Defining the Emotional Self

As I continue to evolve, I am keenly aware of the importance of emotions.  If I’m not careful, emotions drive my response or my reaction to a situation, and typically, these emotional responses do not represent my best self.  Once, when my son played youth league baseball, my frustration and disappointment in the umpire, just a college student, as well as the heightened emotions of other verbal parents in the stands, led me to angrily call the person in charge of hiring umpires for our small town’s summer leagues.  Fortunately, this man was also a friend, one capable of forgiving me for my tirade over something so inconsequential to the world.  It was definitely not one of my finer moments.  Emotions, as I have experienced time and again, have incredible influence on behavior.

What exactly are emotions, and what role do they play in my life?  Within the category of emotions, great differences exist.  Some, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, are occurrences while others are dispositions.  Some emotions, like my anger over apparent errors of an umpire, are short-lived; others, though, like grief, linger or are long-lived.  Sometimes, we are aware of our emotions, but at other times, we are completely unaware or unconscious of the emotions.  At times, our facial expressions reflect our emotion such as surprise, and then at other times, such as with regret, our faces do not.

As I start to dig into emotions – the role they play in my healing – my understanding of the universe – my untangling of myself, I need to consider what researchers have determined as the three traditions:  emotions as feelings, emotions as evaluations, and emotions as motivations. What I have found at this point in my research, though, is a lot of disagreement among those who study emotions.  And, as I suspected, the study of emotion is quite complicated, but so incredibly important.

In order to understand emotions, I must recognize that they are (1) a key “part of core consciousness;” (2) reflect my “core goals and needs;” (3) categorized into negative and positive systems which either spur me to avoid a threat or indicate a chance for opportunity; (4) a way to “prepare and individual for action;” and (4) different for individuals base on their trait neuroticism (“Understanding Emotions and How to Process Them” at   With this insight, I will be able to create a better framework for evaluating my own emotions as well as develop a deeper comprehension of how these emotions influence my behavior towards and my reactions to others as well as to myself.

My journey in untangling who I am as a human being has been long, but it has not always been intentional.  In fact, for most of my life, I ignored my emotions.  Today, I understand that I either self-medicate with food or I lose myself in taking care of others.  Five years ago, though, I promised to love myself enough to dig into or self-excavate who I am – to ask myself the hard life questions: what motivates me? How can I be the best version of myself emotionally, physically, and spiritually?  This quest has led me to the realization that I must understand my emotions, and often, I must sit with them, even when that requires me to sit with the most uncomfortable of emotions. 

And, as I define emotions in general, and more importantly, as I recognize my emotions, especially as they are occurring – as I explore the roots of my emotions – as I lean deeply into the emotions that hurt the most, then, and only then, I will be able to define myself.

8 thoughts on “Defining the Emotional Self

  1. I really was interested in the way you analyze the study of emotion. It’s hard to undertake the journey of “untangling who I am” (love that phrase), but your questions and the idea of sitting with the emotions are good guidelines.

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    • Julie, I have been writing about my emotions – mostly in my private journal; however, when Ruth invited us to learn some facts, it prompted me to start digging a little. If I am going to work on sitting with my own emotions, I need to have a deeper understanding why or how I should be sitting. 🙂

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  2. Thank you for this post. I am having one of those weeks with lots of ups and downs, and I have had to stop and ask myself, “What are you feeling right now? Can you just accept that emotion?” I have a tendency to turn any emotion into anger if I don’t sit with it for a while. I have lots to learn about emotions too.

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  3. “My journey in untangling who I am as a human being has been long, but it has not always been intentional. In fact, for most of my life, I ignored my emotions.” Your exploration has me thinking. I am not sure I have ignored my emotions, but I have certainly ridden them without stopping to process them. You are asking BIG questions–definitely worthy of lots of exploration. I enjoyed a peek into your journey of self-awareness.

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  4. Thoughtful. You have left me with things to think about. I like how you added in research (read your comment above) into your reflection. These past couple of months, my emotions have been tangled. I’m learning.

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  5. Such a thoughtful reflection. I wish I had learned more about emotions as a child. My vocabulary is limited and I don’t always know how to name my emotions. I have become better at noticing and accepting them. Wishing you patience with your emotions and self-compassion (one of my favorite things lately.)

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  6. The way you wove the facts about research into this essay is masterful. I have much to learn about the craft of writing from you. A couple of years ago, God was strict with me to BE STILL. It was so hard to just sit and feel and heal. It was also essential. Thank you for sharing with us.
    Hugs, Ruth

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