Michael Miller, researcher, writer, and curator of the Six Seconds blog, asks if we know that emotions are electrochemical signals that flow through us in an unending cycle? They are released in our brains in response to our perceptions about the world. We feel them all the time. Emotions are released in our brains and flow all throughout our bodies. They also are produced in our bodies and go to our brains.

There are 8 basic emotions – and countless variations and nuances of those: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Surprise, Anticipation, Anger, and Trust. There are different models of which are the basic ones, this comes from a scientist named Robert Plutchik, who also created a Wheel of Emotions to illustrate these 8 emotions in a compelling way. It shows visually the dynamism of emotions, like what happens to an emotion when it’s left unchecked and what you get when you combine two emotions, like Anticipation and Joy.

Emotions are neutral. That is to say, some emotions are not inherently good and others bad. It may seem this way, since, for example, joy seems to be a clear winner over sadness. But there are two problems with this way of thinking. The first problem is that joy and sadness have more in common than we think. Joy means I get something I care about. Sadness means I lose something I care about. So they are really two sides of the same need, and we couldn’t have one without the other. And the second problem is that every emotion is simply a signal, delivering a message. Even difficult emotions like fear, anger or sadness are serving an important function.

Emotions function to guide us to survive and thrive. Emotions focus our attention and motivate us toward a specific course of action. Each emotion has a purpose. Take anger, for example. Anger is a signal that our path is blocked. It focuses our attention on the threat and motivates a response of fighting or pushing through the obstacle. It can be used destructively, of course, but it also gives us the energy to find solutions to pressing problems. And what about another emotion, like Joy? Joy focuses our attention on an opportunity and motivates us to do more of whatever we are doing. We feel joy when we experience meaning and connection, and the purpose of the emotion is to tell us that those are good things, which we should seek out.

Emotions are contagious. Feelings spread between people like a virus, even if we’re not paying attention to emotions. Whether we’re in a group or with one other person, we can “catch” both positive and negative emotions. The basis for this is simple: humans have only survived and thrived in groups. We are social creatures. And because of that, we have a tendency to pick up on each other’s emotional states. Think about it this way. If you see fear on someone’s face, you are more likely to survive if you react quickly – if your own fear response is activated instantaneously.

Emotions are different than feelings – and moods. But they are all interrelated, of course. What is the difference?  Basically, time. And to what extent our cognitive thoughts are involved.

Emotions are absorbed in the body in about six seconds. Each burst of emotion chemicals, from the time it’s produced in the hypothalamus to the time it’s completely broken down and absorbed, lasts about six seconds. If we’re feeling something for longer than six seconds, we are – at some level – choosing to recreate and refuel those feelings. Sometimes that’s good – sometimes it’s not. But recognizing what emotion we are feeling, evaluating its purpose relative to our circumstances, and deciding whether to recreate it is what emotional intelligence is all about.

So, what does the Bible say about Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, Surprise, Anticipation, Anger and Trust?

Joy – You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11)

Sadness – The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

Fear – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Disgust – I look at traitors with disgust, because they don’t keep your word. (Psalm 119:158)

Surprise – I am surprised that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. (Galatians 1:6)

Anticipation – Blessed is the person who remains steadfast under trial, for when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.

Anger – is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Proverbs 30:5)

Trust – When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God whom I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can others do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4)

I’m sure that many of you can think or find additional scripture verses that speak about these emotions. But one thing to notice is this: All the emotions mentioned before are affected by relationships with our fellow human beings, but the ones listed in the Bible are all affected by our relationship with the Lord. That’s what the Apostle Paul found to be true in his life. No wonder he said:  I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.[1] – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Philippians 4:13

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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