Emotions- What Are They?

Mom with questions. What are emotions?

An Intro to Emotions 

Part 1: Emotions—What They Are

Emotions—we all have them, we all feel them, and we all see other people deal with them in different ways. But what exactly are emotions? The answer might surprise you!

An emotion is energy moving through the body. 


That’s right. The word emotion comes from the Latin ‘emotere,’ which means “energy in motion.” When we experience emotion, we’re experiencing energy from our brain being carried through our body. Some energy feels like it’s moving upward and expanding, like contentment. Other energy feels like it’s moving downward and contracting, like disappointment. But all emotion is just energy moving through us. 

There are a couple of other things that can help us better understand what emotions are. 

boy screaming, angry

First, emotions aren’t the same for everyone. We experience and express our feelings in different ways. You’ve probably already noticed this. When one person gets angry, he’ll raise his voice and make big gestures with his body to show how he’s feeling. When another person gets angry, he’ll cross his arms and fold himself into a tight little package, and he won’t say a single word. 

This is one reason it’s so important to be observant and practice figuring out how people are feeling based on what they do. Just because you show excitement by jumping up and down doing fist pumps doesn’t mean that everyone shows excitement the same way. Maybe they clap their hands, or squeal, or smile really big. It’s fun practice to watch other people and see if you can figure out what emotion they’re expressing—especially if it’s different than the way you show your feelings. 

scared girl, emotions

Second, emotions are triggered by different things. Two people can experience the exact same situation, and one person will feel calm about it while the other person will feel nervous. This is because our brain sometimes guesses or predicts what we should be feeling based on our past experiences. 

For example, let’s say you have a big, friendly dog who barks a lot. When you walk past someone’s yard and a dog runs up to the fence and starts barking at you, you probably won’t be bothered. But what if you’ve never had a dog? Then an unfamiliar animal making loud noises will probably startle you. And if you were chased by a dog when you were little, then you might feel super scared about that barking dog at the fence! 

When you’re trying to understand emotions, it’s important to realize that people can feel differently about the same thing, because they’ve had different experiences in their lives. And that’s okay!

Third, emotions aren’t good or bad—they just are. We tend to like certain emotions more than others, but all emotions serve a useful purpose. Although we like energy that feels like it’s moving through us in an upward, expanding motion, we don’t like energy that feels like it’s moving downward and contracting, so sometimes we try to suppress those emotions. But remember, emotions are energy in motion. They can’t just be squashed down and stamped out. We have to let them move through us. 

Just because emotions aren’t good or bad doesn’t mean we have to get stuck with an emotion we don’t like. Instead, it’s important for us to learn to identify what emotion we’re feeling, and use emotional tools to help that emotion move out. 

Knowing that an emotion is energy in motion is the first step to learning how to deal effectively with our feelings. But in addition to knowing what emotions are, we also need to find out what purpose they serve. Understanding that the purpose of emotions is to communicate important messages can help us embrace our emotions and even learn from them. That’s what we’ll be talking about next, so stay tuned for Part 2: Emotions—The Messages They Have for Us. 


Discover how emotions move through YOUR body - Play Emotion Commotion!

1 comment

  • Love this game! Super fun and easy to play! Get it. Play it. Love it forever. :)

    Summer Dixon

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