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The storm within: Unravelling the Purpose of Emotions

Emotions are a complex matter that shape our experiences, decisions and interactions. From the highs of love to the depths of sorrow, they are a continuous flow like a river throughout our lives. But what are they, and what purpose do they serve?

Emotions are an instinct or intuition in response to a specific event, thought or external stimuli. They are complex biochemical reactions within our brains and bodies, often influencing certain behavioural and cognitive patterns. While they might seem confusing at times, they are not a random occurrence. Emotions are essential parts of our mental and physical well-being to help us navigate the complex landscapes of life. They communicate with us which basic needs must be met. Throughout our evolutionary history, emotions have played an essential role in ensuring our survival and success as a species.

faces of emotions on balloons, happy, content, feeling okay, sad, anger
Faces of emotions

Fear: this primal emotion triggers the fight or flight response. This enabled our ancestors to flee from predators or face challenges head-on. Fear kept them vigilant and cautious, enhancing their chances of survival.


Happiness: Joy and contentment have been crucial to forming social bonds and cooperation among humans. Positive emotions helped develop trust and collaboration in early communities, where there was also safety in numbers.


Anger: although often seen negatively, it has served as a mechanism for asserting boundaries and defence. It is a force that pushes for change and rectifies injustice.


Sadness: this helps us process loss and change to allow personal growth. It also prompts support and empathy from others, strengthening social connections.


Love: the glue that binds families, friends, and partners. It promotes care and nurturing behaviours, and aids in forming and maintaining relationships.


Surprise and wonder: this emotion prepares us to adapt swiftly to unexpected situations. By prompting attention and heightened awareness, surprise aids in learning and adapting to new circumstances.


Emotions and decision-making

Research has shown that emotions provide us with valuable information about our surroundings and influence the choices we make. You might refer to it as a ‘gut feeling’, which guides us when faced with uncertainty. Emotions also colour our memories, holding experiences that shape how we make sense of ourselves, others, and the world. The way we interact with our environment is based on what we have learnt and what we perceive.

While some emotions may seem uncomfortable or undesirable, it’s important to acknowledge how they contribute to our growth and resilience. Trying to supress or deny emotions can lead to emotional distress. We may also perceive a threat and experience fear, when that threat is not currently present. By embracing emotions and learning to manage them it can lead to greater self-awareness and a more fulfilling life.


Understanding their purpose and message, and the way they shape our thoughts and actions, can empower us to work with their energy for personal growth. A journey of self-discovery through Cognitive behaviour therapy can help you uncover the wonder of emotions that make us beautifully human.


Credit: image iStock Lengar79

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