoctrinated or educated beliefs about ourselves. Yet unconsciously, we continue along the same historical path, even giving ourselves a self-righteous claim to exercise these emotions in the world.
We have to ask ourselves, “Do we have the right to persist with the destructive effect of these emotional states upon nature, the earth, or humanity?”
However, we must also realise that any kind of symptoms, be they mental, emotional, bodily or environmental, are not created to oppress us. They are not there to be worried over, or to seek sympathy from others (for this is only more negative, destructive emotional energy). These symptoms are there as directors to do something, to try again, and to contemplate what it is, that our body, mind, or earth are attempting to teach us through these symptoms.
Imagine a world operating on feelings, rather than emotions…
We would exist in a world of love, peace, awareness and cooperation, where love and open feelings, would transform our emotional perceptions and beliefs, and take us beyond the limited, and into the unlimited, to intimately connect us to an increasingly larger view of life on earth, and then beyond…
(Please see all contemplations on Emotions, Feelings, as well as True Nature).