The word emotion is derived from the Latin word emovere, which literally means, “out move.” The French then extended it into emouvoir, meaning “excited.” This idea of excitement or a strong outward mental/physical reaction is a good definition for what we think of when we talk about emotions. They are powerful in decision making, especially when it comes to choices and conclusions about and with another person. Many people, however, have had unpleasant experiences in their life, where their emotions blindly led them to the edge of a cliff and then unveiled the disaster below as they were falling. It is so difficult to get your wind back after such a hard fall.
Which brings me to the first well-known fact about emotions: they are messy. American society today tells us that it is best to reach and pursue what makes you emotionally happy, but every one of us has experienced the consequences of letting passion be the guide. Young children and teenagers that we see and interact with every day are being taught by popular music and TV shows that emotions are the ladder to the greatest natural high: sex. Therefore, if you want to know what the best feeling in the world is, do not shut down those natural emotions. Instead, act on them.
Emotions themselves are not evil. It is when we allow ourselves to be consumed by them that the trouble comes. So, if you are a Christian, watch for temptation. It is foolishness to see a rusty trap and stick your toe in it because you have faith it will not spring. If you do not know Christ, understand that emotions, if chased for their own sake, will leave you emptier than you were before.
However, emotions also help us recognize the beauty around us. A lot of times, we equate emotions with relationships, and while this can very quickly lead back to the conversation of mess, many couples and dear friends can attest to their loveliness.
Physiologically, emotions are explained as chemical reactions. Electrical signals from the brain to your pineal and adrenal glands (there are several others), that can ultimately lead to life-altering decisions. When talking about emotions, I always think about the Vulcan colony. Even though they are of our own imagination, no one truly envies their detached, strictly logical worldview. In every Star Trek episode and movie, it is a triumph when they usurp their training in suppression to display emotion. It is something in which we as humans pride ourselves.
The power of emotion can be seen even in Alzheimer’s patients. As the disease progresses, patients typically travel “back in time” so to speak, and the landmarks of the digression are usually seasons or times when they experienced a strong emotional response. For example, a patient who lost their spouse when they were in their 30s will live in that memory out of the whole decade of memories because it holds the most emotion. When in training for Senior Care, they emphasized that Alzheimer’s patients and any client with any dementia may not remember your name, but they will remember how you made them feel.
In all of this, the balance comes with understanding of the power of emotions and an eye on the greater picture beyond the moment.