While people often think that emotions and feelings are the same thing, it’s useful to make a distinction. Feelings arise unbidden in the psyche, or may be triggered by an event or memory. Emotions are how we experience those feelings, as molded by our attitudes, judgments, memories, and expectations.
The perception and expression of emotions can depend partly on personal attitudes or self esteem. For example, people with poor self-esteem might focus on unpleasant feelings—fear, distrust, sorrow—perhaps not believing that they deserve to feel joy or happiness.
Emotions can also be influenced by many other different factors:
- Cultural traditions and beliefs can affect the way a group or an individual expresses emotions. There are some cultures in which it is considered “bad manners” to express emotions in a way that is considered healthy and appropriate in other cultures.
- Genetics (or more specifically, brain and personality structure) can affect the emotional expression of an individual or family.
- A change in someone’s emotions can be an indication of a problem with the brain. Brain tumors, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and thyroid disorders can cause someone’s emotional responses to change dramatically.