This article will help you to differentiate between feelings and emotions.
Feelings are only very mild emotions where the level of activity is not as high as in the case of emotions.
Feelings tend to persist for a longer time whereas emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant, tend to alter the normal pattern of activities for some time. Feelings do not interfere with normal activities to the same extent as emotions do. Yet another term used in the context is ‘mood’. Moods are simply the aftereffects of emotions. They are less intense and tend to persist after the termination of intense emotional experiences.
The reader may here see a basic difference between sensation, perception and learning on the one hand, and emotions and feelings on the other. The former three are described as cognitive processes.
They are primarily concerned with becoming aware of external and internal stimuli, selectively responding to them, organising and interpreting them, which often result in changes in their meanings and (even the) behaviour of the persons. They mostly involve the activation of the sensory system and the cerebral cortex.
Emotions and feelings on the other hand are described as affective processes. They are reactions to the sensory stimuli that are cognized. They involve the whole body and its various systems.
While they follow the cognitive acts of sensing and perceiving certain stimuli, involving mainly the spinal cord and the cerebral cortex, the actual emotional responses involve activation of all other systems like the muscular system, the respiratory system, the circulatory system, and the lower centres of the brain like the hypothalamus. In this way, emotions are total reactions of the organism. In a way there is a negative relationship between the cognitive process and emotions.
The less intense the emotions are, then the clearer and more complete are the cognitive processes. If we clearly perceive and understand a situation, our emotional responses are less intense. Thus emotions are more intense where a certain situation appears to be uncertain and unclear resulting in a suspense.
Emotions thus often arise as a reaction to situations perceived as uncertain, when the organism experiences, a degree of threat. Emotions under such conditions, help to energies and prepare the organism to escape or “avoid” danger and threat; they are preparatory processes, which prepare the organism for an escape. Thus these emotions may be described as emergency responses. Anger and fear are such examples.
On the other hand, there are also emotions like joy and delight which are positive responses that are aroused when an organism succeeds in avoiding danger, or when danger does not appear, even though, it was expected.
Similarly such positive emotions also occur, when the satisfaction expected is achieved, or exceeded, or when there is an unexpected satisfaction. Emotions can also arise when cognitions or perceptions are conflicting. Thus conflicts in a person can also result in emotional experiences.
It may be seen here that emotions have certain basic characteristics. First they are either pleasant or unpleasant, and secondly they represent different degrees of excitement or activation or calmness of the organism. Strong emotional responses lead to high excitement involving intense muscular and glandular activity.
On the other hand mild emotions arouse mild degrees of excitement. Mild emotions are accompanied by mild muscular and glandular actions. Further, they result in different degrees of tension or relaxation. Unpleasant emotions lead to tensing up of the muscles and a cramped posture, while pleasant emotions result in relaxation.
Strong emotions interfere with and influence cognitive processes, by creating cognitive confusion whether they are pleasant or unpleasant. In general, unpleasant emotions are marked by a high degree of activation of the sympathetic diversion of the autonomic nervous system while pleasant emotions are marked by an activation of the parasympathetic diversion.