Feelings vs. Emotions: How to Get More Clarity From the Inside Out

Feelings vs. Emotions: How to Get More Clarity From the Inside Out

Two women hugging at Mindvalley event

They’re often used interchangeably, but what’s the difference between feelings vs. emotions? Learn why it’s important to know and how you can benefit from each.

Feelings vs. emotions are like a light breeze vs. a full-blown storm—they may both be winds, but they’re completely different experiences. That’s why psychology has actually separated these two phenomena. 

Most people use them as one and the same, though. But it’s important to understand the distinction so you can know how to navigate the complex world within you. 

So let’s explore the difference between your feelings and your emotions:

Once you get to know these nuances of your inner universe, you’ll be able to flow through life with more grace and ease. It’s like Jon Butcher, Lifebook creator and trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest says, “Emotional insight comes from learning to understand your emotions.”

What Are Feelings?

Feelings are different ways you experience emotions. You know, like when you get that warm, fuzzy sensation after a compliment or a pit in your stomach when you’re nervous. 

It turns out that these feelings are actually pretty complex.

Your personal beliefs and memories play a big role in how you experience them. But it’s not just all in your head—neurotransmitters and hormones also come into play. 

  • Think of serotonin as your happiness superhero, always swooping in to save the day. 
  • Dopamine? That’s your go-to guy for feelings of accomplishment and enthusiasm.
  • What about norepinephrine? It may sound like a fancy latte, but it’s actually a stress hormone released when your brain processes a tough situation.

Essentially, your body is like a chemistry lab cooking up all this “fuel” for your feelings. 

What Are Emotions?

Emotions are felt in the brain. They act as a response to a situation, followed by a biochemical reaction that changes your physical state. They have the power to transform us from zero to hero—or vice versa—in a matter of seconds. 

When something happens that triggers an emotional response, the brain sends signals to the rest of the body, resulting in a physical reaction. This is why we might feel a rush of adrenaline when we’re scared or a wave of calmness when we’re happy.

But not all emotions are created equal. While everyone experiences emotions, we all have different triggers and intensities—essentially, our own emotional fingerprint.

Psychology has two main theories for understanding emotions:

  • The cognitive appraisal theory, which suggests that our emotions are our natural response to a life event. Whether we succeed or fail, our emotions reflect our perception of the situation.
  • The second theory, developed by William James, proposes that emotions represent bodily changes. When our bodies experience variations in things like perspiration, breathing, heart rate, and hormone levels, they can trigger different emotions.

Emotions are body wisdom. They are innate intelligence, signals from deep within us that come up in response to some aspect of reality that we may not even be conscious of. Emotions are there to tell us something. 

— Jon Butcher, trainer of Mindvalley’s Lifebook Online Quest

What Is the Difference Between Feelings and Emotions?

As mentioned, the “feelings vs. emotions” confusion occurs often, but there are clear differences between the two. So if you’re still wondering “Are feelings and emotions the same?”, here’s a side-by-side comparison:

Feelings vs. emotions chart

Look at it this way: emotions are the initial spark, and feelings are the flame that keeps burning. 

For example, when you see a spider, your initial reaction might be fear—that’s an emotion. It’s raw, it’s instinctual, and it happens without conscious thought.

Your feelings about spiders, on the other hand, might be different depending on your past experiences. If you were bitten by one before and had a bad experience, your feelings towards them might be stronger and more negative than someone who has never had a bad experience with the little creepy crawlies.

Feelings associated with emotions

Emotions naturally come first, but then our brains and bodies will attach and associate feelings with them. 

Here’s a visual representation of emotions vs. feelings examples and how they may be associated with one another:

EmotionAssociated Feelings
HappinessDelightness, confidence, self-acceptance
AngerJealousy, dissatisfaction, intolerance
SadnessDisappointment, neediness, loneliness

There’s one important thing to note: people often believe that they don’t have much control over their emotions or feelings. It might seem like they just happen to you, but the truth is, you have the power to transform yourself through your inner world.

As Jennifer Partridge, EFT expert and trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest, says, “There’s something really powerful that happens when you realize that you get to choose how you perceive your experiences.”

What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions and Feelings?

Your brain is like a complex machine with many parts responsible for different functions. For emotional responses, specifically, science has found that the limbic system is responsible for controlling them.

And that system is made up of four parts:

  • Hypothalamus
  • Hippocampus
  • Amygdala
  • Limbic cortex

So, as much as emotions and feelings have a psychological cause, they are also strongly connected to your body and brain.

Learn more about the connection between your brain and emotions: The Anatomy of Feelings: What Part of the Brain Controls Emotions?

Are There Any Universal Emotions?

There are several types of emotions and feelings. The most common psychological theory on how many emotions there are is Robert Plutchik’s, who discovered eight primary emotions:

  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Happiness
  • Interest
  • Disgust
  • Shame
  • Surprise
  • Sadness

While emotions are universal and instinctual, feelings are not. Your personality and prior experiences shape your feelings. So, they may vary widely from person to person. 

Get more clarity on the variety of emotions and feelings you experience: How Many Emotions Are There? A Comprehensive Emotions List.

Primary emotions

Frequently Asked Questions on Emotional States

Because there was much confusion between feelings vs. emotions, it comes as no surprise that there are additional questions about them. Here’s a dive into a select few: 

Is love a feeling or emotion?

Contrary to popular belief, love is not an emotion, regardless of its use in pop culture. Love may feel instinctual at times, but it’s more closely linked with the feeling of infatuation.

In the beginning stages of infatuation, we may feel surprised, anxious, jealous, and euphoric—sometimes all at once. But this isn’t true love. Not at its core. 

Long-term love is a conscious choice, which makes it a feeling. It’s not a gut instinct; but rather a decision we make based on our prior experiences.

What do different emotions mean?

Emotions are our bodies’ reactions to an event that triggers a response.

You may feel fear when faced with danger. Or, you might feel joyful when things are going well and you have a strong sense of inner peace, safety, and well-being. 

Emotions bring us fully into the present moment. When we’re aware of what’s going on around us, we feel the push and pull of our emotional states. 

The only real way to have power over the present moment is by being with it.

— Jennifer Partridge, trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest

Different circumstances stir up different emotional responses. And depending on our past experiences, we may be more or less inclined to experience specific feelings as a result. 

Why is it important to acknowledge your emotional states?

“If you have a healthy, open relationship with your emotions, if you acknowledge, accept, and honor them, if you treat them as tools of awareness, you’ll have a built-in barometer that’s going to help you make good decisions in life,” says Jon in the Lifebook Online Quest.

Science has also shown that people who acknowledge and accept their mental and emotional experiences tend to have better psychological health. In fact, studies have found that these individuals are more likely to experience fewer negative emotions when faced with external stressors.

So, why not try it out? Embrace your emotions and see what they can teach you. Who knows? They might just become your new best friends.

Open Up to the Wisdom Within

Feelings vs. emotions are like two sides of the same coin. And they go hand in hand to allow you to experience life to its fullest potential, with both darkness and light.

Emotions make us beautifully human.

— Jennifer Partridge, trainer of Mindvalley’s Tapping Into Emotional Mastery Quest

The truth is, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the gifts of our existence if we didn’t have these experiences to guide us through. And it’s essential to know how to handle them with gentleness, given all the resources they provide us with.

If you need some insights into mastering your feelings and emotions, Mindvalley is the place to look for answers. And with transformational quests such as Tapping Into Emotional Mastery or Lifebook Online, you can find all the wisdom you’ve been looking for.

By claiming your free access today, you can sample classes from Jennifer’s program or sign up for a free masterclass with Jon and Missy Butcher. 

Welcome in.

Written by
Alexandra Tudor