Emotions are complex. There are various theories on the question of whether emotions cause changes in our behavior. On the one hand, the physiology of emotion is closely linked to arousal of the nervous system. Emotion is also linked to behavioral tendency. Extroverted people are more likely to be social and express their emotions, while introverted people are more likely to be more socially withdrawn and conceal their emotions. Emotion is often the driving force behind motivation. On the other hand, emotions are not causal forces but simply syndromes of components, which might include motivation, feeling, behavior, and physiological changes, but none of these components is the emotion. Nor is the emotion an entity that causes these components.
The Lexico definition of emotion is “A strong feeling deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.”[ Lexico Dictionaries | English. Lexico.com] Emotions are responses to significant internal and external events. (Schacter, D.L., Gilbert, D.T., Wegner, D.M., & Hood, B.M. (2011)
Emotions can be occurrences (e.g., panic) or dispositions (e.g., hostility), and short-lived (e.g., anger) or long-lived (e.g., grief). [The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University. 2018.] Psychotherapist Michael C. Graham describes all emotions as existing on a continuum of intensity. Thus, fear might range from mild concern to terror or shame might range from simple embarrassment to toxic shame. [Graham MC (2014). Facts of Life: Ten Issues of Contentment. Outskirts Press. ISBN 978-1478722595.] Emotions have been described as consisting of a coordinated set of responses, which may include verbal, physiological, behavioral, and neural mechanisms. [Fox E (2008). Emotion Science: An Integration of Cognitive and Neuroscientific Approaches. Palgrave MacMillan. ISBN 978-0230005174.] Emotions have been categorized, with some relationships existing between emotions and some direct opposites existing. Graham differentiates emotions as functional or dysfunctional and argues all functional emotions have benefits. [Graham MC (2014). Facts of Life: Ten Issues of Contentment. Outskirts Press. ISBN 978-1478722595.]
In some uses of the word, emotions are intense feelings that are directed at someone or something. [Hume, D. Emotions and Moods. Organizational Behavior, 258–97.] On the other hand, emotion can be used to refer to states that are mild (as in annoyed or content) and to states that are not directed at anything (as in anxiety and depression). One line of research looks at the meaning of the word emotion in everyday language and finds that this usage is rather different from that in academic discourse. [Fehr B, Russell JA (1984). “Concept of Emotion Viewed from a Prototype Perspective”. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. 113 (3): 464–86. doi:10.1037/0096-34184.108.40.2064.] In practical terms, Joseph LeDoux has defined emotions as the result of a cognitive and conscious process which occurs in response to a body system response to a trigger. [“On Fear, Emotions, and Memory: An Interview with Dr. Joseph LeDoux – Page 2 of 2 – Brain World”. 6 June 2018.]