The Difference Between Feelings And Emotions

Feelings and emotions are terms that are often used interchangeably. While they both are similar elements, there are some fundamental differences between the two. 

Human beings are innately and naturally emotive creatures. Feelings are an important part of our daily conversations and there will not be a single day in our lives where feelings are absent. 

Feelings are something we experience as a result of outside stimulation. When an external stimulus reacts with one of our five senses, attitude, or even emotional perception we feel something. For instance- you are going out on a sunny day. The sunlight falls on your arms and you suddenly feel warm. 

Emotions on the other hand are a state of consciousness in which several internal sensations are experienced. It can be produced by a thought, memory, or external motivator and can often change our physical state. For example- you suddenly remember your favorite movie because you just heard a song from it, and now you are experiencing joy. 

The biggest difference between the two lies in the fact that feelings usually have to be triggered by an external motivating factor, however, emotions can be internalized.

Experiencing feelings and emotions

Feelings can come from the outside world reacting with any of our five senses. The outside stimuli can make us feel warmth, cold, hot, dry, dusty, drenched, etc. Feelings might arise due to a physical sensation like thirst, hungry, itch, etc. or feelings can even come from an emotion- nervous, disgusted, scared, etc. Feelings are something we experience consciously. However, every conscious experience ( breathing or believing) can't be classified as a feeling. However, several emotional theories state that five emotions are similar in all cultures: love, hate, joy, sorrow, and fear.

Feelings are thought to be experienced for short periods. If you are running on the road and a car just passed you by, you will feel scared but that feeling will eventually subside and after a few hours you will not be scared.

Emotions are however considered to be long-term states because they are internalized. If you love someone, that feeling will not subside in a few days because the experience is internal and you will have to change your mindset to change the emotion and that takes time. According to some psychologists, there is a small set of 'basic' emotions, which are called the Big Six—happiness, sadness, fear, surprise, anger, and disgust.

Are we aware of our emotions?

Emotions are not conscious instead they manifest in the unconscious mind. These emotions can be brought to the surface of the conscious state through extended psychotherapy.

A fundamental difference between feelings and emotions is that feelings are experienced consciously, while emotions manifest either consciously or subconsciously. Some people may spend years, or even a lifetime, not understanding the depths of their emotions. For example- you feel angry whenever you see a child crying, normally every one of us can be annoyed but feeling anger in this situation might be uncalled for. This response can be manifested in your subconscious mind due to something that happened in your life and you might consider psychotherapy to understand the depths and reasons for this emotion.


Finding out the feelings and emotions that people have, and learning why they have them, is an important practice for mental health professionals. Exploring the difference between these two can help understand the human mind and behavior, and devise strategic ways of helping people experiencing mental health conditions.



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