This group consists of the following four areas: feelings, emotions, excitement and moods. They are easily confused, so let’s compare some of them first to clarify the difference.
- Feeling and emotion are often used as synonyms, but they are not the same. Feeling is what you experience, and emotion is your reaction, your response (which, of course, can be triggered by what you feel). For example, feeling fear may include sensations such as tension, confusion or ‘butterflies in your stomach’, while the emotional reaction could include screaming, freezing, running away, curling up and so on. This is why the same feeling can cause different emotional reactions or no reaction at all.
- Excitement and emotion: excitement refers to the quantity or intensity of our affective experience, while emotion refers to its quality. This is why we have a variety of emotions (joy, anger, fear, etc.) but not of excitement. Although these two usually appear together, some emotions can be experienced without excitement (e.g. sadness, contentment), and excitement can be experienced without a specific emotion (e.g. sexual excitement is not always accompanied by an emotion).
- Mood and emotion: mood can be described as a state (akin to the lake), while emotion is better described as a process (more like the river). This is because emotion is usually directed towards something, has its flow and peak, and is more intense than moods. On the other hand, moods are usually diffused, more muted but last longer. For example, an angry emotional reaction may subside after a while, but it can initiate a less intense but prolonged mood, not related to anything specific.