Emotions are probably even more difficult to define than personality. It is commonly held that they incorporate subjective experiences (what the individual actually experiences) that are affective (emotive). These subjective experiences also have underlying physiological, cognitive and environmental factors. Our understanding of what we are feeling, however, is at least in part socially defined, for each affective state, such as love, fear, anger, grief and so on, is commonly defined through consensus. In other words, the name we give to a feeling is influenced by what others name that feeling, and widely held perceptions of that emotion.
Counsellors are interested in emotions on a personal or individual basis. An understanding of the client’s emotional world will provide an understanding of that person and their experiences. There are, of course, vast differences in the extent to which different people are aware of, make sense of and express their emotions. Some clients are seemingly unable to articulate their feelings. A client’s emotions in the counselling situation will give the counsellor awareness that something is taking place and also will provide clues about the client.
Emotions are a response to eliciting stimuli. The stimuli may be external (e.g. how we respond to a situation) or they may be in the form of memories or images. The trigger may be obvious but often emotional responses are triggered automatically with little conscious awareness.
Emotions are experienced in several ways:
- 1- Affectively – which refers to the feeling rather than the thinking
- 2- Physiologically – in the body’s response, e.g. sweating,
trembling, a dry mouth, increased heart rate.
- 3- Cognitively – as feeling responses to such cognitive factors as
personal beliefs and value systems, past experiences and prior
- 4- Behaviourally – in the outward expression of our feelings, e.g.
laughing when we feel happy, acting aggressively when we feel
All of these components of emotion may be experienced by a particular individual in response to a particular stimulus.
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